How Do Restaurants Plan for Valentine’s Day?

Tamarind of London’s general manager Stephanie Rocha weighs in on the business of Valentine’s Day
thecorp.org

Planning a Valentine's Day menu can take months of preparation. 

It’s no secret that Valentine’s Day is one of the busiest days of the year for restaurants across the country. When guests make their reservations and sit down at their table, they often don’t realize all of the months of planning and preparation that went in to making that one evening so special.

When guests walk through the doors of a restaurant, their experience has to be flawless. From the service to the menu, every detail is noticed and an atmosphere of romance is expected.

How should restaurants prepare for Valentine’s Day? When should they start planning? How can they stand out? These are just a few of the questions restaurateurs want to know to ensure a successful holiday.

PLANNING
At Tamarind of London, we begin thinking about Valentine’s Day five months in advance, as early as October of the preceding year. By beginning the planning process early, our restaurant staff has enough time to brainstorm with the team, establish timelines and schedules, and create promotional materials as needed. Our restaurant’s motto is, ‘proper preparation prevents poor performance,’ which is also what we attribute to our Valentine’s Day success, year after year.

COMMUNICATION
Clear direction from the management team is essential. The only way to prepare is to have a solid team who are all looped in to the plans for the holiday. Start by involving the team in the planning process. As your service team is on the ground floor with your guests, encourage their input on how to make the holiday special for guests. Once ideas are solidified and plans are moving forward, they must be communicated clearly by management. Every team member must know the expectations for the evening. From there, the informed, experienced, and trusted in-house team will be able to train temporary or seasonal staff and serve as an example of the service standards of the brand. At Tamarind of London, we nearly double our staff during peak holiday times, such as Valentine’s Day, in order to set the team up for success and ensure a perfect evening for guests.

MENU
Once the team is informed and ready for action, a restaurant then needs to focus all of its energy and attention on the menu. Will there be a prix-fixe menu? Will special menu items, available for a limited time, be offered? Will there be a unique dessert or cocktail option? At Tamarind of London, the Executive Chef is given creative freedom to create the menu and deliver a food and beverage selection that exceeds guests’ expectations.

With the popularity of prix-fixe menus and specialty items on Valentine’s Day, determining price point is always a factor. Holiday menu pricing should be based on market research, restaurant sales history, and the value offered to guests. While staying competitive with other restaurants in the area, it’s also vital to maintain your own brand standards and pricing on such a busy night.

MARKETING
In order for a restaurant to compete and stand out on Valentine’s Day, it needs to get the menu out early and begin marketing strategies as early as possible. The menu must be unique and inviting, with all advertising appealing to both regular guests as well as new guests. Marketing considerations may include: signage, menu inserts, social media promotions, public relations, advertising, and cross-promotional partnerships with nearby, non-competing businesses.

Once the word gets out, restaurants tend to get very busy during the week leading up to Valentine’s Day, and then are booked solid on the actual holiday. In the week prior to Valentine’s Day, Tamarind of London welcomes approximately 30 percent more guests than compared to an average week, and at least 60 percent more guests on the holiday itself. When all of the planning, preparation, training, and marketing is done right, this results in the restaurant taking in approximately triple the revenue on Valentine’s Day compared to a normal night.

Ultimately, if a restaurant is able to begin planning early, involve the team, and remain focused on the guests’ experience throughout the entire process, a successful Valentine’s Day is sure to ensue.