This is the final countdown to Valentine’s Day, the second busiest day of the year for restaurants -- but are you ready? Here’s a quick list of 6 simple suggestions to help you make this a truly memorable experience. And no, you don’t have to be “La tour d’Argent” in Paris to offer most of them.
1 – Bring it up a notch!
White tablecloths, silverware, glassware, flowers, dimmed lights, elegantly dressed servers, and old French songs can do a great job at bringing a sense of romance and class to a restaurant that, otherwise, could be considered fairly unremarkable. Take a critical look at your place and make a list of subtle changes you can make to fit the Valentine’s Day theme.
And for all the fast food joints: I hear you, you may not be expecting much of a spike in traffic that day. Reshape your thinking! White Castle will offer full service with tablecloths and flowers on its tables on Valentine’s Day. Everyone -- no matter their budget -- wants to celebrate Valentine’s Day. This is your chance!
2 – Be ready
Okay, this one’s a bit obvious, and yet, you would be surprised! Are you ready? Is your POS able to handle the surge of traffic you will see that day? Is your reservation system up and running? Do you have backups in case servers come down with the chickenpox the day before? Have a plan: get help from all those awesome new technologies to manage that busy day and get rolling!
3 – Offer more than just an entree
Most spouses are looking to make this day extra special for their partner-in-love. Work with local stores in your area to offer more to your guests. When they book their table, offer them the option of having flowers or chocolates waiting for them at their table. This little extra gesture will make them look like the husband/wife/girlfriend/boyfriend of the year -- with little effort on their end.
4 – Be considerate of your guests’ desire for privacy
Train your servers to be present but not overbearing. I can never repeat that enough -- and yet, I see it about 50% of the time I dine out. Either the servers are totally ignoring empty soda glasses, or empty plates waiting to be taken away OR they are asking every 5 minutes if everything is okay, interrupting conversations and irritating your guests. This is a special night; they want to spend time together, so respect their conversations. I tend to believe that if there is anything wrong with the food, they will let you know, no need to ask
5 – Advertise on social media
Your reservation book might be already full and yet, this is still an opportunity to promote your restaurant on social media channels, as potential guests are paying attention to what’s happening that day. Encourage your guests to check in and share pictures of their evening. If you made it extra special for them that night, chances are their friends will want to give your restaurant a try soon. Setting up a Valentine’s Day contest can be a great way to drive their participation.
6 – Think about loyalty
This is my final point and it is an important one. The stats say 42% will pick their favorite restaurant, which means the rest is made up from a combination of new guests who did not manage to book their favorite restaurant, or who are just looking to try something new. Whichever reason made them pick your restaurant, you want to build on it. They are giving you a chance -- reward them through a loyalty program, capture their names and contact info to keep the communication going and hopefully, drive them back to your restaurant.
There is only one week left until Valentine’s Day, so until then, I wish all my friends in the restaurant industry the best of luck and hope they make this day a true success!
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