On moving Valentine’s Day to stimulate the economy…

February 17, 2009

So, Saturday night was Valentine’s Day. And lots of people no doubt went out for dinner to celebrate the day, or, perhaps, just because it was a Saturday night which has always been a popular night to go out for dinner. And therein lies the problem: when Valentine’s Day falls on a Saturday night, that’s bad news for restaurants, especially publicly traded ones. When the “holiday” falls during the week, say, a Tuesday or Wednesday, it helps boost revenues by providing an extra day of business on a day that’s normally slow. So why not just move the day — kind of the way we’ve created President’s Day so that it always leads to a long weekend — and help the restaurant industry at the same time?

And that’s exactly what an analyst at Raymond James (RJF) and Bert Vivian, the co-CEO of PF Chang’s (PFCB) suggested last week during this conference call that was filed with PF Chang’s 8K reporting fourth quarter earnings:

Bryan Elliott — Raymond James — Analyst
Okay. All right. And how do you think about Valentine’s Day, being that it’s on a Friday or Saturday, rather, and is that — I guess it’s a guess at this point but how big a risk do you think that is to first quarter or February numbers?

Bert Vivian — P.F. Chang’s China Bistro, Inc. — Co-CEO
Bryan, you’re a very influential guy. More so than I am. So I would appreciate it if you would write your congressmen and senators and offer the suggestion to the Obama administration that as part of the stimulus plan we should just go ahead and fix the second Wednesday of every February as Valentine’s Day.

Bryan Elliott — Raymond James — Analyst
I—ll ask for Monday.

Bert Vivian — P.F. Chang’s China Bistro, Inc. — Co-CEO
It would cost the government absolutely nothing to do that and it would be a huge benefit to the restaurant industry.

Rick Federico — P.F. Chang’s China Bistro, Inc. — Chairman, Co-CEO
If you do it on Monday they may go out on Saturday anyway.

Bert Vivian — P.F. Chang’s China Bistro, Inc. — Co-CEO
The answer to your question is that it’s bad for us being on Saturday. We essentially lose — with Valentine’s Day is essentially a Saturday so we like for that to occur on Tuesday or Wednesday. Our restaurants will be busy this weekend at least I hope they are. In fact on a year-over-year basis it hurts us.

Now, as my friend Paul Kedrosky pointed out over the weekend, restaurant reservations in several major cities, including New York, were pretty easy to come by on Valentine’s Day. So maybe moving the day really wouldn’t be all that helpful, at least not given the current economy. Still, it’s another reminder that analysts (and the companies that they cover) sometimes say the oddest things during conference calls.

Image source: Hilton Hotels

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