When the Special Occasion Holiday Goddess created Valentine’s Day she didn’t design it with lovers in mind. Her husband obviously owned a restaurant. She knew a little boost in February’s mid month would get him through the most pivotal time, financially, in the Gregorian restaurant calendar. It would also make life seem a little brighter, cash flow a bit smoother, and spring seems closer.
Those large produce, meat and liquor orders placed during the Christmas season for holiday parties are now slightly past due. Heat and electric bills are at their yearly high mark. The weather, laced with snow and frigidity, blended with the cabin fever personalities of customers is taking its toll on the stress meter. Once January is a wrap and we have rounded the corner into spring, the rewards begin to appear: Valentine’s Day is within sight.
You’ve gotta love it.
This year, the holiday falls on a Sunday, directly in the middle of a three-day weekend – thanks to the Presidents – whose day will be honored with love hangovers across the country. The Monday following the night lovers and restaurant owners love to love is also holiday.
It’s a culinary bonus. There are only two times that Valentine’s Day actually boosts sales. It happens when the event falls on a Wednesday. Restaurants see a boost in business for the week. And, if it takes place during the three day holiday, as it does this year, owners could see a substantial increase in sales.
But, this just doesn’t happen. It takes planning, promotion, and in particular, creativity. This is the one day, or in this case, the weekend, where fantasy trumps reality. It’s the time when your customers shake out the winter doldrums and take that needed break from the reality of winter, finances, and stress. And they either do it in their back yard or head to a quick getaway location. Either way, you can substantially increase your business if you begin to plan and promote the weekend now.
Here are ten tips on planning a successful Valentine’s Day Weekend.
1). A rose is a rose is a rose….Not true. If you have a “Special Occasion Restaurant”
(SOR) you want the occasion to be more special than usual. If you are not a SOR, decide whether to offer a special Valentine’s Day menu, or just add a special or two to your regular menu that will reflect the theme of the day.
2). Ask your staff to contribute ideas for the event. It helps to include them in planning. Plus, they may have a fresh idea or two you haven’t thought of.
3). If you create a special or a pre fixe menu use creativity with ingredients and descriptions. Hearts of Palm in the salad always make an enjoyable addition. But pay attention to food costs as we all know how much chef’s love to splurge on holiday events.
4). Begin to promote and advertise the menu as soon as possible. Use table tents, email blasts, and special signage to let people know you love creating dishes, atmosphere and ambiance for the event.
5). Twitter the night away to your customer list and Twitter followers.
6). You don’t have a Twitter account – get one before you begin to create your menu.
7). Plan your dessert menu in advance. Dessert is a fabulous profit center on Valentine’s Day. If dessert sales have been lagging, or you are not known for your desserts, change that image now.
8). Begin planning your pre-weekend staff meeting as soon as your menu is completed. This should be more than just “here’s the menu, sell a lot, good luck.” You should spend a few days getting the staff back in the rhythm of being busy. It’s very difficult for a staff that has been on cruise control because business has been slow to ramp up to stealth speed on a busy, kitchen slammed night. Review the steps of great service, explain the menu and its ingredients and begin your retraining process a few days ahead of the weekend.
9). Take reservations. Nothing disables a kitchen staff faster than a surprise attack from customers who were not expected to show up because nobody encouraged reservations.
10). Order early for a postponed delivery. Just as you don’t like surprises, neither do your vendors. If you wait until the last minute to order, you will pay a higher price.