A Valentines Day Playbook for Restaurateurs
February 14th is marked as the day of love and romance. It’s also the second busiest day of the year for restaurants (the busiest being Mother’s Day).
For many, Valentine’s day is celebrated as a day that’s spent with a special someone. And for many, that means they want everything that day to be perfect. That means that there’s a lot of extra pressure put on you and your staff to deliver exceptional services, more exceptional than your everyday.
Are you prepared to tackle the second busiest day of the year that your restaurant will experience head-on? Just in case, we put together a quick list of things to consider as you gear up to serve the sweethearts this year.
For a lot of people, Valentine's Day is stressful because of the reservation battle alone. If you don’t book a table months in advance, chances are you’re going to be out of luck. But, sometimes life gets in the way and reservations are cancelled within 24 hours. Reservation technologies like OpenTable allow guests to know if there are tables available at your restaurant, this is especially great during those periods when a reservation is cancelled.
Another thing to note, is that more people are realizing how difficult it is to get a reservation on the 14th and have opted into celebrating Valentine’s Day on February 13th. Be sure to be prepared for the spillover reservations.
Things to consider:
Do you offer any Valentine’s Day specials like a tasting menu? This will make your restaurant seem like a more enticing option than others.
Do your guests have an easy way to book their reservations with your establishment?
Are you spacing out your reservations enough so that you get the maximum number of people through the door without slamming your FoH and BoH staff?
Have you considered a waitlist? This is for sure an unsustainable practice year round, but for one or two nights? It’s not for everyone, but if you’ve been burned in the past by cancellations, consider it as an ad hoc practice. This will ensure that you’re able to get as many bums in seats as you can.
2. Social media
Social media has served as a great tool to market your restaurant to loyal and new guests, and connect with them too. The most popular social media platforms for restaurants include Instagram and Facebook. Some fun ideas to implement for this holiday can include:
Highlighting your specials or specific dishes. If you have more than one, you can get guests to vote on their preference (Ex. chocolate covered strawberries vs. chocolate mousse). Start early (if you’re fine revealing the surprise) for an interesting talking point with guests!
Host a contest! You could offer a reservation and full meal for one lucky couple that wins. Make sure that you get something out of this contest though. Require that each individual tag 1-2 people and follow your account for their entry to be valid. This will allow you to reach more guests, while offering something fun to your audience!
Have a photo booth or photo section the day of and take pictures of the happy couples. Share it on your social platform and, if you can get their information, tag them! This will entice others that didn’t make it to your restaurant want to come and celebrate the following year. Sound extravagant? It doesn’t have to be; a simple sign against a nice background, and maybe even a light for the day can stretch a long way.
These are just a few ideas to start. If you want a more extensive list of marketing ideas, check out these 65+ tips and tactics for effectively marketing your restaurant.
3. Are you well-staffed?
Make sure that you have enough staff on hand to handle the demand. Don’t overstretch your servers to save a few dollars, because if they have to handle 10 tables at a time, chances are that’s going to reflect poorly on your reputation. Also, let your staff know well in advance on the schedule for this day, in the case that they were starting to plan out their own special day. Keep in mind that they’re people too so respect that, for some, this is a very special day.
If you’re already understaffed, try out these resources to get yourself some permanent and temporary staff to fill in the gaps:
Pluggd (Great for on-demand postings!)
Staffy (Paid option)
Food and Wine Industry Navigator (Amazing resource for those in the Toronto region. If you’re not from the area, maybe there’s a city-specific option for you. Note: You’ll have to do a quick easy application to be accepted in the group but it’s worth it.)
4. Do you have the supplies you need?
There are several ways to help you better forecast the supplies you’ll need. The last thing you want is to tell customers that you’ve had to 86 their favorite. Some ways to help you better forecast:
How much did you sell last year? Do you anticipate being busier or slower this year? Look at your last year’s sales (if you have them) and the weather, new construction, and anything else that may affect getting people into seats to make as much of an informed guess as possible.
Not sure about your special? This is where previewing a dish on social media can help you out. This is far from an exact science, but if you’ve got a substantial following you can venture a guess as to how it will perform based on the anticipation of your patrons. Use this information to make sure you order enough supplies to meet that and a healthy buffer.
How many reservations do you have booked? Do you anticipate a lot of walk-ins?
Don’t leave your ordering until the last minute! With every restaurant looking for extra supplies, the possibility of shorts is much higher. So if there are any non-perishable items that you need, try to order them in advance (if your inventory space permits!)
All in all, Valentine’s Day should be a fun experience for your guests and a profitable one for your restaurant. Be sure that you take the necessary steps to set your restaurant up for success. When guests leave your establishment happy, chances are they’ll spread the word and come back for more—plan accordingly and maybe you’ll even become their new yearly tradition.