Valentine’s Day is a holiday centered on loving and appreciating someone special. Since many people choose to celebrate by planning a special night that includes dinner – the second most popular day for dining out – restaurants are slammed with reservations every year.
As a business owner, this is exactly the rebound you are looking for once the holiday dust settles. While love’s day is technically just a day away, you can use these Valentine’s Day restaurant marketing ideas to help boost your results throughout the week.
Preparation is the key
Unlike Easter or Thanksgiving, the date of Valentine’s Day never changes – it’s always February 14th. This consistency makes it easier to prepare for the big day when reservations start to flow. There are a few things to keep in mind in the weeks leading up to the vacation.
- Booking times
According to the National Restaurant Association, the most popular time for reservations is 7 p.m. Make sure there are enough staff for the rush.
- Booking window
More than half of customers usually book at least a week in advance. In a perfect world, you might prefer customers to book more in advance. However, this lead time still allows you to order enough supplies and schedule the right number of employees.
- Customer spending
According to the National Restaurant Association, in 2020 the average expected spend per person is $ 196, up from $ 161 in 2019. As a restaurant owner, that should be music to your ears.
1. Plan the whole week
This year, Valentine’s Day falls on a Friday, but that doesn’t mean all couples will be able to go out that night. For example, the majority of your staff will not be celebrating February 14 because they will most likely be working.
Other obligations come up all the time, and it’s your job to prepare for those who may not have the chance to spend Valentine’s Day the way they want.
For the days leading up to Valentine’s Day and a few days after, consider organizing themed game nights or events in your restaurant such as:
- Quick encounters
- Couple quiz evening
- Romantic lunch
- A wine or beer tasting event
2. Advertise your events
Without advertising, how will potential customers come to your restaurant? Getting the word out to the public is not difficult; you just need to think of creative ways to make yourself stand out.
Partnership with other small businesses
Nothing better than small business owners helping each other thrive. Contact florists, jewelers and other local shops to find ways to promote each other. For example, you can request coupons to give to your guests for 15% off flower arrangements for each couple who dine in your restaurant.
Leverage social media and email marketing
Social media is the perfect tool for business owners to leverage their services. Get an overview of the competition by posting on all social channels to let people know why customers should choose your restaurant for their special day. Include several posting tactics such as eye-catching flyers and images, as well as Google or Facebook ads.
Don’t underestimate the power of email marketing. Use your point of sale system to collect point-of-purchase email addresses. Use the customer database to your advantage later by sending emails with coupons and promotional ads.
See also: 11 smart (and inexpensive) marketing ideas for small businesses
3. Create an attractive atmosphere and menu
Once the logistics are planned, you can move on to the more glamorous tasks like creating an ambiance and a special menu. To get customers to choose your restaurant over others in the area, you need to provide them with a unique experience that they can’t find anywhere else.
Spice up your menu
Consumers are generally drawn to higher quality food on Valentine’s Day. If resources allow, create a menu that features a range of dishes to appeal to different palates. Depending on the type of cuisine you offer in your restaurant, these are dishes that will be perfect for couples.
- Surf and turf
- Lobster ravioli
- chicken Piccata
- Rack of lamb with chimichurri mint
- Pasta with pink sauce
- Heart-shaped foods, such as cakes or cookies
A simple alternative would be to create original drinks that go with the Valentine’s Day theme.
Here are some examples of drink ideas and menu items you can draw inspiration from:
- Cosmopolitan Cupid
- Lover’s lemondrop
- Cocktail love potion
A touch of ambiance
Besides changing your food and drink menu, think about how you can change the overall atmosphere of your restaurant. There are so many different ways to transform your restaurant by speaking the language of love.
Keeping it simple and stylish is the key. Add mood lighting and tea lights to tables and across the bar. Lean on your favorite local florist for elegant flower arrangements to put on tables or in entryways. You can even take it a step further by asking your waiters to wear stylish uniforms to give off a classy vibe.
If budget allows and you want to step up your playing, hire a local jazz musician or violinist. Music is a piece of the puzzle that brings it all together as it adds a touch of romance without being too loud and overwhelming for guests.
4. Offer packages for Valentine’s Day
Everyone loves a good deal and a prepackaged plan that takes all the guesswork out of it. Create the ultimate Valentine’s Day party with these ideas so customers can’t pass up the opportunity to dine in your restaurant.
Fixed Price Menu Packages
Prix-Fixe menus are menus that offer multi-course meals at a fixed price and are ideal for special occasions like Valentine’s Day. According to the Webstaurant Store, it’s simple menu psychology for customers to be drawn to menus with fewer options because it limits the paradox of choice.
Customers want to be pampered on Valentine’s Day, so prepare a prix fixe menu that creates a feeling of luxury. Make sure to offer discounts or free glasses of wine to encourage customers to choose from this menu over the traditional fare.
The feast of love is one of the most famous days for proposals. More often than not, guests will call ahead with their ideas to make their proposal as magical as possible. Help these lovebirds (and your employees) by creating a package that guests can book in advance.
- An ad on a TV or projector
- Champagne, flowers or other small free gifts
- Offer upgrades or discounts to redeem at a later date as part of the package
The latter is a great way to retain customers, especially since the newly engaged couple will have an emotional attachment to your establishment.
5. Design a personal experience for the guests
What day is more perfect for your guests to feel special than Valentine’s Day? Take the initiative to provide your guests with a unique experience that feels like it was created just for them.
Here are some simple yet effective ways to make your guests feel very important:
- Send greeting cards
Express your appreciation to those who book at least a week in advance.
- Email surveys
Embed surveys in your emails that ask customers about their preferences for wine, dessert, and any kind of treat you can imagine.
- Hire an in-house photographer
Pictures are worth a thousand words, and there is nothing better than having a memory of a special evening. Guests will also feel more inclined to post professional photos of themselves on social media, which will give you recognition for the event.
6. Organize thematic competitions
To get people talking about your restaurant, consider some contests to run during Valentine’s week. Photo-based social media contests not only are straightforward and inexpensive to make, but they also create an incentive for free publicity and an influx of user-generated content.
If you choose to have a photo contest for Valentine’s Day, make sure it is successful by considering these tips:
- The best or “most liked” photo posted on Instagram wins a prize of your choice.
- Create a unique hashtag and include in the rules that attendees should use the hashtag as well as tag your restaurant in the post.
- Create “Instagrammable” places for your guests to take photos in your restaurant, like a wall of roses or other themed backgrounds.
7. Call all non-couples
Not everyone is half a couple. There are plenty of people who will be looking for a way to celebrate their celibacy and NOT have a significant other. Also don’t miss the opportunity to meet this crowd.
Host events like ‘Galentine’s Day’ or a singles happy hour, and ditch the lovey-dovey menu for an anti-Valentine’s Day. Show your customers that you care and want to be inclusive with families, groups of friends, and anyone else who isn’t celebrating this holiday.
The bottom line
You don’t have to shell out tons of cash to completely revamp your restaurant for special occasions. These Valentine’s Day restaurant marketing ideas are a great way to increase your results without breaking the bank.