Valentine's Day Ideas for Restaurants
Historically, Valentine's Day is one of the busiest restaurant days of the year. Even though on-premise dining and Valentine's Day spending have declined in recent years, you can still expect a profitable holiday in 2023. OpenTable reported that Valentine's Day reservations increased by 30% between 2021 and 2022, which is a good indicator that reservations will surge again. But this time around, you may have to rethink your Valentine's Day menu and promotions to impress your guests. Check out our tips for planning a Valentine's Day service your customers won't forget.
1. Start Promoting Early
Valentine’s Day is notorious for sneaking up on everyone! Before you know it, February has arrived and then you’re scrambling to put together a promotion for your restaurant. Our best advice is to start advertising as early as possible. The first week of January is the ideal time to begin promoting your Valentine’s Day specials because it gives your customers plenty of time to make plans. And honestly, after the holiday hustle and bustle, everyone deserves to get pampered with a special Valentine’s Day dinner.
As you plan your marketing strategy, make sure to consider all your advertising channels. You'll see the best results when you promote through several channels, like email, direct mail, social media accounts, and your website. Flyers and tabletop signs are effective too! Don't limit yourself to just one type of advertisement.
2. Make Sure You Have Coverage
Valentine’s Day is one of the busiest restaurant days of the year for a reason. Many couples like to go out to eat and celebrate, and that includes your staff members. Your employees might have their own plans for this romantic holiday. Don’t assume you have the coverage you need or you could get stuck with a short staff. Start making your Valentine's Day schedule early. In fact, you could go above and beyond by offering incentives for anyone who volunteers to work that day.
Plan a special staff meal for Valentine's Day with items from your prix fixe menu. You’ll be showing appreciation for staff members, and you’ll help to familiarize them with the evening’s menu. Another way to make sure you have staff coverage is to offer bonus wages for anyone working on the holiday. All your employees will be working hard to keep up with the reservations, but servers and bartenders may be the only ones to see that extra pay in their tips. Provide compensation in the form of bonus pay to all employees who volunteer to work on this hectic holiday.
3. Anti-Valentine’s Day
Not everyone gets excited about Valentine’s Day. Whether the hearts and cupids make them cringe, or they just don’t buy into the greeting card aspect, it’s a holiday with its fair share of skeptics. Why not mix it up this year with a non-traditional promotion? Check out some of these anti-Valentine’s restaurant ideas:
- Galentines - Not just limited to gal pals, a Galentine’s Day theme is meant to celebrate the joys of friendship. Instead of a traditional, romantic Valentine’s Day promotion, create some deals to attract groups of friends. Shareable plates and charcuterie boards are fun options for large parties to nibble on. Add a free bottle of champagne for groups of 4 or more!
- Singles Appreciation Day - If you want to go non-traditional, how about a solo diner’s special? All single parties receive a percentage off their bill or a special dessert to commemorate their independence. A heart-shaped chocolate cake with a silly message like “love stinks” would make a photo-worthy end to the meal.
- Black Out - Instead of traditional red and pink decorations, create an anti-Valentine theme with black roses and gothic candles. Black lace and somber music could boost the gloomy atmosphere. If you need inspiration, just ask yourself, “What would Wednesday Addams use for decorations?”
4. Hire a Musician
Live music is a special touch that elevates the romantic atmosphere in your dining room (plus you’ll be supporting a local musician). Just make sure the music isn’t too loud. It should provide a pleasant backdrop without drowning out your guests’ conversation.
- Harpist - The harp is a beautiful instrument that sounds as lovely as it looks. Hiring a harpist for Valentine’s Day will make a truly unforgettable experience for your guests.
- String Quartet - String instruments provide a soft, melodic soundtrack to a romantic Valentine's day dinner.
- Saxophonist - Imagine the bluesy sound of a solo sax playing classic love songs while your customers dine by candlelight.
5. Create a Prix Fixe Menu
A prix fixe menu allows you to curate an exciting Valentine’s Day dinner while alleviating the pressure on your staff. Fewer choices make the ordering process easier for both guests and servers. The kitchen staff will thank you, and service will run more smoothly. We recommend including a vegan option and a gluten-free option to appeal to more diners.
Keep in mind that Valentine’s Day guests are expecting something extra special, and they’re usually willing to splurge. Check out some popular Valentine's Day menu items:
- Caviar - You may not serve caviar on a typical day, but it’s the perfect delicacy for a romantic prix fixe menu. Learn more about the different types and how much they cost in our caviar guide.
- Fondue - What’s more romantic than two guests gazing at each other over a fondue pot of melted cheese? Fondue is a Valentine’s Day favorite and creates a memorable interactive experience.
- Hot Pot - Similar to fondue, hot pot is a style of cooking where guests dip their ingredients into a communal pot of simmering broth. It’s a unique option that could set your restaurant apart from the competition.
- Lobster - Always a popular menu item on Valentine’s Day, a lobster dinner is the quintessential meal to share with someone special.
- Chocolate - Valentine's Day would not be complete without a chocolate dessert. But you don't need an extravagant 7-layer cake to do the trick. Try a simple dessert of chocolate-covered strawberries or easy ruby chocolate truffles.
6. Upgrade Your Beverage Service
You can expect beverage sales to increase over Valentine's Day, so take advantage of this holiday and create a special wine list or a love-themed cocktail menu. Train your servers to make wine suggestions and perform a traditional wine service to make your guests feel extra special.
If you create a Valentine’s Day cocktail menu, let the holiday inspire you. Fruit flavors like cherry and raspberry give your drinks romantic hues, and your guests may appreciate playful cocktail names like “Cupid’s Cosmo” to add a little fun to the occasion. Many consumers are looking for alcohol-free options, so it's a smart choice to include a few mocktails to celebrate the occasion.
7. Encourage Reservations
Limiting your Valentine's Day service to reservations only will help the day go much more smoothly and ensure that your service is successful. Encourage customers to make reservations well in advance of Valentine's Day. Nothing ruins the romantic mood more than a long wait before being seated. By offering discounts or other promotions to guests who book Valentine's Day dinner reservations, you can reduce the number of people anxiously waiting for a table. Plus, knowing how many covers to expect will help you with scheduling.
8. Valentine's Day Takeout Specials
Help your customers celebrate their romantic evening at home by offering menu options suitable for a Valentine's Day takeout order. Some guests prefer to celebrate with their significant other in the privacy of their own homes. By providing Valentine's Day takeout specials, you can keep tables available while boosting your profits during the holiday.
9. Offer a Valentine’s Day Cooking Class
An easy way to offer something a little extra to your customers, as well as draw more business, is to host Valentine’s Day cooking classes. For couples looking to stray from tradition, attending a cooking class on Valentine’s Day is a chance to get creative, work together, and enjoy eating something made with their own hands.
If you expect your restaurant to be busy, offer cooking classes in the weeks leading up to the 14th. This creates less competition with other restaurants and gives more customers the chance to partake in your classes. Many potential customers opt out of celebrating on the day because of how busy it is, so earlier cooking classes could be enticing to them.
As Valentine's Day approaches, bring out the red ribbon, romantic music, and heart-shaped everything. Don't forget to advertise your Valentine's Day food promotion online before the holiday, and consider taking reservations to help the night go smoothly for both your staff and customers. As you begin your planning, refer to our Valentine's Day ideas for restaurants to make the most of this busy holiday.
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