10 ways to make your customers heart you on Valentine’s Day

This article was written by Kristi Turner, CMO of Compeat, for Fast Casual

As George Bernard Shaw once said, “there is no sincerer love than the love of food.” And with Valentine’s Day right around the corner, we couldn’t agree more. Food is an integral part of every celebration; and the holiday of love is no exception.

Aside from Mother’s Day, Valentine’s is the most popular day for dining out. According to an article published on NRA’s website last February, 32% of Americans visited a restaurant on Valentine’s Day. But don’t make the mistake of thinking that Valentine’s Day is just about couples. According to Bing, half of Americans identify as single. Of those, 25% plan to do something for Valentine’s Day. Single men will spend an average of $71 while single woman will spend an average of $40, making Valentine’s Day a holiday that your restaurant simply can’t afford to ignore.

Below are 10 ways to promote your restaurant as the Valentine’s Day hotspot:

1. Start now. Be sure your website and social media pages promote your Valentine’s Day specials and events. Also check that your contact information is up-to-date on these pages as well as in Google, Yelp, OpenTable and Urbanspoon.

2. Send a personalized invitation to your customers. Send a personalized email with your upcoming promotions. Sweeten the deal with a “We love our loyal customers” coupon for a free dessert or appetizer. Then take it a step further and have your servers mention the upcoming specials and events when dropping off guest checks.

3. Provide early bird discounts. Let’s face it, not everyone is going to want to face the large crowds that come with Friday nights; especially a Valentine’s Day crowd.  There is no need to limit your specials to just one night! Think about offering your promotions all week long to accommodate everyone’s preferences.

4. Offer thoughtful incentives. A free single red rose or a small box of chocolates for each table will not break the bank and can greatly increase any couple’s Valentine’s dining experience and perceived value.

5. Offer heart shaped… anything! You don’t need to do a specialized menu, just personalize certain items during the week of Valentine’s. Think heart shaped pizza, heart shaped cookies, heart shaped mashed potatoes even. There is no limit to your options this week.

6. Create the right ambiance. It sounds obvious, but make sure customers are greeted, seated promptly, that the music is appropriate, timely, and at the right volume. You’ll want to make sure guests can talk and connect. Decorate for the occasion to make it special, not just another meal out.

7.Create “Grammable” opportunities. In the era of social media, a big part of any great experience is being able to share it with friends and followers. People want to show off their special night with their loved one. Create an experience that’s worthy of “the Gram” by setting up a love-themed photo backdrop or providing props. Encourage your employees to join in the festivities and take photos with guests. Get your own Snapchat filter, so guests can tag their photos with your name and location. Create a catchy hashtag and post it around the restaurant. These tactics turn your customers into an army of marketers for your restaurant,

READ ALSO: Mastering SEO for Restauranteurs

8. Cater to the stay-at-home crowd. Of course, not everyone wants to go out for the evening, but that doesn’t mean you can’t turn the home crowd into customers. Offer catering specials for full meals or even take-home-and-heat appetizers for those who plan to host their own get-togethers. Set up a special prep area to make the carry-out process as efficient as possible so as not to interfere with your in-house guest experience.

9. Appeal to those seeking alternatives. Create a week of single events or friend activities to bring in large groups of people who want to celebrate the holiday sans date. Host a paint-and-sip or cookie decorating event where guests can leave with a handmade craft. Or offer a mixology class where your bartenders demonstrate how to make fun cocktails.

10. Plan an “anti-valentine” night. Does your restaurant not scream “date night”? With the amount of single people still planning on going out, that may not be a bad thing! Promote yourself as a fun alternative for those who don’t want to sit at home by throwing a “love stinks” party complete with appropriate play list and perhaps a heart pinata to really drive in the point.


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