Holidays are a can’t-miss opportunity for any business. For restaurants in particular, Valentine’s Day is one of the most important to capitalize on.
As a holiday centered around romance, Valentine’s Day and eating out go hand-in-hand. Consumer trends back this up, with 74 percent of people celebrating the day planning on doing so by dining out or ordering food. Restaurant owners can’t pass up on such an opportunity. Here are some ways to capitalize on it.
Run Themed Promotions
Sales and other promos are an excellent way to attract customers on Valentine’s Day. Consumers plan to spend an average of $185.81 each on the holiday, more than making up for slightly smaller profit margins from discounts.
Promotions should fit the holiday to be the most effective. Restaurants could offer discounts on orders for two or provide free drinks with a certain meal price. Keeping prices the same but raising the standard of service—like providing tableside service in a typically fast food or counter-service restaurant—can be impactful, too.
Non-sales promotions also work well. Running a special date night menu or limited-time pink and red-colored dishes may be enough to garner attention. Changing the decor to make a more romantic atmosphere is also important.
Accommodate Takeout Customers
Amid the rush to get people in on Valentine’s Day, restaurants shouldn’t overlook their take-out customers. Some couples may prefer to avoid the crowds and eat at home. Catering to this group could help capitalize on a demographic other establishments may miss.
Restaurants should ensure they have enough staff to run take-out orders efficiently while serving dine-in patrons. Themed takeout promotions are also a good idea. Selling ingredients and instructions for a do-it-yourself cooking date or a special multi-course takeout-only meal, for example, may boost takeout sales.
Custom packaging is another simple way to make an impact. Use higher-quality materials and themed colors to add an air of romance and fanciness to an otherwise mundane order. Don’t forget to put tamper-evident labels on all to-go orders, as these build trust with customers and prevent health issues amid the dinner rush.
Don’t Forget Your Single Customers
While Valentine’s Day centers around couples, restaurants are leaving out a profitable market by overlooking single customers. Running specials for this group could set an establishment apart from competitors only catering to couples.
Special menu items for solo diners—especially for to-go orders—are a great start. Restaurants could even take the opportunity to lean into the humor of ordering a meal alone on Valentine’s Day. Promos on “binge” foods or naming special menu items things like “she swiped left” could garner attention.
Similarly, restaurants could run “Galentine’s” or “Palentine’s” deals for friend groups. These deals have all the benefits of couple-oriented promos without leaving out single customers. Just be sure deals targeted toward smaller groups or solo diners aren’t so large to disincentivize bigger orders.
Maximize Social Media Marketing
Regardless of what specific promotions a restaurant runs, social media marketing is essential. Establishments should get the word out about their upcoming deals at least a couple of days in advance to generate enough attention.
Be sure to capitalize on all the tools and features social media has to offer. Post lots of pictures or videos showing the themed decor or special meals to show off their visuals. Data analytics can track and predict consumer trends to gauge what deals would have the most impact or which audiences to target.
Post about upcoming specials multiple times across all platforms to maximize this marketing’s reach. At the same time, make sure posts on different sites aren’t identical. Restaurants should tailor them to each platform to generate the most engagement—using Instagram for photos, TikTok for video promos and X for brief, quippy promotions.
Keep It Unique
Finally, restaurants should ensure all their specials and marketing materials are unique to their establishment. Today’s customers are well acquainted with Valentine’s Day deals. Consequently, it takes more than just a sale or special menu to stand out.
Restaurants should lean into what makes their establishment unique in the first place. Casual joints shouldn’t try to be too formal but instead emphasize low-pressure, comfortable eating experiences for friends or new relationships. Establishments specializing in a specific cuisine should incorporate that flair into their menu promos or puns in marketing.
Don’t be afraid to be creative, even a little odd if it fits the restaurant’s image. Cracker Barrel, for instance, offered free food for couples who proposed in 2023. Specials like this are strange, but that’s precisely what makes them stand out.
Make the Most of the Valentine’s Day Rush
Valentine’s Day can be one of the busiest days of the year for restaurants. While that comes with a fair amount of stress, it also presents a tantalizing business opportunity if establishments can capitalize on it.
These five steps will help any restaurant make the most of Valentine’s Day marketing. Even customers who aren’t all in on the holiday can appreciate the effort and planning that goes into it.
Emily Newton is the Editor-in-Chief of Revolutionized Magazine. She has over five years experience writing for the food and beverage industry.