Win your diners’ hearts


With January finally over, our guess is that most restauranteurs will be turning their attention to one thing – love!

Or perhaps we should say two things – ‘love’ and ‘money’.

As Valentine’s Day draws close and UK consumers get ready to spend almost £1bn on gifts and experiences for their loved ones, this one date in the calendar undoubtedly represents a hot opportunity for those in the restaurant business.

This February 14th, your clientele may well be coming to you with high expectations and the competition will most likely be fierce. So, if you want those Valentine’s customers to be more than just a bunch of one-daters, you’ll need to ramp up efforts to ensure your food, service and overall dining experience wins their hearts over the long-term. Here are a few tips:

The plan

If Valentine’s day is to go off without a hitch, every aspect of the event must be planned in detail – the menu, sourcing of ingredients, scheduling enough staff, preparing backup plans in the event of shortfalls etc.

Over and above this level of basic planning, it’s also essential that you get your Valentine’s Day strategy in place – determining what kind of clientele you want to ‘woo’ before handing out the red roses.

For some restaurants, the obvious answer will be to target couples who book in advance, but others may prefer to go with an offer that pulls in the last-minute walk-ins. It’s also worth remembering that February 14th is not exclusive to couples. Around 10% of people who head out for a meal on Valentine’s day choose to do so with family and/or friends so, even if your establishment has more of a family or singles vibe, setting Valentine’s Day strategy that’s aligned to their needs could still be very lucrative.

The unforgettable menu

Once you’ve got your strategy sorted, the next step is to ensure your menu is simply beyond temptation.

To entice couples, many restaurants create a prix-fixe Valentine’s Day menu that draws from customers’ favourite appetisers, entrees and desserts with perhaps a few specials thrown in too. If you have a smart POS system, you can use the data it provides to easily identify which menu items are among the most popular (researching what has worked well in previous years as well as more recently).

Alternatively, if your strategy is to attract those who want to celebrate their single status with a group of friends, then a sharer or taster menu could be a better approach.

The ambience

Just as the way you dress, talk and act affect the outcome of a first date, on Valentine’s day, the ambience of your restaurant could be the make or break moment as to whether your diners will ever come back for seconds.

Achieving the right ambience goes much further than a bit of low lighting or romantic background music. It might even start with the booking process – for instance, you could take this moment to check if the booker has any special requests (something that could be particularly important to them if a proposal is on the cards).

On the day itself, it could involve ensuring your staff are well-dressed and prepped to get their table approaches timed perfectly or making some layout changes that would enable couples to have a little more private space than usual. This might seem to go against the principles of maximising covers but this kind of short-term sacrifice could seal the deal in turning those customers into keepers.

Remember that last impressions are crucial so, when diners are ready to leave, your POS must perform well so that those wishing to treat a loved one can quickly and discreetly pay the bill. Consider also making a small parting gesture – maybe a free after-dinner drink at the bar or a time-limited ‘second date’ discount promotion.

GOODTILL TIP: Discounts and promotions are really easy to set up on a smart POS system so don’t worry about the logistics of meeting returners’ expectations.

The day after the night before

When the night’s romance has passed, it’s time to look at the numbers. Be quick to pull off sales and staff performance reports from your POS so you can properly analyse whether this year’s event was successful or where improvements could be made. (Mother’s Day is coming up next so you’ll want to use what you learn to start the next round of preparations).

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Valentine’s Day is clearly an opportunity for restaurateurs to do more than just ring up a few extra bottles of champagne. Whoever your diners are, this is the day to go all out to impress them. Give them an experience they’ll remember and that extra effort could see your restaurant rewarded with a new set of lifelong regulars.

Contact us for more details about how your POS can support events/ experiences in your restaurant or share the love by telling us about your restaurant’s Valentine’s Day plans on Twitter @TheGoodTillco.