Ah, February 14. For those in love, it’s one of the most romantic days of the year. For restaurants, it’s one of the most lucrative days of the year.
In fact, Valentine’s Day is only second to Mother’s Day as the most profitable holiday for restaurants. Those in love are willing to splurge on roses, chocolates, jewelry, and lavish meals to make their significant other feel special – which means you need to go the extra mile preparing your restaurants for Valentine’s Day.
So how can you ensure a successful Valentine’s Day at your restaurant – one that maximizes profits, gives guests the memorable experience they expect, and ensures they’ll come back?
With so much resting on this holiday, a lot can go wrong if your restaurant isn’t prepared. We’re filling you in on everything your restaurant needs to do to get ready.
In this guide to preparing restaurants for Valentine’s Day, you’ll learn:
- Why Valentine’s Day is such an important holiday for the industry
- How to prepare your menu for February 14
- How to market your holiday menu
- How to use tech to maximize Valentine’s Day reservations
- How to prepare your staff for a successful service
We already feel the love in the air…
Why Valentine’s Day Is Important for Restaurants
Nothing says romance like a meal for two. While some couples cook for themselves, most lovebirds would rather indulge in a night out. In fact, Valentine’s Day is the second busiest holiday for restaurants after Mother’s Day, according to the National Restaurant Association.
Unsurprisingly, fine dining restaurants are the biggest hit with couples on this day. These venues typically see a 5% spike in sales on Valentine’s Day.
But Valentine’s Day has benefits for a wide range of full service restaurants and here’s why. Overall, diners are willing to spend more money on this meal than they would on another date night. Consumers spend an average of $161.96 for the holiday overall, with $101 of that going towards a meal for two, according to Bankrate.com. At about $50 per person for the meal, customers are ordering more than just entrees. You can expect diners to order appetizers, desserts, and even bottles of wine or Champagne.
How do diners choose where they want to go for Valentine’s Day? Naturally, romance is top of mind for one in five diners. Ambiance isn’t everything, however. Thirteen percent of diners choose a restaurant that has a holiday promotion or menu.
Valentine’s Day is a big business opportunity for restaurants. Loved up customers are celebrating the occasion by dining out and they’re spending more than usual on their meals!
Preparing Your Restaurant for Valentine’s Day: 4 Easy Things to Do
With strategic planning, Valentine’s Day can be a lucrative holiday for your restaurant. We’ll arm you with tips for preparing your restaurant’s menu, marketing, reservation system, and staff to ensure that your Valentine’s Day service goes off without a hitch!
1. Create Your Valentine’s Day Menu
As we noted, 13% of diners choose a restaurant for Valentine’s Day because of a holiday menu. Because of this, it’s important to create special offerings for February 14 to entice diners. While you can make a la carte options available, consider maximizing on profits with a prix fixe menu. Having this type of menu will ensure that you make a minimum amount of revenue from each customer.
Offer customers an appetizer, entree, and dessert for a set price. Give customers the opportunity to add on extras like glasses and bottles of wine or Champagne, or even roses!
How should you decide which dishes to feature on the menu?
Choose items that are popular and have high profit margins so your holiday menu is both appealing and lucrative. You can use your POS system’s menu reports to uncover which dishes are ordered the most and which ones are the most profitable.
If you want to offer some new menu items for Valentine’s Day, we recommend experimenting with appetizers and desserts. Don’t mess with perfection in your entrees, as new dishes may be difficult to execute at scale without lots of practice.
Remember to include wine pairing or other suggestions on your Valentine’s Day menu to increase check sizes.
Pair data and creativity to create a winning Valentine’s Day menu!
2. Market Your Restaurant for Valentine’s Day
As soon as you’ve planned what you’ll be serving on February 14, it’s time to let people know.
Make sure people know how you’re celebrating Valentine’s Day to entice them to make a reservation at your restaurant.
How? By promoting your Valentine’s Day offerings on- and offline.
Spread the word about your restaurant’s Valentine’s Day restaurant promotions online with these strategies:
- Create a pop up or banner on your restaurant’s website to announce your Valentine’s Day offerings. Link the banner to a landing page that you create especially for the holiday. Upload the menu to this page and include information on how customers can make Valentine’s Day reservations.
- Let your social media followers know about your Valentine’s Day specials. Share posts that reveal what will be on your holiday menu. On Facebook, link to your Valentine’s Day menu and/or reservations page in a post. Optimize your Instagram bio with your restaurant’s phone number and a link to your reservations website. Tweet about the specials you’re offering and include calls to action to encourage bookings.
- Let your email subscribers know what you have planned. Create a newsletter campaign that starts with an announcement of your Valentine’s Day offerings (include appetizing photos!) and then sends reminders to make a reservation with you.
Capitalize on your restaurant’s physical presence to get current customers to come back for Valentine’s Day by:
- Hanging up posters announcing the special holiday menu. As always, include a call to action to encourage customers to make a reservation.
- Placing postcards with information about your Valentine’s Day plans in every billfold leading up to the big day. Let customers know that they can make a reservation through their server or the host.
Combine online and offline marketing to spread the word about your restaurant’s Valentine’s Day celebration.
3. Fill Your Tables with Reservations
Busy holidays like Valentine’s Day wouldn’t be successful without reservations. Reservations give you an idea of who to expect at your restaurant, how much inventory to buy, and how much staff you’ll need on the floor.
If you’re using pen and paper to record all your reservations (and special requests for such an important date night!) you risk things getting lost. Numbers get written down incorrectly, your host or hostess could get pulled away without writing down a reservation, or – worst case scenario – your page of reservations gets misplaced.
When you upgrade to reservation software, you minimize all of these risks. Your reservations management system and POS can help you anticipate table turnover time to maximize capacity and profits. You can expect slower turnover times on Valentine’s Day because of increased courses and a more leisurely pace of dining.
However, getting Valentine’s Day reservations is only half the battle. Making sure that customers who make reservations show up is more important and more difficult. You can reduce no-shows by using your reservations software to send customers automated reminders via SMS or email.
How else can you use your reservations management system for a successful Valentine’s Day at your restaurant?
Here are a few ideas:
- For new customers, Valentine’s Day is an opportunity to make a great first impression. Reservations let you know how many tables to expect for the holiday, which lets you better prepare. When you are well prepared for Valentine’s Day, you are able to provide the best experience possible. When you leave a great impression on first-time customers, you are more likely to see them again.
- Give returning customers a personalized experience on Valentine’s Day by using information available on their customer profiles. Customers who have made reservations with you before will already have an established profile in your reservations system. Customers can volunteer information, like dietary restrictions or wine preferences, or your staff can add it manually based on interactions with the guest.
Use this information to create a personalized dining experience for returning guests. Let’s say that a guest has a gluten intolerance noted on their profile. Their server can make a note of this in advance and recommend gluten-free options when the guest arrives, without the guest having to ask. Personalization can make Valentine’s Day even more memorable for your guests.
- Let customers make special requests for Valentine’s Day via your reservations system. You could use your reservations management system to let customers add roses, Champagne, or their choice of dessert to their menu before they arrive, so that they surprise their loved one with these extras.
Reservations technology helps your restaurant do so much more than just book tables for Valentine’s Day. It also helps you make a memorable first impression, give loyal customers a custom experience, and lets customers make special requests.
4. Prepare Your Staff for Successful Service
Ensure that one of the busiest days of the year goes off without a hitch by staffing your restaurant properly. Use technology to forecast your labor accurately so that you have enough staff to handle your customers’ needs, without overspending more on payroll.
Your POS data should be able to show you sales data and labor reports from last Valentine’s Day and is a great place to start when thinking about this year’s schedule. If you have employee scheduling software, even better! This software can help you generate the most efficient schedule possible, without you having to do a lot of the heavy lifting.
Also, make sure you have some ground rules for time-off requests during this holiday – and others. Communicate deadlines for requests and how you’ll be deciding who gets this day off.
You have a few options here:
- First come first serve
- By seniority
- By lottery
- On rotation (if someone worked New Years’ Eve, they would have first dibs on Valentine’s Day, etc.)
Once the schedule is in place, use your reservations tool to see if your guests have preferred servers that will be working that day. If so, make sure to seat them in that server’s section – diners will love your attention to detail!
Need help getting servers to upsell, cross-sell, and generally increase check sizes? Other than reminding them that diners generally tip based on a percentage of the bill, consider other ways to incentivize servers. Offer a free meal to the person who sells the most dessert features or a gift certificate for the highest wine sales. What about a night off from side duties as the top prize for the night? There are many ways to incentivize servers for this big day – you just have to figure out what works best for your team.
With some effort, Valentine’s Day can be one of the most lucrative holidays of the year. Diners may choose restaurants for Valentine’s Day because of their ambiance and menu, but they will return to the ones that can deliver a memorable experience.
Optimize the technology you already use at your restaurant, like your POS, reservations management platform, labor scheduling tool, social media profiles, and more to fill tables and execute a fantastic customer experience.