White Castle is famous for its steam-cooked burgers, so it's not surprising that the company's Valentine's event promises to be hot and steamy. For couples who make reservations -- yes, reservations at White Castle -- the restaurant promises tablecloths, flowers, free dessert -- chocolate-dipped cheesecake on a stick, no less -- and the chance to win matching his-and-hers White Castle T-shirts. While perhaps not as impressive as some of the other fast-food Valentine's Day offerings, White Castle's might have the longest pedigree -- some outlets have been hosting Valentine's events for up to 21 years.
The Waffle House, on the other hand, is something of a Johnny-come-lately to the holiday fast-food trend, but it's trying to make up for its lack of history with an excess of elegance. Couples who make Feb. 14 reservations at the chain can expect cloth napkins, alcohol-free faux champagne, and a special menu that includes ribeye steaks and pork chops. Of course, fans of the Waffle House's famous scattered, covered and smothered hash browns can forgo the higher-end meats in favor of classic comfort food. Best of all, the Valentine's reservations mean that, for one day at least, Waffle House customers won't have to cool their heels while waiting for a table!
It isn't hard to see why some fast food places are edging into full-service territory: According to financial information company Sageworks, it's a bright time for the industry. Last year, "limited-service" eateries saw their sales increase by 6.1%; by comparison, sit-down restaurants have only had a 3.2% sales increase.
But it doesn't take a financial analyst to see why Valentine's Day at Chik-Fil-A seems like an attractive option: Quite apart from the savings involved, many customers are likely to be lining up merely for the chance to hear a waiter say the immortal words "Would madam like some Diet Dr. Pepper to go with her carton of poulet-frit?"
Bruce Watson is a senior features writer for DailyFinance. You can reach him by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org, or follow him on Twitter at @bruce1971.