In the UK, dining out is still one of the most popular ways to celebrate Valentine's. Restaurant bookings were up 43% in 2023 from 2019, and if that surge wasn't enough of an opportunity, the average spend per person was £23.
Restaurants are full of ways to make the most of Valentine's Day. Unfortunately, though, many of these opportunities bring new challenges.
This article looks at ways to attract customers and provide upselling opportunities. We'll also look at restaurants' challenges, providing customers with a Valentine's dining experience and ways to overcome them.
Kafoodle customers spreading the love
"Our talented chefs love to create a number of special sharing dishes to celebrate the occasion to run alongside our normal menu", says Zoe, Stange and Co.'s Marketing Manager. From a creamy baked Camembert to a delicately grilled Jon Dory fillet in a rich bisque sauce, with a berry Eaton mess to finish - a feast is to be had.
What's great is that the time, energy and costs of creating temporary dual menus and recipes have been significantly reduced with Kafoodle! "Kafoodle allows the chefs to create the spec, method and cost the dishes accurately and with ease, ensuring that all due diligence, such as allergen information, is also covered accurately. These dishes are then stored in our recipe log for easy future use."
Opportunities for restaurants on Valentine's Day
Provide a special Valentine's Day menu
What better way to attract customers looking for a special occasion with a unique menu? It's a great way to:
- create some FOMO (fear of missing out),
- charge more due to the exclusive nature,
- provide your social media and email list with an exciting new offering,
- and upsell drink pairings, unique cocktails or premium dishes.
Create a Romantic Atmosphere
Decorate the dining area with Valentine's Day themes, including flowers, candles, and soft lighting to create a romantic setting. Ambient music that complements the mood can further enhance the dining experience.
Offer Customisable Packages
Make the experience more personal and memorable. Allow couples to customise their dining experience with options like choosing a specific table or adding a personal message to desserts.
Partner with Local Businesses
Collaborate with local florists, gift shops, or entertainment venues to offer combined packages. For example, a dinner package could include a bouquet of flowers waiting at the table or tickets to a show after the meal.
Offer Takeaway or Delivery Specials
For those who prefer to celebrate at home, create special takeaway or delivery packages that include a full-course meal and instructions for setting up a romantic dinner at home. These packages could include a bottle of wine, a DIY cocktail kit, or a pre-made Spotify playlist.
Engage in Social Media Campaigns
Use social media platforms to promote your Valentine's Day offerings, share customer experiences, and run contests or giveaways leading up to the holiday. Engaging content highlighting the special menu, decorations, or events can attract more diners.
Valentine's Day challenges for restaurants
Securing a new stock of ingredients for the special menu can lead to waste, with the risk of over-purchasing ingredients that might not be used post-Valentine's Day. Underestimating demand can lead to shortages and the inability to serve the special menu to all interested customers.
Solution: Implement a tight inventory control system that uses historical data and current reservations to forecast demand more accurately. Consider using perishable ingredients across multiple dishes to minimise waste.
Introducing new items can disrupt kitchen operations, especially if these items require different preparation, cooking times, or equipment. The kitchen staff needs to be trained to handle these new items efficiently without affecting the quality of the regular menu offerings.
Solution: Introduce the special menu items to the kitchen staff ahead of time and conduct trial runs to ensure efficiency and quality. Simplify the special menu to minimise disruption to regular service.
With new ingredients comes the responsibility to understand and manage potential allergens. This requires updating allergen information, training staff to handle these allergens safely, and effectively communicating with customers about potential allergen risks.
Solution: Use a recipe management system to identify the allergens in your new recipes and use this information to train staff thoroughly on allergen handling. Use digital menus to provide front-of-house staff and customers with detailed and clearly presented information regarding the allergens present in the menu items.
Pricing and Cost Control
Special menus, especially those with premium items, can have higher ingredient costs. Determining pricing that covers these costs while still appealing to customers can be challenging. Misjudging these factors can impact profitability.
Solution: Use a food cost calculator, ideally part of your recipe database, for instant access to the accurate recipe, plating and serving costs per cover.
Reservation and Seating Management
Valentine's Day often leads to higher demand for reservations. Managing this increased demand and considerations for spacing and capacity limits can be challenging. Businesses must balance the desire to accommodate as many guests as possible with the need to provide a quality, unhurried dining experience.
Solution: Use reservation software to manage bookings efficiently or pre-order software to collect customer orders before Valentine's Day.
Ensuring enough trained staff members are available to handle the Valentine's Day rush is critical. This may involve hiring temporary staff, which requires training to meet the establishment's standards.
Solution: Plan staffing needs in advance, including hiring temporary staff if necessary. Provide training sessions for all staff, focusing on the special menu, customer service, and efficiency. If you cannot hire additional staff, use food pre-order software so that available staff can concentrate on customer experience and upselling. To make the lives of the temporary staff easier, use digital menus to provide answers to questions relating to allergens, dietary requirements, ingredient use and recipe descriptions.
Valentine's Day presents both unique opportunities and challenges for restaurants. Embracing this Day means crafting special menus, creating a romantic ambience, and navigating hurdles like inventory and allergen management.
By leveraging technology, such as Kafoodle's comprehensive solutions, restaurants can enhance efficiency, personalise experiences, and ensure customer satisfaction.
Success lies in preparation and innovation, making Valentine's Day not just profitable but memorable for all.