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4 Chain Restaurants With Valentine's Day Promos

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PORTLAND, Ore. ( TheStreet) -- Why would you take the person you love to a fast-food joint on Valentine's Day? Because all the novices are sucking up reservations everywhere else and paying a premium for dry roast chicken on the "special" Valentine's Day menu.

This is the shoebox well-intentioned suitors have been backed into since Esther Howland and her gang of greeting card industry thugs grabbed hold of Valentine's Day in the late 19th century and DeBeers and its diamond-company cronies made every dinner on that holiday a game of high-stakes poker. Now it's an $18 billion industry that trails only Thanksgiving ($30.5 billion) and Christmas ($135 billion) in holiday spending, according to IBISWorld.

That's almost $3 billion more than what's spent on Mother's Day, which means most folks love that person they met on winter break in Breckenridge more than they love their own mother. For shame.

Perhaps its only fair that those poor, misguided saps get squeezed for their Valentine's supper. Restaurant ratings guide Zagat found that spending on a dinner out jumps on Valentine's Day to more than $146 for a typical dinner for two -- from $70. Overall, the National Retail Federation expected Valentine's Day dinner spending to jump from $3.36 billion in 2011 to $3.58 billion last year.

It didn't help that last year's Valentine's Day diners decided to treat the holiday like an Olympic-style challenge. Last year, restaurant reservation site OpenTable found that 93% of the Valentine's Day reservation holders they surveyed planned to either match last year's dinner bill or increase it. Roughly 54% planned to spend $101 to $200, while 10% plan to go well beyond $200.

This is how the place around the corner from your house that requires you to lean out the driver's side window and shout your order into a speaker becomes a viable Valentine's Day option. We took a hard, soul-searching look at the lovestruck American dining landscape and found a few establishments that will try to sell fast and familiar fare as romantic dinner this Valentine's Day:

White Castle

The Midwest and East Coast miniburger palace, the Beastie Boys' muse and Harold and Kumar's sacred feeding ground usually has no problems doling out sacks of 10 or cardboard "Crave Case" briefcases filled with dozens of burgers to anyone willing to make the pilgrimage.

Unless they want to drop by on Valentine's Day, when they'll need to hit the White Castle website and make a reservation.

For their trouble, White Castle couples get a $10 "share-a-meal" served on plastic red tablecloths set with candles and flowers in collapsible take-home vases.This year, the package includes a free digital photo that gets posted on the chain's site after March 1 and keepsake menus to mark the occasion. While there's plenty of room for questions about the romantic value of a meal that tends to settle like a cannonball in the stomach a few hours later, a White Castle Valentine's date is worth the agita if only to see the confused, bloodshot look on the regular clientele's faces when they come in and see the glowing candles and flush decor.