WASHINGTON – US restaurants will welcome 70 million Americans celebrating Valentine's Day this year, according to the National Restaurant Association. The association's new consumer research shows 31% say they will dine out Feb. 14.

"When it comes to choosing a restaurant for that special meal, consumers' top three deciding factors are the familiarity of a favorite eatery, a romantic setting and special menu offerings," said Hudson Riehle, NRA senior vice president of the Research and Knowledge Group.

Younger adults are more likely to enjoy a special Valentine's Day meal at a restaurant than older adults; 33% of 18- to 34-year olds, and 39% of 35 to 44-year olds say they plan to dine out for a Valentine's Day meal, compared with 27% of those 55 and older.

Most consumers (42%) say they pick their favorite restaurant or their companion's favorite restaurant for their special meal. Twenty-one percent select a restaurant with a romantic atmosphere, followed by restaurants that offer special menus or promotions (13%), restaurants picked by their companion (12%) and a restaurant they haven't been to before (11%).

For younger consumers, a romantic atmosphere carries more weight when choosing a restaurant on Valentine's Day than it does for older adults. Thirty-nine percent of 18- to 34-year olds said that was the most important factor for them, compared with only 8% of those 65 and older.

NRA also surveyed member restaurants on what type of promotions they would offer around Valentine's Day, and the most common responses were special menu items (63%), prix fixe menu (45%), celebratory beverages or desserts (34%), flower/candy (28%), and entertainment/music (13%). In addition, 63% considered Valentine's Day falling on a Monday – a typically slower day of the week – an advantage.

Previous NRA research shows Valentine's Day is the second most popular holiday to dine out, after Mother's Day.