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Restaurants and Valentine’s Day

How to Promote February 14 at Your Restaurant

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Restaurants and Valentine’s Day

Valentine's is one of the busiest nights for many restaurants.

M.Connors
One of the biggest days of the year for many restaurants is Valentine’s Day. It is estimated that Americans spend 8 billion dollars (yes, billion) dining out on February 14th. (Just an FYI, American’s will drop another 2.5 billion on candy for Valentine’s Day). No matter what type of restaurant you operate, Valentine’s Day can help boost post-holiday sales. Read on for more tips for making the most out of Valentine’s Day at your restaurant.

Maximize Reservations

Valentine’s Day is all about couples. If your dining room is set up for larger tables, consider breaking them apart to accommodate more two-tops. The bulk of reservations for Valentine’s are in the evening, so be careful to stagger the reservations, or have a couple designated seating’s, for example at five o’clock, seven o’clock, and nine o’clock. This will allow adequate time for a romantic dinner for two, while still fitting in as many guests as possible.

But be wary of overbooking reservations. It is tempting to fill up every table on a busy night. However, this is just asking for trouble. If a table is late showing up or sits longer than normal, it can throw a chink into the entire restaurant reservation chain. Suddenly you have people showing up with a seven o’clock reservation, who have to wait for their table. Nothing will anger customers faster than having to wait for a reservation. Read more about the basics of taking restaurant reservations.

Staff Accordingly

Both in the front of the house and the kitchen, it is important to have adequate and experienced staff. V-Day is not a time to have the B Team (c’mon, every restaurant has one) on the floor for the night. Experienced servers that know the menu and can seamlessly manage multiple tables at once will help the night run smoothly. Also remember that for many couples, Valentine’s is a time to splurge on a meal they wouldn’t normally purchase, so more experienced staff are better adept at upselling items like dessert and cocktails. Read more about turning servers into sales people.

Consider a Prix Fixe Menu

To prevent the kitchen from being overwhelmed with a wide variety of orders, consider a limited prix fixe menu. Prix Fixe literally means fixed price. It is a French term that refers to a type of limited menu featuring a pre-selected list of dishes at a set price. A prix fixe menu may include an appetizer, soup, salad, entrée and dessert all for a set price per person. Prix fixe options may include just one menu selection or a few different menu selections.

Consider Doing Something Different

If you are looking for a different Valentine’s Day promotion, consider hosting a wine tasting dinner or a beer tasting dinner at your restaurant. Wine aficionados and beer connoisseurs will enjoy the specialty menu paired with specially selected wines or ales. If you would rather keep to a more traditional Valentine’s Day menu, consider hosting a wine or beer dinner later on in the late winter or early, as an extra promotion to bring in business in slow times.

Incorporate Current Food Trends

Because Valentine’s Day is a special day, it’s a good time to run new dishes featuring current food trends, like local foods, ethnic fusion cuisine or head to tail cooking. This is also a good opportunity to gauge how well a specialty menu item does and it if it is worth running again or adding as a permanent fixture to your regular restaurant menu.

Freebies

Consider offering up some freebies, to entice customers to book their reservations at your restaurant. Popular Valentine’s Day freebies include roses for the ladies, two-for-one dinner specials, free champagne, or a free dessert.

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