The Business of Love

Take a moment to thank the unsung heroes during February 14th

Illustration by Aica Duran

Back in the day, it was believed that married men made bad soldiers – and so, in Rome, the sacrament was banned. But legend has it that there was once a man named Valentine, a noble priest who was later known to have arranged marriages in secret. After being imprisoned and sentenced to death for this act of rebellion, he would later on be immortalized as a saint of the Roman Catholic Church. Shortly after, February 14 would be established as the feast of St. Valentine – a foreshadowing of what was to come.

The 18th century marked the era that February 14 began to take on a whole new light. Couples would partake in the spirit St. Valentine left behind, one that celebrated love and affection in a grandiose manner. Speeches of adoration were adorned with flowers and sweets, and that was just the beginning.

Today, it has become a multi-billion dollar “holiday.” The business of love has created in itself its own currency, and the numbers don’t lie. Entrepreneur has reported Valentine’s Day sales reaching an all-time high all over the world at roughly $19.7 billion in 2016. Meanwhile, the Fiscal Times estimates $3.8 billion spent on an evening out, with 25 percent choosing to wine and dine.

Our nation is no exception to the phenomenon. We’ve been hit by the lovebug time and again. Chef Nino Laus of Ninyo Fusion Cuisine, a restaurant that has become a cult hit for couples on Valentine’s Day, alludes to this, “It’s really the busiest time for us, the whole February actually, but Valentine’s Day especially. Reservations are nonstop. It’s a lot of work and coordination on our end. The results are always great. Sales are at its peak and people end their dinner happy.”

The food and hospitality industry get the brunt of the hustle and bustle, bringing a sense of order and beauty to a night otherwise defined as chaos. Which begs the question, how do they do it like clockwork?

Where it Begins

It all starts with crafting the experience in an appropriate setting. Prep is an important aspect before the curtains rise for the big night. A string of meetings is needed leading up to the event, especially in an industry where every detail counts. Shangri-La at The Fort’s Communication Executive, Enah Baba, attributes their success to giving each of their hotel’s restaurants a certain personality. “We make sure that the offerings and how we communicate in terms of marketing are also synonymous to the personality per restaurant,” she says. To wit, options should be open to make sure everyone is included. The key is not to isolate the holiday to just romantic love, as there are different angles and stories of it to celebrate.

The War Zone

If love is a battlefield, then so is February 14 for the warriors behind the kitchen. In the nitty-gritty of the event, Chef Nino employs certain strategies on logistics. For one, he makes sure he’s got all hands on deck. As such, he doubles the staff and hires extra hands. Then there’s the Valentine’s Set Menu he innovates every year. In his kitchen, guests also get to choose between two batches for dining – a strategy he utilizes to avoid overcrowding and to guarantee the best service.

Enah also attests to the set menu rationale in their restaurants for purposes of efficiency and lessening food wastage. Another thing the hospitality industry has up their sleeve on the special day? Small tokens. “The managers come up with certain giveaways that they can offer, small touches they can put in to the whole experience – roses or anything the guests can take home.”

A Winning Battle Cry

At the end of the day, it boils down to creating an impact on memory and eventually becoming a vital part of one’s love story. Chef Nino shares a noteworthy story he holds dear to his heart to this day, “We had a couple drive into Ninyo. They had a reservation and everything. We noticed, though, that they did not come down from their car. Soon after, the couple decided to drive away. Later on, we found out that they had broken up. The guy who made the reservation messaged to apologize, we expressed our empathy and told him he can come back anytime to redeem his dinner. He eventually did a year later, with the same girl, this time for a proposal.”

It is in moments like these that gastronomy bleed seamlessly into life. And despite the long hours the industry needs to put in, they seem to agree on the same thing: keeping up with St. Valentine is not so bad after all.

Ninyo Fusion Cuisine is located at 66 Esteban Abada St., Loyola Heights, Quezon City. For reservations and inquiries, you can contact (02) 426-0301.

Shangri-La Fort is located at 30th St., cor. 5th Ave., BGC, Taguig. For reservations and inquiries, you can contact 820-8888

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