Valentine’s Day is one of the busiest days of the year for many restaurants, second only to Mother’s Day. This year will obviously look a bit different due to the pandemic, but that doesn’t mean your restaurant can’t capitalize on the holiday, as consumers are still looking for ways to celebrate this romance-focused day.
Rather than dwell on what you can’t do (a ton of in-dining-room covers in one night), take a look at what you can offer — intimacy. Since dining rooms have had to eliminate seating to accommodate social distancing, each table is its own little island, a perfect romantic nook for two, with servers who can be as attentive or distant as the guests desire. Play up that aspect as you remind guests to make their reservations now, letting them know that you will likely book up earlier this year.
Start planning and spreading the word now with social media posts, an e-newsletter, and a press release to your media contacts, sharing what you will offer, how you will handle reservations, and what your to-go options will be. And keep reminding people! According to OpenTable, “the majority of diners wait until ten days or less in advance to make reservations.” Even after your dining room is full, continue promoting your to-go options and anything guests can take advantage of at the last minute. Here are some ideas to get you started:
A Swoon-Worthy Date Night
A classic date night should be a pampering experience, with a cozy ambiance and special touches like candles, personalized keepsake menus, or fresh flowers. Typically, a date night includes a prix fixe menu of multiple courses, including an appetizer or salad, entrees, and perhaps a shared dessert, plus optional beverage pairings. Whatever your menu offers, make it feel sweet with attention to detail in plating and the utmost care in your service. Consider offering a special course, gratis, such as an amuse bouche to begin the meal or mignardises to accompany coffee at the end of the meal.
The Perfect (Indoor) Picnic
For guests who may want to celebrate at home with menu items from your restaurant, consider packing them up as a picnic for two, complete with fun snacks like brie and crackers or chicken liver mousse, more substantial items such as pasta with lobster or rosemary-scented roast chicken, plus a rich, chocolatey dessert and a bottle of Champagne. Bundle up the offering with cute Instagram-ready packaging for a memorable moment your guests will want to share online.
Introduced by the sitcom “Parks and Recreation,” Galentine’s Day, observed on February 13, is a growing trend, and while it may be hard for friend groups to gather as they did before coronavirus, marketing toward the trend can still be a good way to attract business. Find and promote ways that your guests can gift Galentine’s Day meals to their friends to enjoy with each other via Zoom or Houseparty, or if you really want to go all out, host a socially distanced cocktail hour specifically for the ladies with pre-packed hors d'oeuvres served per table. This could also be a to-go option that includes some fun, snacky hors d'oeuvres and the makings of some killer cocktails.
Cook It Together
Another good option for couples is a take-and-make meal that encourages duos to get in the kitchen together. Analyze your menu for options that would work well for home cooks, and package up the bits and pieces they’ll need with instructions (and maybe a link to an instructional video featuring your chef). Or, partner with a local cooking school that is offering online classes to create an exclusive class combining your menu and their culinary talent. Pack it up with a locally-sourced bouquet and a beautiful card, and you’ve just created an experience that feels special, distinct, and very romantic.