Valentine's Day specials are a must for restaurants and bars. After all, Valentine's Day is one of the most popular holidays for people to dine out. Many customers will also be willing to shell out impressive amounts of money on fancy bottles of bubbly to go along with their exclusive dinners. However, with so much competition out there, it's important to craft specials and promotions that stand out from the crowd.
Here are a few ways that chefs and mixologists can take advantage of the influx of customers looking for a lovely meal on Valentine's Day.
Offer a Prix-Fixe Menu
Valentine's Day is the perfect time to break out your prix-fixe menus. It's easier for everyone involved if you offer fewer options—from your line cooks to your guests. This allows your kitchen to focus on quality and your diners to spend more time focusing on each other than deciding on dishes. Make sure to include a decadent dessert and some drinks (maybe a bottle of champagne) to add allure and luxury to your specials.
Don't Forget the Red Ingredients and Aphrodisiacs
Don't be afraid to use lots of red ingredients on Valentine's Day. Tomatoes, rare filet, lobster, strawberries, and cherries all come to mind as ideal ingredients to base your menu around. Featuring aphrodisiacs, such as oysters, chiles, truffles, and chocolate, on your menu can also help to round out your Valentine's Day offerings.
Mixologists should also make red their color of choice when creating Valentine's Day specials. These cocktails can also be appropriately named—think "Winter of Love" or "Hearts on Fire." Using heart-shaped garnishes is also an obvious plus, and there's no shame in limiting your cocktail menu to a few special drinks for the evening.
Just because your intuition says "cater your Valentine's Day specials to couples with a fancy four-course meal" doesn't mean you have to listen. Some restaurants let their creativity take over on Valentine's Day by thinking outside of the cliche holiday offerings. Keep in mind that single people still eat out on Valentine's Day, so it's not wise to forget about them when developing your special offerings for the day. Use humor to lure them in, such as through a "Cupid's Stupid" promotion or by throwing a Valentine's Day singles mixer if you run a bar. There's no limit to how creative you can get, and with the help of social media, an interesting and unique promotion can go viral and help boost your business far beyond Valentine's Day.
Make It a Social Event and Encourage Pre-Bookings
Every restaurant should be on social media, but if yours isn't, Valentine's Day is a great time to start. Tap into the power of hashtags to create buzz in advance for your Valentine's Day specials and to encourage pre-bookings. A good way to do this is to take photos of the dishes that will be on your custom holiday menu and then share them on Twitter and Instagram, along with detailed descriptions, to entice guests to make a reservation.
You can also run a giveaway. For instance, why not have guests take selfies of themselves dining at your establishment and then post them to social media with a custom hashtag? Whoever posts what you deem to be the best image (along with the custom hashtag) can win a bottle of fancy wine, chocolates, or a prize of your choice. Just don't be surprised if some of those photos include proposals that occurred during dinner.
Offering memorable Valentine's Day specials can benefit you and your restaurant. Better yet, your happy diners will likely pay you back through glowing word-of-mouth reviews that attract their friends, family, and coworkers to your business.