Dessert For Two

Sweeten Deals for Valentine’s Day
For restaurants, Valentine’s Day is one of the biggest and busiest nights with couples planning to wine and dine their significant other. With Valentine’s Day falling on a weekend this year, romantics looking to rendezvous will want to make the most out of it, with some opting to go on a different day than the actual date, meaning more opportunities for restaurants. To maximize checks, foodservice operators should get creative and help guests end their date nights on a sweet note with special pricing, on-trend desserts and innovative promotions.

Tasty Trends
According to the What’s Hot Culinary Forecast 2016put out by the National Restaurant Association, the top dessert trends this year lend themselves well to decadent desserts for diners to remember for years to come. The hottest trend was house-made and artisanal ice cream.

Go beyond vanilla with creative flavor combinations that take inspiration from ingredients known for their aphrodisiac powers such as pomegranate, ginger, and figs. Or go floral with lavender, which has a storied past: In ancient Rome, women were known to keep sprays of the aromatic next to their beds to arouse their partners.

After a big meal, diners might want to forgo dessert. Don’t let them leave without a sweet treat. Try offering bite-size and mini desserts that were meant for sharing. Instead of just one option, offer samplers and trios. You can’t go wrong with the classics here, such as truffles, chocolate molten cakes, shot-size mousse and even heart-shaped éclairs. Along the same lines of sharing, fondue is a beloved favorite that has endured over the years.

Desserts don’t have to be all sweet; in fact, savory desserts have found their place at the table. Ingredients such as chiles, herbs, salt and other flavors add dimension to the final part of the meal. A spice such as cardamom adds global flavor that adventurous Millennials crave. Even vegetables can be a part of a fabulous dessert. Root vegetables turn sweet when caramelized and can add depth to a dessert with savory sweetness and creamy texture.

Appeal to emotions and nostalgia with twists on the classics, such as an elegant banana split or deconstructed cookie dough with sophisticated ingredients such as candied bourbon nuts. Play on those emotions a little further with on-trend hybrid desserts. The cronut may be as current as the cro-magnon, but sweet mashups will tantalize and tempt diners. Think “townie” (tart plus brownie), cookie shots, pie cakes – there really are no boundaries.

Package Deals & Promotion
Valentine’s Day spending is a billion-dollar industry as diners want to treat their special someone to a night out. The holiday offers restaurants the opportunity for unique pricing, such as two-for-one deals and prix fixe menus. Don’t let dessert be a “maybe” or an afterthought. Position the dessert as an integral part of the meal. Instead of a separate menu, pair an entrée with a suggested dessert to set the mood.

The best time to sell desserts is actually before customers order their food. Instead of offering a common brownie, suggest that guests pre-order a homemade dessert that the chef will prepare while they eat their meal. This is an underutilized approach to selling more desserts. A custom dessert gives chefs an opportunity to demonstrate craftsmanship and culinary skill.

Take to the web to further promote Valentine’s Day specials. Offer followers on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and other social media channels special pricing to get them in the doors.Conduct a sweepstakes that invites diners to share their dishes for a chance to win free meals or a gift card to keep them coming year-round.And it’s inevitable: Someone is going to forget the flowers or cards. For a bit of extra hospitality, help the star-crossed lover by having on hand roses, chocolates, and other little tokens of affection for those last-minute purchases. Or, help set the scene with live entertainment.