Marketing

11 Valentine’s Day Restaurant Promotions for 2021

By Dana Krook

Illustration of valentine cake cards gifts food and drink

It’s that time of year when millions of couples are eagerly looking up local Valentine’s Day restaurant promotions. In fact, Valentine’s Day is the second busiest holiday for restaurants (just behind Mother’s Day), with about 25% of Americans dining out.

So if your restaurant is delayed in creating a Valentine’s Day promotion, trying to bolster your off-premise business, or you want to add one more pièce de résistance to separate you from the herd of pink and red, don’t fret.

To help you dial up the romance, we’ve done our best to provide you with a list of un-cheesy promotions with fast turn-around. With these 11 proven Valentine’s Day restaurant promotions, you can effectively reach early birds and last-minute lovers alike, and entice them to choose you over the competition – whether it’s for dine-in or takeout.

11 Valentine’s Day Restaurant Promotions Guests Will Love

Valentine’s Day is one of the most lucrative holidays for restaurants with one study finding that upscale restaurants will experience a 105% jump from their normal business. And while COVID-19 restrictions mean that dining out won’t be an option for every happy couple this year, it doesn’t mean that restaurants can’t still take advantage of this opportunity for a boost in sales.

Below are 11 unique Valentine’s Day promotions and ideas that restaurants can use to drive dine-in or takeout and delivery business.

1. Come Up With a Theme

According to the National Restaurant Association, 21% of Valentine’s Day diners select a restaurant with a romantic atmosphere, so take the opportunity to go all-in on a lovey-dovey theme. This can involve sticking to classic Valentine’s Day motifs such as candles, roses, and pink decor.

Or, you can also eschew traditional romantic themes for something more creative. For instance, Toronto’s El Rey Mezcal Bar opted for a friendship-themed Valentine’s Day in an effort to celebrate love of all kinds. Meanwhile, The Loaded Slate in Milwaukee took things in an entirely different direction by creating a theme specifically for broken-hearted singles called “Shred Your Ex.”

Keep in mind that even if you’re not offering dine-in, you can still apply your theme to your takeout and delivery offerings with special menu items, food packaging, and other small touches.

2. Create a Lover’s Menu

Valentine’s is all about the mood and romance, but let’s not forget why everyone is really venturing out to restaurants for Valentine’s Day – the food! There are a couple of easy (and enticing) ways to fancy up your menu offerings for dine-in or takeout.

  • Offer “romantic” foods: oysters, lobster, scallops, chocolate, specialty coffee – or anything with honey, avocado, arugula, and chili peppers (all known aphrodisiacs). While these are known to warm up the love chemicals in the brain, you’ll benefit because customers will be likely to indulge in an expensive dish since it’s a “special occasion.”
  • Curate a series of dishes into a prix fixe: Everyone loves a menu that features an appetizer, dinner, and dessert. The common notion is that you’re getting a deal, and the beauty of this is, you don’t have to cheapen your offering by explicitly stating the discounted rate. The best thing about the prix fixe menu is it can be done on the fly with items already available on your menu.
  • Update your takeout specials: Just because your customers aren’t dining in, doesn’t mean they don’t want to enjoy something extra special. Consider offering Valentine’s-themed takeout dishes you wouldn’t normally serve to pique interest. For instance, GrubHub found that customers were four times more likely to order heart-shaped sushi rolls for delivery on Valentine’s Day.

3. Update Your Drinks Selection

Of course, all those festive changes to your menu shouldn’t be limited to food alone. As most restaurateurs know, Valentine’s Day is a major opportunity to boost drink sales as well. And with many states and provinces now allowing restaurants to sell alcohol for delivery and takeout, there are plenty of opportunities to make your drinks menu standout with special Valentine’s day promotions.

Consider following the lead of Vancouver’s Hawksworth Restaurant and adding a special cocktail with a romantic name. Previously, the Rosewood Hotel Georgia’s award-winning restaurant served up a special love-themed cocktail called A Moment I Treasure, made with strawberry-infused Grey Goose, crème de cacao, rose water, and egg white.

If you’re looking for a more takeout or delivery-friendly option, cocktail kits are an easy add-on. For instance, Edmonton’s Tres Carnales Rostizado offers margarita and mule cocktail kits that not only pair well with the restaurant’s tacos, but also make for a fun DIY activity for special occasions like Valentine’s Day.

4. Offer At-Home Options

Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, takeout and delivery were becoming increasingly popular options for Valentine’s Day. Now, ordering in may be the only option for many couples, so don’t forget to make your takeout and delivery fare extra special. 

To help diners recreate the restaurant experience at home, consider offering a pre-set menu of Valentine’s restaurant specials. Keep in mind that 56% of diners want to enjoy a classic three-course meal (starter, entrée, and dessert) on Valentine’s Day, so be sure to cover every category.

You can also elevate the experience with extras that can be enjoyed at home or received as gifts. For instance, Houston and Fort Worth’s B&B Butchers & Restaurant has previously offered a prix fixe takeout menu for two, with the option to add on a bouquet of flowers by a local florist.

And if you’re doubling down on takeout and delivery for Valentine’s Day, keep in mind that you want to keep as much revenue in your pocket as possible. Instead of using third-party apps that charge hefty fees, encourage your customers to order from you directly using an in-house restaurant online ordering system like TouchBistro Online Ordering.

couple eating take out at home for valentine's day

5. Promote Gift Cards

According to the National Restaurant Association, nearly one-third of Americans would like to receive a restaurant gift card as a Valentine’s Day gift. This means that even if guests aren’t able to dine with you on Valentine’s Day itself, a gift card to your restaurant still makes a great gift for future date nights.

Gift cards are one of the best Valentine’s Day restaurant promotions you can offer because they provide an immediate increase in cash flow and secure diners for future dates. And if you use a solution like TouchBistro Gift Cards, guests don’t even have to visit your restaurant to purchase a gift card. With TouchBistro Gift Cards, guests can easily purchase and send digital gift cards online. And when guests are ready to redeem their gift cards, they can pay directly with their mobile device for a completely contactless payment solution.

6. Include Families

While most Valentine’s Day restaurant promotions are targeted at couples, keep in mind that not everyone will be leaving the kids at home. Consider making Valentine’s Day a family affair by tying in some kid-friendly experiences.

One option is to provide activities that will keep kids engaged while their parents enjoy a great meal. For instance, the American chain McAlister’s Deli hosts an annual Family Date Night on Valentine’s Day, complete with a “Make It McAlister’s” Kid Activity pack, a fun placemat with conversation starters, and even trivia at some locations.

And even if kid-friendly activities aren’t the right fit for your restaurant, you can always keep younger diners happy with enticing meal options. If you have a kids’ menu already, give it some festive flair with Valentine’s restaurant specials like heart-shaped pizzas or mini red velvet cupcakes. Or, cater to the takeout crowd by adding family-sized meal options designed to feed four or more people at once.

7. Offer An Experience

Keep in mind that any engaging activities you offer don’t have to be limited to kids. One of the most popular Valentine Day restaurant ideas is giving guests a meal and an experience by offering an interactive element like a cooking class, live musical performance, or trivia.

Even if you’re not offering dine-in services, consider hosting a virtual experience. For instance, a series of restaurants in Toronto offer an “Eat The City” experience that pairs meal kits from popular restaurants with virtual cooking classes. After receiving their meal kit, diners can then tune into a live demonstration and cook alongside the restaurant’s chef – a perfect date night activity for any couple.

8. Create a Last-Minute Incentive

According to MoneyWise, the average cost of a fine dining experience for two is $99.84. So whether you’re giving a percentage off the total bill, or a free appetizer and dessert, a little incentive can encourage diners to choose your restaurant over another. 

  • Voucher and complimentary accouterments: If you’re offering a complimentary item, make sure the terms of your promotion are clear and smartphone-friendly, so the romance of the evening isn’t burdened by logistics at billing time. Just be sure to be delicate with your wording by using “complimentary” as an alternative to “free.”
  • Taxi voucher or Uber gift card: Another small, but great incentive you can offer is to take care of a portion of guests’ taxi ride home. By partnering with a cab company and offering a discount on cab fare, or giving out redeemable Uber amounts, it’s a win-win: customers get home safe after feeling free to consume that extra glass of wine, and the upsell on their bills will be worth your investment. 

9. Send an Eleventh Hour Email

Of course, you can offer the best Valentine’s Day restaurant promotion in town, but it won’t get you very far if guests don’t know about it.

According to OpenTable, the majority of diners wait until 10 days or less in advance to make Valentine’s Day reservations. This means that you should start marking your Valentine’s Day promotions early, but you should also keep last-minute planners in mind as well since these will likely make up a big chunk of your crowd.

Don’t be shy about sending out a Valentine’s Day email a day or two before the big night. Sales from last-minute planners are just as lucrative as those from customers who book well in advance. It might be the best way to become top of mind with customers looking to book a reservation or place a takeout order under the wire.

  • Write a knock-out subject line: To make this email effective, choose your subject line carefully. Remember, many retailers and restaurants will be vying for the attention of last-minute lovers, so catchy is key. One study found that the words “sweet,” “ideas,” “coupon,” and symbols (like the <3) performed best around Valentine’s Day.  
  • Include persuasive content: This is where you’d include a brief description of your Valentine’s restaurant specials and, most importantly, where you create a sense of urgency. Include terms such as: “Time is running out,” “Cupid is just around the corner,” “Reservations are filling up fast!” and “Have you ordered your date night meal kit yet?”
  • Don’t forget your VIPs: If you have a loyalty program, make sure everyone enrolled knows about your upcoming Valentine’s restaurant specials. If you use a tool like TouchBistro Loyalty, you can even design personalized promotions based on guest behavior, rewards level, location, and more.
Woman with flowers kissing a man on the cheek in a restaurant
Dining at a restaurant on Valentine’s Day

10. Social Media Promotion

Posting on social media is one of the most effective restaurant promotion ideas and the best way to get your Valentine’s Day promotions in front of more eyes. Even if you’re getting close to the big day, here are a few easy ways to engage lovers of all kinds over your social channels.

  • Contest to win a complimentary romantic dinner for two: Offer a contest for a free romantic meal. To ensure you get entries and convert that into business, be sure to provide any entrant with a prize they can use even after Valentine’s is over, or for takeout and delivery orders. A couple of contest suggestions could include asking guests to share a photo and the story behind how they met, or encouraging customers to share a photo of their meal and explain why they chose it.
  • Promote your Valentine’s offerings through social media: Just as effective as email, share your Valentine’s Day restaurant promotions across your social media channels. And remember, don’t just market the deal point-blank; make the content visual, shareable, likeable, and something that a customer would tag a friend in.

11. Think Beyond Valentine’s Day

If you’re limiting your Valentine’s Day restaurant promotions to a single day, you could be missing a big opportunity to boost your revenue.

To give guests more opportunities to celebrate, consider extending your Valentine’s restaurant specials throughout the week, or into the weekend. By extending your promotions, you can capture all the diners who may not be able to celebrate the night of. In fact, 38% of Americans admit to celebrating Valentine’s Day after February 14th in an effort to save a few bucks, so don’t miss an opportunity to capture this crowd as well.

Another way to extend your Valentine’s Day promotions is to tap into adjacent holidays. For instance, February 13th has unofficially been dubbed Galentine’s Day and aims to give women an opportunity to celebrate female friendship. Many restaurants now mark this holiday as well, like Boston’s Oak Long Bar + Kitchen, which previously hosted a Galentine’s Day event complete with a tasting of rosés produced by lady vintners, signature Galentine’s themed cocktails, and a playlist featuring the queens of pop.

Remember, many Valentine day restaurant ideas are pretty simple – the way to any lover’s heart is always through the stomach. Don’t be dismayed if you haven’t promoted your Valentine’s Day restaurant promotions yet because there’s still time! So go now and send that email, post that Instagram photo, and prep those meal kits. You’ve got a hot date with some romantic dinner orders and it’s going to be great.

Photo of Dana Krook
by Dana Krook

Dana is the former Content Marketing Manager at TouchBistro, sharing tips for and stories of restaurateurs turning their passion into success. She loves homemade hot sauce, deep fried pickles and finding excuses to consume real maple syrup.

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