Restaurants that think strategically about Valentine’s Day promotions can rake in a great profit throughout the entire month of February. The National Retail Federation states that consumers spent on average $196.31 on Valentine’s Day in 2020, which was up 21% from 2019. Even more compelling? Total spending was not just on a significant other or spouse. People also tend to treat other family members, friends, children, co-workers and even pets (talk about puppy love)!
That being said, historically, Valentine’s Day was not necessarily the financial Shangri-La for many independent restaurants, according to Bloomberg. Of course, February 14 and the days surrounding it are not money losers for restaurants. Pre-pandemic, restaurants would be fully booked and churn out a 30%-40% increase in revenues. Average checks tend to run about 18% higher as well. However, as Restaurant Business reports, there are many other money-making holidays throughout the year too.
But wait. We’re in 2021. We’re in the middle of COVID-19. Date night will largely occur at home. Valentine’s Day is actually the first real holiday after New Year’s. With the pandemic, people are staying in and craving cheerfulness. That’s why we are likely to see an increase in target spending thresholds this Valentine’s Day. It’s a unique opportunity to expand your organic growth.
If you are a restaurant owner or operator looking to leverage the power of love—and the hype around Cupid’s big day—it takes careful planning weeks in advance. In fact, Google experts indicate that Valentine’s Day searches actually start the day after Christmas! Here are our top ideals to get ready for great Valentine’s Day restaurant promotions.
Top tips for restaurateurs to prepare for Valentine’s Day
Create a special Valentine’s Day menu
The most natural way for restaurants to get in on the action this Valentine’s Day is through a themed menu, with menu items that pay tribute to love, such as fancy desserts, heart-shaped presentations, or even tweaking dishes with aphrodisiac foods (think: oysters, honey, asparagus, figs, chocolate and the like). You can also refine your drink selection (hello, bubbles) or add DIY cocktails to your menu selection.
You can even develop menus around classic movie romances: Moonstruck (authentic Italian dishes), The Notebook (North Carolina BBQ), Splash (a seafood platter)…you get the picture.
Does your restaurant serve up international fare? Have patrons discover how love is celebrated in your country of origin. They’ll be smitten by what they learn about your culture as they relish your menu.
However, keep in mind that the most common criteria for selecting a restaurant is the favourite restaurant of a patron or their spouse. In other words, don’t completely ditch your most popular dishes or go all-out with dishes that are not aligned with your brand.
Other ideas for your menu include DIY meal kits, meals in a box, prix fixe menus with wine pairing options, three-course meals, exclusive one-day only menu, decadent lover’s menu, friendship menu, proposal package, etc. A good way to guide your brainstorming session is to think of your menu as an experience rather than just a meal.
Don’t forget families and singles either! Think about how you can adapt your menu for kid-friendly options to raise your ticket size. Offer an “Anti-Valentine’s-Day menu for people who are single or a lush table d’hôte for people who are playing the field.
It’s important to remember that during the pandemic, Valentine’s Day may also mean virtual dinners or parties. This means you need to carefully weigh your options to strike the right balance between what your customers will have to prepare—or not—for their celebration. For example, if you offer a DIY meal box, don’t force your customers to do hours of prep work.
If you offer a delivery service, or rely on a third-party delivery service or online marketplace, make sure whatever menu you offer, it can withstand delivery to your customers’ doors.
Increase your check averages with easy upselling ideas
Valentine’s Day is the perfect celebration to upsell extras that can be enjoyed at home or received as gifts. For example, using your online ordering platform’s artificial intelligence capabilities, you can easily recommend high-ticket items, such as premium alcohol, desserts for two, appetizers or other extras.
Does your restaurant offer gift cards? Now’s the time to promote them! Nearly one-third of restaurant patrons would like to receive a restaurant gift card as a Valentine’s Day gift. Configure your online ordering platform to recommend that customers purchase several gift cards for their spouses, family members and other loved ones. Not only does this boost your ticket size and cashflow but it is also a simple way to broaden your reach with new potential customers.
What about online classes? Imagine combining your Valentine’s Day menu with an online class for couples. For example, a seafood restaurant could hold a virtual 15-minute class on how to shuck oysters—and, as part of the Valentine’s Day menu, provide a dozen oysters to shuck and a bottle of champagne. Alternatively, a fast-casual restaurant could offer pub fare with a loving twist and a class focused on beer-pairings. Who could say no to eating and the experience?
Offer customers extra pleasure
Once you have curated some Valentine’s Day promotion and menu ideas, it is critical that you think about their duration. Understandably, February 14 is only one day a year. However, depending upon your market segment, type of restaurant and clientele, you may want to stoke the lovin’ for a few days or weeks before or after Valentine’s Day.
The reason? Valentine’s Day is on a Sunday this year. Ugh. That means busy parents, for example, may not be too keen on ordering Valentine’s Day takeout with the kids going to school or a jam-packed work schedule the next day. Extending your Valentine’s Day promotion can generate additional or even repeat business that is very welcome during slower winter months.
Promote your heart out
As mentioned before, Valentine’s Day is big business. The more strategic and proactive your marketing is, the more you’ll succeed with your V-Day offers.
Start showcasing your promotions early in January. Advertise your menu and promos by adding coupons or a flyer in take-out, delivery and curbside pickup orders the weeks leading up to February 14.
Adjust your online menu and website texts so that they are more discoverable with search engines—and customers eager to find the best Valentine’s Day promotions for restaurants on the web. For example, you can add terms like: “[Restaurant name] online promotions for Valentine’s Day” or “Valentine’s Day specials at [Restaurant name].”
In addition, make sure you take Instagram-worthy pictures of your Valentine’s Day menu items to entice people to order and to beef up your social media posts days and weeks prior to February 14.
Hold a contest on social media to encourage customers to send in their favourite couple pictures or heartfelt messages about their loved ones. Offer a discount or complementary menu item for the winning entries.
Never underestimate the power of email marketing campaigns to provide much-appreciated Valentine’s Day suggestions (hint, hint: your offer) to time-strapped, loyal patrons and last-minute planners.
Finally, as with any holiday or big day, update your Valentine’s Day menu and promotions on any online marketplaces and review sites you use.
Find a match made in heaven
Collaborate with other nearby businesses to cross-sell products or create all-day Valentine’s Day packages. Local florists, spas, jewelers, boutique bakeries and delicatessens, and chocolate shops make excellent partners for cross promotions.
For example, you could offer your Valentine’s Day menu with a bouquet of flowers, a gift certificate for a massage, or some fine cheeses to go with your meal. These accoutrements can really pack a loving punch with your customers.
Pop the question early on with Valentine’s Day pre-orders
Savvy restaurateurs know that, as with any other popular holiday, encouraging pre-orders with your customers is key. There are several advantages to pre-orders and pre-payments. For one, you create a sense of FOMO (fear of missing out) with restaurant patrons if you offer exclusive Valentine’s Day specials in limited quantities or for a limited time only.
Pre-orders help you to better manage back of the house operations as well as mitigate overstocking. Furthermore, you can facilitate curbside pickup, take-out and deliveries by rewarding pre-order customers for picking up their meals on certain days or time slots that are easier for your front of house staff.
Spread the love
Valentine’s Day should not be a one-and-done celebration for our restaurant. As the old adage goes: always be selling to keep loyal customers coming back and acquire a new clientele. With every Valentine’s Day order, insert bounce-back promotions to have people try your fare post-holiday and promote upcoming celebrations, like St. Patrick’s Day or Easter. Ask your Valentine’s Day customers to provide their email addresses and follow your restaurant on social media to create additional touch points with them. Ask them for online reviews on Google, Facebook and Yelp as well as feedback on your Valentine’s Day menu; this will help you to design future promotions and add another string to your online credibility bow.
Valentine’s Day for restaurant promotions: A tool to get customers to fall in love with your business
Use the acute love fever surrounding Valentine’s Day to deliver a spectacularly romantic or loving experiences that will result in additional revenues and long-term customers. Cast your spell on restaurant patrons with playful ideas and positivity to help couples and families celebrate a memorable Valentine’s Day in the midst of the pandemic.