The second busiest day of the year for restaurants is quickly approaching – are you prepared? Valentine’s day is one of the most popular days to dine out, and causes many headaches for restaurants alike. How can your operation avoid those headaches and complications? Keep reading to find out!
National Restaurant Association has estimated that 70 million people will dine out on Valentine’s Day, and this year the holiday falls on a Friday which greatly increases the amount of traffic that will walk in your door.
The NRA reported that younger adults were more likely to dine out for Valentine’s Day compared to older adults. “33 percent of 18-34 year-olds and 39 percent of 35-44 year-olds say they plan to dine out for a Valentine’s Day meal, compared with 27 percent of those 55 and older,” states the article. How do customers decide where to enjoy their meal? “42 percent say they pick their favorite restaurant or their companion’s favorite restaurant for their special meal. Twenty-one percent select a restaurant with a romantic atmosphere, followed by restaurants that offer special menus or promotions (13 percent), restaurants picked by their companion (12 percent) and a restaurant they haven’t been to before (11 percent).”
How to Prepare
Now that you know your restaurant will be packed come Friday, the 14th, make sure you utilize these tips so you don’t have a holiday headache.
Most people that choose to dine out on Valentine’s Day come in pairs or couples, so seating arrangements become difficult if you have a lot of four-tops. You can prepare for these two-person parties but estimate how many two-tops you expect. You can use data from the previous year as your secret weapon.
“What a restaurateur should do is estimate the percentage of parties that will come in as parties of two and multiple the number of seats in the restaurant by that percentage,” explains Sherri Kimes, a Cornell University professor of serves operations management. “That will give the number of seats that should be provided at two-tops.” Now if you need to calculate the number of tables, simply divide that number by two.
This article from Nation’s Restaurant News suggests that you gather as many two-top tables as possible, weather that means moving around tables, borrowing or renting them. While Valentine’s Day is the second busiest holiday, it takes more flexibility for tables and seating because of so many couples. With Mother’s Day, the demand is for larger parties and bigger tables.
Of course, reservations will always help the dining flow. This way you can make sure you have enough two-tops, and know in advance how packed your restaurant will be. Quick marketing tip: if you end up having a few tables not make it out, post your availability on social media. Customers can see that while everywhere else may seem busy, you have a spot just waiting to serve them up an enjoyable Valentine’s Day experience.
Sweetening Up the Profit
A huge perk to Valentine’s Day is that customers are dining out and looking for something special. Anyone can go out to eat on a given day and get a good experience, but for Valentine’s Day people want to see some changes that really make for a wonderful holiday. This is certainly a holiday where you can charge a little bit more and have a prix fixe menu because of the extra “oomph” to the dining experience.
There’s a big potential for upselling for Valentine’s Day services. When you take reservations, you have the chance to ask a few extra questions like suggesting to add flowers for your date, a personal message printed on their menu, celebratory beverages or desserts, or entertainment or music. These things make the customer feel extra special and proves you’ll go the long way for them.
Servers can upsell on select menu items because customers will be more apt to spending a little bit more than they normally do when they visit your restaurant. Customers will want to add on appetizers or desserts because this isn’t their typical visit and they want to add on things that they might not on a normal occasion.
Quick Service Promotions
QSR Magazine reports that fast-food brands should offer more upscale or Valentine’s Day-themed items to compete with full-service restaurants. “Offering appetizers, small plates, and sides may be yet another way to increase check average at [quick serves] on Valentine’s Day,” says Lizzy Freier, editor for foodservice consulting firm Technomic. “Full-service restaurants have already begun to leverage interest in downsized portions and mix-and-match by introducing new small-plate offerings…and it is something we could eventually see trickling down to quick serves.”
Every year White Castle holds its annual Valentine’s Day dinner in all of its stores for the 20th year in a row. Guests can make reservations and receive a white-tablecloth dinner with tableside service and a special menu to order from. The event became so notorious and popular for White Castle, that they extended the dinner hours from 5:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m.
Limited-time products are especially popular among quick serve restaurants to get more foot traffic in the door during the Valentine’s Day season. Dunkin’ Donuts released a special heart-shaped Cookie Dough Donut with cookie-dough buttercream filling, and a heart-shaped Brownie Batter Donut with chocolate brownie batter and buttercream-flavored filling.
Krispy Kreme normally has their heart-shaped sprinkle Heart doughnut, and a Chocolate Iced Heart Doughnut. They added X- and O- shaped “Kiss” and “Hug” doughnuts new for this year in hopes to drive in more traffic.
Many quick serve companies are offering select products for $2.14, while others are offering a free dessert or appetizer if they purchase two of any item on February 14th.
Whether you’re a full-serve or quick-serve restaurant, there are many ways to be prepared for Valentine’s Day. Make sure you take account for most guests dining in pairs, while also bringing something special to the table to make diners really enjoy their experience.