It is almost that time of year. Valentine's Day comes knocking on the door and I want to help you get a fully booked restaurant filled with lovebirds and people ready to celebrate love. In order to succeed, you need to prepare the restaurant and staff properly. Will there be music playing during service? If yes, should there be a live band? Will there be a Valentine’s Day menu? Also, you need ways to communicate with potential guests regarding your offer and reservations. I will give you hands-on, specific tips on how to succeed.
Prepare the restaurant for an evening in the name of love
When planning an evening like Valentine's Day, you need to decide how much you are willing to do. Do you wish to decorate your restaurant, or not, for example? Here are a few useful tips and questions to ask that will help you along the way.
You are about to host an evening (of love) and the seating needs to be arranged accordingly. Instead of the regular furnishing with larger tables, you can try to separate them into smaller tables for two. However, I suggest you keep a few tables as is for larger groups of friends or families celebrating Valentine’s Day together. You still want to be an alternative for everyone – no matter the constellation of people celebrating love.
You need to decide early on how you want to carry out reservations for the night. Will there be two time slots? Or can guests arrive at preferred time and leave when you close for the night? Will there be a limit on how many hours the table is reserved? It is completely up to you to decide how you manage reservations, but you need to decide this early on, and make sure everyone working on Valentine’s Day know what is decided.
What about the music?
Do you play music at your restaurant on a regular basis? Will you keep it as is, or change to romantic tunes? Would you prefer hiring a live band for the evening? Well, maybe it is a perfect opportunity to turn the music off and let all the love fill the silence. Cheesy, I know. 😊
Start thinking about what you prefer. But do not take too long to decide!
Clearly, on a romantic night like this, you do not want anyone to be distracted by waiting time that is too long, or limited access to personnel. Instead, prepare properly and schedule for one or two extra staff members – this will help ensure customer satisfaction. Maybe it is a good idea to add some extr hands in the kitchen to reduce stress?
We have all been on that nerve-racking, first date where you are thankful not to have to wait for the food for too long – and where the food act as an icebreaker. By reducing the stress level for your staff, they can offer your (especially this type of) guests the absolute best service.
For one evening, the restaurant transforms into a romantic venue. What is your take on Valentine's Day? How would you decorate the location for this special occasion?
A funny suggestion (are you ready to go bananas?!) is to set up a photo booth. This way, your guests can take something home with them to remember a great night, and you get free marketing when they share the pictures on social media (make sure your logo is included in the picture!)
Other things you can do: replace tablecloths and napkins, change the lighting, customize the plating and add small decorations here and there. with small means you can make a huge difference. Be creative!
A hearty, gastronomic offer
Love will get all the attention on February 14 – and the cuisine deserves the spotlight just as much. Undoubtedly, you want the customer to have experienced a seamless and memorable night. In order to achieve exactly that, there are a couple of things you need to do…
Offer a small Valentine’s Day menu at a fixed price
Two starters, three main courses (fish, meat, vegetarian), and two desserts. That is it. That is the menu your guests can choose from this evening, all at a fixed price. It does not only simplify the decision making for the customer, but also allow the kitchen and waitressing staff to focus on the experience and atmosphere.
Do not forget to include non-alcoholc alternatives to the recommended wine list tailored for the Valentine’s menu. Make sure the staff is aware of recommendations, and what changes can be made for each menu item. Most importantly(!): do not forget the kids’ menu.
A set tasting menu
Perhaps a simpler option for the restaurants that offer a tasting menu. Create a special menu just for Valentine's Day with carefully selected dishes and beverages (yet again, do not forget the non-alcoholic alternatives).
A selection of cocktails to love
Do you have a good bartender on site? Let the mixologist take over and create the perfect drink menu for the night. Read about the Trivec staff's favorite drinks, maybe you can customize some of them for your Valentine's Day menu?
Promote your restaurant online for Valentine's Day
I have said it before and will say it again: digital marketing and social media presence are two extremely important things for you who run or own a restaurant. The following are some tips on what you can do.
Promotions on your website
Publish a pop-up or a new block on your website with information about Valentine’s Day and what this evening is all about how they can book a table (maybe you can include a “book a table-button”?), your opening hours, what the menu offer is as well as other information that may be relevant to the guest. You do not have to rebuild the entire website, not at all. Instead, do something little to highlight the evening in question.
Don't forget to set an end date for any pop-ups or to schedule time to remove information from the website.
Other websites and applications
Are you active on other websites or applications where you can add a short text of your own text? Is there any another page where Valentine's Day might be worth mentioning? Look around and see if there are any other networks/platforms you can use to attract guests to your restaurant on February 14th.
Social media is key
Did you know there are studies that show that up to 70% of millennials would not visit a restaurant with poor social media presence? Today, it is extremely important for restaurants (in fact, this is the most important industry) to be active on social media as an increasing percentage of all searches happen through social media channels and Google.
- Facebook has over 2 billion active users on a monthly basis. If you have a Facebook page on which you regularly publish content and promote your business, you most likely you also have followers who are happy to read about your theme nights and special offers. If you are not on Facebook today, it is critical for you to take the time to create a company page - which is also needed in order to use a company account on Instagram.
- Instagram is by far the most important channel for restaurants today. No doubt about it. Nowadays, visitors simply like to see what a dish looks like before deciding on which restaurant to visit – in many cases the visitor decides what to order long before arrival. One idea could be to take assemble a plate of all dishes on the menu and post pictures of the Valentine’s Day-menu beforehand. 😊
Here you can read more about why Instagram is a game-changer for restaurants.
- Other channels. Do you have a large group of followers through a different channel? Make sure to communicate with them as well. The more channels you can use – the greater the reach. However, make sure to focus on the most important channels first and prioritize thereafter.
Do you send out newsletters or other types of emails? Offer your subscribers a good deal for Valentine’s Day in your newsletter. For example, by clicking a certain link or using a promotional code to receive a free drink. The contacts on the subscription list have all shown interest in your cuisine at an earlier date, and therefore an excellent target group for this purpose.
It is time to get your hands dirty. There is a lot to do, and my hope is that you have already gotten started. Open for a discussion with the chefs regarding the menu and start a dialogue with the waitressing staff and hear their thoughts on decorations and music. Most importantly, start communicating with your followers now. If you follow these tips, you are well on your way to be successful with maximizing the number of reservations for Valentine's Day. Good luck!
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