Despite the bumpy economy, full-service restaurant operators have high hopes for strong Mother’s Day sales Sunday.

Typically the biggest holiday of the year for dining out, many operators say they see their best single-day numbers on Mother’s Day — even better than Valentine’s Day, in part because the February love fest generally attracts only two people, while celebrating Mom usually draws a crowd.

This year the National Restaurant Association projects about 80 million American adults will dine on restaurant meals on Sunday, according to an annual survey. The projection tops last year’s estimate of about 75 million Americans. Twenty-five percent of consumers said they planned to dine out this year, while 7 percent said they would order takeout or delivery. About 55 percent will dine out for dinner.

For Emeryville, Calif.-based multi-concept operator Tavistock Restaurants, bookings for Sunday increased this year compared with last year across its portfolio, which includes upscale-casual concepts like Abe & Louie’s, Napa Valley Grille and Atlantic Fish.

Hooter's Mother's Day ad“We’re predicting we’ll be up pretty significantly across the board in guest counts and sales, based on early bookings,” Tavistock spokesperson Sara Barker said.

“We are already at capacity for reservations and we are continuing to stretch reservations through OpenTable, booking on the 15-minute mark versus the half hour mark,” she said. “Even in recession times, Mother’s Day is a strong, strong holiday for us. It’s probably because it’s one of those tried and true comfort holidays, and you can’t really avoid it.”

Brian Dixon, chief marketing officer for Lehi, Utah-based casual-dining chain Costa Vida, said he expects Mother’s Day to be a “gangbuster day,” even though about a third of the chain’s 48 locations are closed on Sunday, primarily in Utah.

Last year the chain saw “respectable” Mother’s Day sales, he said.

Despite economic challenges for casual dining in general, Costa Vida’s sales have been positive, except for some softness in February, Dixon said. “We’ve been trending well above the industry,” he said. “We’re very bullish on Mother’s Day.”

At Cracker Barrel Old Country Store and Restaurant, Mother’s Day sales set an all-time record for the chain last year, even though it doesn’t offer a special menu for the occasion.

Cracker Barrel communications manager  Jeanne Ludington declined to comment on whether the 622-unit family-dining chain expects to exceed last year’s record.

Cracker Barrel “has become a tradition for families on Mother’s Day for many reasons, ranging from the relaxing atmosphere that makes guests feel right at home, to the made-from-scratch biscuits and convenient locations to meet for families who live in different towns or states,” Ludington said.  “For those just passing by on the way to Mom’s house, we have lots of gift baskets and bundles ready to go.”