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Love is in the Little Things:

How to Win the Lifelong Love of your Guests and Staff this Valentine’s Day:

Valentine’s Day: the phrase itself has a decidedly polarizing effect: you love it or you hate it. Yet it is, without a doubt, one of the busiest days of the year for the restaurant industry.

I recall a particularly fateful February 14 upon which I spent the entire day piping tiny hearts onto tiny heart-shaped petit fours to be packaged into tiny boxes and given away to each guest at the end of the meal. (This is a great idea, by the way). The point is, that Valentines Day presents us with the rare opportunity to reintroduce ourselves to our guests and to show them what else we can do. We can diverge from our usual menus and pull out all the stops, so to speak, in order to make the holiday into an extraordinary dining experience.

Valentine’s day also has the nasty little habit of creeping up and surprising us long before we’ve had the chance to get ready for it. So, in a grand effort to save you from an unnecessary headache, I have compiled a short list of ideas to elevate your Valentine’s Day from blah to breathtaking:

  1. Prix Fixe: Consider offering a special set-price menu on V-day. This is a fantastic idea for so many reasons. When you’ve got a full dining room, a prix fixe menu simplifies and tightens up operations both in front and back of the house until you are performing with marine-like efficiency. Aside from the efficiency quotient, a prix fixe menu also gives your chef the opportunity to showcase his skills and highlight new recipes and techniques.
  2. Complementary glass of champagne: This is an especially lovely gesture that your guests will remember for years to come.  This is a gift that will ultimately pay for itself, not only because you will gain lifelong customers, but also because diners are less likely to worry about how much they will spend on Valentine’s Day. It is highly probable that they will order more wine on their own.
  3. Ambiance: On Romantic holidays, diners often choose a restaurant based on atmosphere. Valentine’s Day calls for dimming the lights and bringing the candles and tea lights out of storage. Fresh flowers are a must. This is also the time to make sure your music is not too loud, guests want to be able to communicate with their dates without hollering across the table.
  4. Advertise: If you are planning something special for Valentine’s Day, don’t forget to let people know about it. Put a sign in your window, place an ad in the paper, update your website, tweet it, facebook it, whatever means you generally use to get news out to your guests, just remember to do it.
  5. Give-aways: Complementary anything is attractive to most guests, especially if it comes packaged in a bow at the end of the meal.  Out of the vast sea of restaurants to choose from on Valentine’s Day, your guests have specifically chosen yours.  Little truffles, cookies, or petit fours are a wonderful way to show your guests that you appreciate their loyalty.
  6. Treat your staff: No one really wants to work on Valentine’s Day, but for most restaurants, it’s all hands on deck. Let your staff know how much you appreciate their dedication with inexpensive treats like conversation hearts or chocolates. With simple gestures like these, you are sure to win the loyalty not only of your guests, but also of the individuals who make your restaurant run every single day.

So what are your plans for Valentine’s Day? I’d love to hear your ideas for making the most out of it, so please feel free to leave a comment below!