Restaurants looking for a way to increase sales this month should consider investing in special Valentine’s Day promotions. For restaurants operating at normal capacity, your dining room may be able to function much the same as it has in years past. However, for areas of the country where indoor dining is still restricted due to COVID-19, the challenge this year will be how to take advantage of what is normally the second-busiest day of the year for U.S. restaurants. Fortunately, with a little creativity, there are still plenty of ways to cater to romance-minded consumers.
Prix fixe menus
This is the main event, a romantic dinner for two. Work with your chef to create a few prix fixe menu options that will travel well and/or that guests can easily re-heat at home for that perfect meal. If possible, allow guests to choose between a few different options per course. A more inclusive menu mindful of guest dietary restrictions could lead to an increase in orders. Since many couples dining at home this year also have hungry kids to feed, offering a kid-friendly or slightly scaled down version of your prix fixe menu gives the whole family a chance to enjoy a special meal together (and brings in additional revenue). And, since Valentine’s Day falls on a Sunday this year, consider also offering a brunch option. If possible, include nods to the day with breakfast items like heart-shaped waffles, pancakes, chocolate-covered strawberries, etc.
If you are able to offer alcohol for pickup or delivery, this is a no-brainer to increase your profits. Include the option for guests to add a bottle of Champagne or other type of wine to their order, pre-mixed cocktails and mocktails, or even hot chocolate/mimosa fixings to accompany brunch offerings. If you have branded glassware, or have the budget to pick up some heart-covered glasses/mugs, consider making those available for purchase, or as part of your overall Valentine’s Day meal package.
This is the time for your pastry chef to shine. Collaborate on a few different dessert options to tempt your customers’ sweet tooth, such as chocolate lava cakes, cheesecakes, heart-shaped cookies, hand-made chocolates, and more. These can be included as part of your fixed-price menu, or as add-ons for anyone looking to up their romance game and score points with their significant other. You could also offer dessert as an incentive to order two meals. For example, order two entrees, get a free dessert.
Since the holiday will look a lot different this year for many couples, it’s important to help set the mood. Some ways to do that is by offering more items as part of your prix fixe menu, or as additional options customers can add to their order, such as:
- A bouquet of roses or other flowers
- Candles, to help create the most flattering of lighting for couples
- A Valentine’s Day card signed by the owner and/or staff
- Items with your restaurant’s branding that customers can use for a home photo shoot of their romantic meal
If you decide to offer flowers, see if there is a local florist you can partner with. In exchange for promoting their business, you may be able to get a discount.
People are yearning for a return to the days when we could gather for live performances. Offer them a chance to experience that in a virtual form by partnering with a local performance space and adding on tickets for a virtual concert or comedy show. This can give customers another way to make their day feel special either before or after enjoying a delicious meal from your restaurant.
Tap into the desire by singles to not feel excluded by offering special menu options for solo diners. Many people are turning to self-care during our time in isolation, and a mouth-watering meal from your restaurant could be just what they need to feed their bodies, and their souls. If you can, take it up a notch by creating a virtual hangout for singles who order from your restaurant. You could even create breakout rooms for speed dating. Make it even more fun by asking your best bartender to lead a virtual cocktail class for guests who ordered a cocktail kit with their meal.
While this may have started as a fictional holiday on the NBC sitcom Parks and Recreation, Galentine’s Day, which is celebrated on February 13, has been widely embraced as a way to celebrate the power and importance of female friendships. On the TV show, it takes place over brunch with copious amounts of waffles and champagne, so this is a perfect opportunity for restaurants who offer a breakfast menu. However, dinner options will likely also be welcome during this time of social distancing. A virtual cocktail class is another excellent option for honoring the holiday, as are add-on items such as flowers or dessert that customers can order for their favorite “galentine” (or themselves).
Promote your Valentine’s Day options on your website, social media, and through emails. You can also create a custom message on My Rewards Network to tell members about your Valentine’s Day specials. Encourage customers to order early to avoid disappointment, and help get them excited for the big day, even if it will look different this year. Consider holding contests that ask customers to share photos of how they celebrated the holiday with your restaurant this year. You could offer a free dessert (to be redeemed at a later date) for any customer who shares a photo of them enjoying their meal at home, or offer a prize for the best-decorated table that features food from your restaurant. Another way to engage with customers is by encouraging them to share their favorite romantic movie, or create a poll and ask customers to vote for their favorite. The goal is to get and keep your guests excited and engaged with your establishment, and keep them coming back for more.
Be sure to regularly visit our free resource section dedicated to advising restaurants on how to navigate the changing rules and regulations during the COVID-19 pandemic.