Within the dreaded sluggish first quarter that every restaurant must navigate, establishing a quality date night program can provide a bright spot during winter. With every competitor targeting couples, make your program stand heads above the crowd.

Table for Two

This year, Valentine’s Day falls on a Monday, allowing restaurants to capture increased business throughout the weekend. But don’t limit date night service to one special night or even weekend. Consider whatever celebratory options you are running and promoting throughout the other four days of this year’s Valentine’s week and pair them back to something that can be run throughout the first quarter. This will help in capturing more reservations during a slow period.

Make sure consideration is taken into table seating and arrangement for date night. A full room of four-tops will surely cut down on seating numbers. If possible, use your dining data to include an optimal number of deuces. Also, remember that date night dinners are leisurely affairs, so take into account slow table turns and have a plan to maximize seating, without giving guests an impression of being rushed out.

Special Menus

It goes without saying that specials are one of the first things couples consider when perusing options for a night out. Create a special, separate menu built for couples. Highlight dishes that whisper romance, for example, a dozen oysters on the half shell, shellfish towers, a Chateaubriand for two; anything that encourages sharing enhances the experience for couples.

Consider adding upscale, upsell options depending on your market. Masago, wagyu beef tartare, a shower of truffles over the pasta course, all of these give servers the opportunity to increase check averages for couples ready to splurge. And don’t forget something sweet that really brings it all home. Decadent chocolate cake, heart-shaped petit fours, cinnamon sprinkles on a parfait to be shared, don’t leave the last bites of the meal out in the cold.

Couples Concoctions

Make sure your cellar is stocked with heritage brand wines and sparklers that will jump off the beverage list. Pairing deals at comfortable price points will be especially attractive for those on a budget. Romanticize your cocktail list: Cosmopolitans, espresso martinis, and punch bowls for two convey nostalgia and will get any couple in the mood for more.

Setting the Stage

It’s not what just ends up on the table that will make an evening memorable. Turn the lights down and fill the room with candlelight. Switch out regular linens with something a little more festive (including black napkins, to keep white fuzzies off date night attire). Play it up, it’s impossible to go too overboard here. After the last few years where date nights may have been few and far between for many people, guests will be looking to make the most of it this year.

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