Valentine’s Day is the biggest romantic holiday of the year in the United States. It’s a time when people celebrate their love with flowers, chocolates, jewelry and other gifts. In fact, as many as 65% of diners who frequent restaurants three to five times a month intend to dine out for Valentine's Day. Not to mention, Valentine’s Day sales trends reached $23.9 billion in 2022 alone with spending only growing each year.
This makes the day the perfect occasion for restaurants to offer special menus or wine pairings and to celebrate romance with their customers.
Restaurants can make Valentine’s Day a profitable holiday by offering special menus and promotions that cater to couples celebrating a first date or an anniversary.
There are many other ways for restaurants to benefit from Valentine's Day. Next, we’re looking over some of the best Valentine's Day restaurant ideas you can consider for this February 14th.
A good Valentine’s Day menu will encourage customers to come in for a romantic dinner or dessert on the 14th of February, and it will also encourage them to come back again at a later date.
Here are some great ideas for Valentine’s Day menus that you can use as new additions:
Heart-shaped menu items
You can start off your romantic Valentine’s Day menu with heart-shaped appetizers. They are very easy to make and can be served both before and after the main course of meals. You can also choose different types of small bites like mini sandwiches or even bite-sized pizzas. A heart-shaped pizza is always popular on Valentine’s Day.
If you have any products that come in heart-shaped packaging (e.g., chocolate hearts), consider putting them on display in store windows or on shelves during this time of year so people will see them while they pass by your business location.
Fun, interactive desserts
Decadent dessert for Valentine’s Day is a must. You could offer special romantic desserts with unique names such as “I Love You Cookie” or “My Love Is Yours Cake.” Some other Valentine's Day menu dessert items include:
- Chocolate covered strawberries
- Heart-shaped cookies
- Red velvet cake
- Chocolate fondue
- Cotton candy hearts
- Molten lava cakes
- Brownie cake pops
- Strawberry shortcake
- Tiramisu dip
Don't forget about the ambiance. Do something fun with the decor at your restaurant, like hearts or other signs of love around the room. You could also use red tablecloths and napkins, but leave them up after Valentine's Day so they'll continue to be part of your decor throughout February!
Online ordering and pickup packages
Perhaps the most important part of structuring your restaurant’s menu for Valentine’s Day is how takeout orders will work. Remember not everyone will dine in on this day as they might want to spend it at home instead. Here’s how to prepare:
A cocktail party menu will give your guests an opportunity to have a few drinks before they sit down for dinner. This will help them relax and enjoy themselves more during their meal. You can offer up a few signature cocktails or even one or two signature beers or wines at this time.
Order a Valentine's Day Cocktail 4 Pack from Gramercy Tavern in NYC.
Dessert packages are simple to prepare as long as you’ve got unique items for desserts. You can even pair new menu items with classics you know people love. Here are some ideas:
- A chocolate fondue dessert with strawberries, mango, blueberries, and kiwi.
- Chocolate cake with raspberry sauce and vanilla ice cream.
- Chocolate truffles with fresh whipped cream on top.
Here are some suggestions on how to make sure your restaurant is prepared for the onslaught of children who will be with their parents on Valentine's Day.
Kids love pizza, so consider offering some kid-friendly pizzas on Valentine's Day. You can also offer pasta options or other kid-friendly entrees like mac and cheese and chicken tenders. Desserts are another important part of any meal, especially on a special occasion like Valentine's Day. Offer dessert specials that are sure to be enjoyed by kids and adults alike!
Don’t forget the singles
Valentine's Day can also be an an opportunity to create an experience for singles. Consider that not everyone will be coming in with a romantic partner, and make sure you accomodate those flying solo.
1. Be mindful of how you name your menu items and packages
While many restaurants will stick with traditional main courses like filet mignon, salmon, or steak and lobster for their Valentine's special, there is always room for creativity to make the experience extra special.
Classic menu items like filet mignon can be re-imagined with clever names like "Steak Your Love" or "Filet Mignon Amour." Lobster dishes can be named "Love at First Sight" or "Seaside Love." These inventive and fun names will catch the eye of your customers as they look at your menu, which is one way to get ahead of the competition.
2. Consider discounts and free gifts
A lot of restaurants offer a free meal for couples or for one person with the purchase of another. This is a great way to get people into your establishment and make them feel special. It is also a great way to build your business, especially if you are offering a discount on drinks or other items.
You can also use this idea for other holidays and events that you might have like New Year's Eve or the Fourth of July. If you have these events coming up, it makes sense to offer up something free as well.
Some items to offer as freebies on Valentine’s Day include:
- Extra appetizer items
- Cookies, chocolate, and other small desserts
- Thematic memorabilia like balloons, cards, or any other small gift that’s representative of your restaurant's brand
3. Prepare special offers for people ordering online
With this busy day, most people won’t even get the chance to book a table. So you’ll want to do your best to stand out online. Prepare special offers for people ordering online during this important holiday.
Here are some ways that you can do so:
- Offer discount codes on your website. This is the perfect time to build an email list as well so you can promote other offers in the future.
- Give away freebies with each purchase. For people coming into your restaurant, these can be given as a surprise! Online though, you’ll want to use the gifts to catch people’s eye.
- Run a few ads on Facebook or Instagram to get your offer in front of even more people.
- Offer free delivery via GrubHub or Uber Eats on Valentine’s Day (or during the whole week).
- Consider designing an email campaign that sends out automated emails to regular customers. Loyal customers love your place so there’s a higher chance they’ll want to order on Valentine’s Day as well.
4. Get creative with how your promote
Sure, you’ll want to make sure that your restaurant has a good social media presence and even make it easy for people to find out about your specials with a simple Google search. But don’t forget to stay creative. Even if it means promoting weeks before Valentine’s Day. Here are some ideas:
- Place a sign in the window of your restaurant that says “Our Valentine’s Day special is...”
- If you have a coupon book, be sure to include this message in the book as well.
- Send an email out to all of your customers that mention Valentine’s Day and include a link where they can sign up for your special offer.
Recommended Reading: The Complete Restaurant Marketing Plan + Template
5. Keep the special events coming
Whether we’re talking about in-person or online events, these will help your restaurant stand out among all the other offers out there. Three popular Valentine’s Day restaurant events to consider are:
- Cooking class: If you have a cooking class scheduled for Valentine's Day, then organize a special lunch or dinner for your staff members. This will be a great way to thank them for their hard work and dedication on the day.
- Singles’ night: Don’t forget about the lonely hearts. Before Valentine’s Day, host a single’s night or a speed dating event where people can get to know each other. You could even host a raffle for a discounted or free meal for one of the couple’s first dates.
- Theme nights: Theme nights are always popular at restaurants, especially around Valentine's Day. You could host an event where couples dress up in formal wear or even go all out with theme costumes! The possibilities are endless!
6. Start building loyalty
The biggest part about preparing for Valentine’s Day as a restaurant owner: Making sure that your customers feel appreciated and welcome as they visit your restaurant. Building loyalty during this holiday is important because it transfers over into the rest of the year when people are thinking about visiting your restaurant again.
And it’s not that hard to do. You’ve got two fundamental options:
- Treat your regulars like royalty. If they're always there and they always come back for more, make sure they feel valued by treating them like they're the only customers in the world. You might offer them discounts on their favorite dishes, free dessert or even free drinks at happy hour.
- Offer exclusive deals for loyal customers. One way to keep loyal customers coming back is by offering exclusive deals for those who show up regularly at your restaurant. For example, offer half-price apps on Thursdays or Fridays if someone comes in three times within a month. Offer two-for-one appetizers on Tuesdays if someone comes in three times during a month. You get the idea — find ways to make it worth their while to come back.
Recommended Reading: How To Create a Restaurant Loyalty Program + Ideas
Staffing for success during Valentine’s Day
If you don’t want things to go wrong, make sure you’ve got enough team members to help you run your restaurant on Valentine’s Day, as well as any special extra offers you might have before or after the day.
Here’s the three-step plan we recommend to avoid running out of help:
Confirm team availability
While most customers will come in the evening, you can expect a lot of extra business throughout the entire day and weekend. Not to mention there’s loads to prepare. This means you need to make sure you’ve got enough staff throughout the entire week.
The best way to ensure that your restaurant is correctly staffed for Valentine’s Day is to build a clear shift schedule weeks before the day. You’ll want to confirm your staff's availability roughly four weeks in advance and re-check with them three to four days prior to the big day. This gives you enough time to put together an accurate schedule for the week, spot possible staffing issues, and fix them so you won’t leave room for mistakes.
You should also display the schedule in a visible spot where all staff members can look at it. This way, everyone will know when they should show up and if extra help is needed at any time.
Communicate specials and info
To update your staff on the spot regarding any changes pre- and post-Valentine’s Day, you can:
- Make use of staff messaging tools to keep everyone aligned in real-time
- Discuss changes during pre-shift meetings
- Display signs and materials in various locations
- Send dedicated or group texts for last-minute changes
Cover changes quickly
Changes naturally happen, but you shouldn’t panic once they do. Plan ahead of time using a digital employee scheduling software to bring clarity into how the day will progress. You’ll be able to display schedules on the spot and ping employees so everyone will be on the same page.
Let your staff know it’s ok to exchange shifts so you’ll keep them accountable in time. Organizing everything through a digital solution also means your team gets access to their schedule at all times while you can ditch physical papers and scheduling misunderstandings.
Where should you start with promoting your restaurant for Valentine’s Day?
Start preparing as early as possible. If you delay promotions for Valentine’s Day specials, you’ll find yourself with lots of new challenges you didn’t expect. So whether it’s ensuring you have enough people to handle cooking and orders or stocking up to prevent running out of food items, take 2-3 weeks prior to the big day. And don’t forget about advertising your special menu items!
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