What Are the Busiest Periods in the Restaurant Business?

From one day to the next and one hour to the next, restaurant workers and managers, as well as customers, might not be able to anticipate the exact pace of business at a given eatery. Some times are slower than usual; others are busier. But then there are those days when seemingly every restaurant is full -- special occasions when it's common for folks to eat out.

Mother's Day and Father's Day

According to the National Restaurant Association, Mother's Day is the No. 1 day of the year for dining out. Makes sense: Mom shouldn't have to cook on her special day! The association estimated in 2013 that 80 million American adults eat at a restaurant at least once on Mother's Day -- about one-quarter of the U.S. population. Father's Day was third on the association's list.

Valentine's Day

The second-busiest time of the year for restaurants is on and around Valentine's Day, the National Restaurant Association says. For the restaurant industry, Valentine's is more than a single day. Many savvy -- or perhaps unlucky -- couples are aware that their restaurants of choice are booked solid on Valentine's Day itself. So they compensate by going out a few days before or after the holiday.

New Year's Eve

When you're going to be enjoying a night out -- one that stretches past midnight -- you might as well make a restaurant meal a part of the plan. That's why New Year's Eve is the fourth-busiest day of the year for restaurants, the restaurant association says.

Other Winter Holidays

The days immediately before and after the major winter holidays bring customers to restaurants. For example, the day before Thanksgiving, customers who've made major preparations to cook the next day may want an easy meal in the meantime. The day after a holiday -- especially a gift-giving one -- brings in a lot of foot traffic, as people aren't quite ready for leftovers and are out and about returning gifts or cashing in gift cards.


Easter is the fifth-busiest day of the year, according to the National Restaurant Association. Brunches and lunches are especially big on this day as families in their Easter finery enjoy a meal after church -- or after the big egg hunt.

Special Events

Major sporting events can bring major business to restaurants near the venue where they're occurring. Eateries that do a lot of takeout and delivery business should expect to be busy on days when there's a big game or event on TV. Other popular community events -- such as parades, festivals or concerts --- can be expected to generate heavy business for restaurants in the area.


About the Author

Dave Stanley has covered sports, music and hard news since 2000. He has been published on CBSSports.com and various other websites. Stanley is also a feature writer for "WhatsUp!" magazine in Bellingham, Wash. He studied journalism at the University of Memphis.