Valentine’s Day is a bittersweet occasion for restaurant owners: On one hand, the holiday sends sales soaring for a day. But during the rest of February, it’s midwinter business as usual, which can be on the slower side. Don’t settle into a slump, instead keep the momentum going with the following these recipes and tips for a full month of strong, steady business!
- Braised Lamb Shanks with Rosemary and Red Wine
- Saffron and Parmesan Risotto with Seared Sea Scallops
- French Onion Boneless Beef Short Ribs
- Almond and Fennel Biscotti
- Olive Oil Cake with Almond, Orange, and Brown Butter Almond Glaze
Timing Is Everything
Don’t limit yourself to just dinner, either. Couples are always looking for a novel way to celebrate Valentine’s Day, and they’re also in the mood to splurge. Consider a “lazy lovers brunch” on Saturday or Sunday which includes special champagne cocktails like mimosas and bellinis served alongside indulgent, upscale entrees like savory crepes all for a fixed price. Live music during brunch only adds to the sense of occasion.
Host an “EVENTFUL” February
Special events are the perfect way to position your restaurant as a destination, not just a place to eat. Hosting events also instills a sense of community with your customers, giving them the sense they’re part of something special. In the spirit of Valentine’s Day, why not host a weekly Perfect Pair alcohol-food tasting series for couples?
For example, a series of four tastings could pair beer, wine, dessert wines, and spirits with food.To draw a younger crowd to your restaurant during February, offer a singles “Mix and Match” event on Friday the fifth or Saturday the sixth. At the event, singles can find a date to bring back the next week.
Or, gives singles a chance to have fun without the pressure of finding a date: For 12 years, a Boston-area restaurant has hosted a “Flirt Fest” event with appetizers and fun games geared towards singles. Try teaming up with a local dating service and host a series of speed dating events, or go ahead and try organizing a speed dating event yourself.
Have a Heart
Align your restaurant with a good cause that also plays off of the Valentine’s Day theme: February is American Heart Month. And February fifth is National Wear Red Day ®, a nationwide event that encourages people to wear red in support of women’s heart disease. Show your support of good cardiac health by offering a few selections on your menu that are heart-healthy.
Consider hosting a special “red dress” event on February fifth. For every person that wears red, your restaurant will donate $1 to the local chapter of the American Heart Association. Remember, customers are more concerned than ever before with charitable causes and by supporting a good cause, you’ll win their “hearts.”
Show them the Love
It’s a basic training tactic: Reward the behavior you want more of! When it comes to dining patterns, you’ve already got a nice boost of business coming your way Valentines Day and the weekend prior, but why not incentivize business following the holiday? Create a tasteful info card that is returned with the guest check, stating your restaurant would “love” to see them again.
Give a certificate for a “sweet treat” (a complimentary dessert), redeemable after their next meal with you. Or, take it one step further with a reward program that shows your “affection” for customers by giving them a special loyalty card. Each week in February, their card can be scanned to cash in on a “surprise” gift from a free appetizer for the table, to a special dessert plate meant to be shared. (Be sure to check with your Account Manager about the latest “mini” desserts available through the Culinary Secrets Desserts program.)
Panera Bread Company is having tremendous success with their Panera Card program that does just that. Each customer’s Panera Card is scanned at each visit to reveal a free surprise gift. The element of surprise creates powerful, lasting emotional connections, which is exactly what you want to have with your customers!
Home is where the Heart is
While we’ve shared ideas for wooing customers to your restaurant all month long, don’t forget the continuing trend of at-home entertaining or parties on premise (or POP). In the July/August Essence issue, we highlighted the newly popular “chef party,” which involves one of your chefs doing a cooking demonstration at a customer’s home for a group of guests.
Integrate the Valentine theme into this concept with a “Cooking for Two” chef demo. Or, if you have a pastry chef, the focus can be on “Sweets for the Sweet.” In addition to offering a POP event, don’t miss out on the customer base that doesn’t want to go near any restaurant around Valentines Day because of the crowds.
Offer a “Love Nest” Valentines takeout special during the entire month of February and market it with the message that any night in February can be a special night with this package.