A holiday isn’t complete without food—and Valentine’s Day is no exception. Compared to an average day, reservation requests climb by 500% on February 14, making it the second busiest day of the year for restaurants (just behind Mother’s Day). To entice customers, businesses use an array of Valentine’s Day restaurants trends, from marketing tactics to special menus.
With social distancing still in effect in most places, Valentine’s Day will be different this year. But that doesn’t mean diners won’t be celebrating the romantic and platonic love in their lives. So what are restaurants doing on Valentine’s Day in 2021? Many will be focusing on to-go orders, just like they did for most of 2020.
Boost business from new and regular customers alike by converting your Valentine’s Day offerings into thoughtful takeout and delivery options. Here are a few Valentine’s Day restaurant trends and tips that will help keep love alive, stomachs full, and people safely socially distanced this February.
1. Offer a prix-fixe takeout menu
This Valentine’s Day, many diners will opt to stay home. Use this knowledge to your advantage. By concentrating on takeout, you can free yourself from usual in-house customer limits and potentially serve more people. But once you decide to offer to-go meals, how can you attract the most customers? Consider switching to a prix-fixe menu, which 63% of diners prefer on Valentine’s Day.
At this point in the COVID-19 pandemic, many people are used to ordering takeout instead of dining inside at restaurants. By offering a prix fixe menu with several courses, you can make the meal feel a bit more special while also easing your team’s workload. Valentine’s Day is often busy, and having a limited menu will streamline preparation and make fulfilling a large number of orders more manageable.
2. Help guests plate their takeout meals at home
Let’s face it: takeout boxes and plastic cutlery aren’t always the most elegant vehicles for a quality meal. Even when food is expertly cooked and downright delicious, it can feel less than remarkable inside of a disposable container. To elevate the Valentine’s Day takeout experience for your guests, invite them to break out their best silverware and plate each dish at home.
Consider packaging the messy or fragile elements of each dish—like sauces or garnishes—separately to ensure food travels well. (Takeout containers with divided compartments can also do the trick.) Be sure to provide instructions and pictures to show your customers how they can plate their food to make it look restaurant-ready in their own dining rooms.
Having spent a few extra minutes elevating their takeout experience, customers may end the meal more satisfied, which could mean repeat customers and stellar online reviews for your business. As food stylist and photographer Cat Byers told Eater, it’s “creative, comforting, and rewarding” to make the food you’re about to eat look presentable.
3. Open for business earlier than usual
Since Valentine’s Day falls on a Sunday this year, guests may be hoping to celebrate earlier in the day so they have time to prepare for the work week ahead. Luckily, few Valentine’s Day restaurant plans top Sunday brunch.
Thanks to the affordable prices of breakfast foods like eggs and bread, brunch can be a major moneymaker for your restaurant. It can also help offset the pricier food costs of dinner, especially the steak and seafood that diners often crave on Valentine’s Day. If you’re hoping to appeal to a younger crowd—or if you’re located in a city, where brunch is most popular—a midday meal could be the way to go for your restaurant.
4. Promote your Valentine’s Day offerings on social media
Offering a special menu or promotion (one of the key factors influencing Americans’ Valentine’s Day restaurant choice) will not only lure more customers but also make the meal more memorable. However, the promotion can only be fruitful if prospects know about it beforehand, which is why it’s crucial to market your Valentine’s Day specials effectively on social media.
In an Instagram post last February, Playa Bowls invited customers to tag their “bowl-mate” in the comments, encouraging engagement from people who might not follow them yet. To get the word out about your restaurant’s promotion or special, try a similar tactic. When your social media followers tag their friends in your post, more people can see your promotion. With 86% of millennials saying they try a new restaurant after seeing content about it online, it’s an easy and free way to generate buzz.
Likewise, for a shop like DK’s Donuts & Bakery, turning routine fare into Valentine’s Day-ready treats is a no-brainer. What’s more, these vibrant pink and purple hues are sure to catch the eyes of Instagram followers and bring more customers through the door. By adding some Valentine’s Day pizzazz to your photos on social media, forgetful customers who need an extra nudge to remember the fast-approaching holiday will surely be grateful.
5. Break out the bubbly
Of course, no Valentine’s Day meal would be complete without drinks and dessert. According to the National Restaurant Association, 34% of restaurants offer celebratory booze or sweets on Valentine’s Day, and diners are 50% more likely to buy dessert on V-Day than on a typical day. With customers looking to splurge on these items, be sure to prepare accordingly.
Champagne and chocolate-covered strawberries are classics, but consider diversifying your offerings to maximize profits. Pre-batch cocktails and desserts that can be made in large quantities will help lower food and labor costs, improving your margins at the end of the day.
Whichever dessert and drink offerings you choose, don’t forget to take pictures. At checkout, DoorDash lets you suggest upsell items as an optional modifier with an upcharge, like add a dessert or add a drink, for your guests to add onto their meals. An analysis of thousands of DoorDash menus revealed that menu photos were the top factor in determining a merchant’s success on the platform.
Want to add alcohol to your menu? Due to the regulations around alcohol delivery, existing restaurant partners are unable to add alcohol to their menu directly through the Merchant Portal, but can contact DoorDash Support for assistance.
6. Offer virtual cooking classes
55% of millennials prefer experiences as their Valentine’s Day gifts opposed to the customary flowers and chocolate. This means if you’re hoping to attract a young crowd, you should think beyond the menu.
Virtual cooking classes provide the perfect opportunity for couples to bond while enjoying a tasty meal. Have customers reserve a spot ahead of time and pick up their ingredients a day in advance—or make things even easier by delivering the items straight to their door by offering a bundle on DoorDash. Then, on the day of, they can tune into your Zoom meeting and cook alongside the rest of the group.
Not interested in offering a cooking class? Try a virtual wine and chocolate tasting. Make it even more fun for couples by arranging a blindfolded tasting—a fun activity that’s sure to earn some smiles.
7. Cater to the singles crowd
The romantically involved aren’t the only people dining out this February. The singles crowd is just as willing to splurge on Valentine’s Day. Single’s Day, a Chinese holiday celebrated on November 11, far surpasses Black Friday and Prime Day in profits. This past year, the online shopping event generated a record $115 billion—proving that single people are ready to spend.
Single ladies, in particular, love to do so on Galentine’s Day. Celebrated on February 13th, the fictional holiday from the television show Parks and Recreation has given people an excuse to spend time with friends instead of just significant others.
In 2020, Auntie Anne’s jumped on the Galentine’s Day bandwagon, offering promotions to entice ladies and their gal pals through their doors. This year, the pretzel powerhouse will be serving up an equally tasty deal. From February 12 to 14, they’ll be offering a $5 discount on Pretzel Buckets—the perfect addition to an at-home celebration with friends or sweethearts.
Of course, such promotions are sure to please: one study found that discounts spike customers’ levels of oxytocin, also known as the “love hormone.” With a few extra dollars in their pocket, your guests may be more inclined to come back later with more business.
8. Remember the power of gift cards
Some couples prefer to skip the Valentine’s Day chaos altogether and enjoy a meal from their favorite restaurant another day. Among those who celebrated the holiday in 2020, 22% of women and 16% of men gave gift cards—a large demographic you don’t want to miss out on. Reach those people by promoting gift cards for your restaurant through your marketing channels.
DoorDash gift cards are another great way for customers to get food easily delivered from your restaurant. Consider suggesting both options to diners in the leading days so they’re ready to go when February 14 rolls around.
Hungry for more holiday marketing tips this year? Download the Ultimate Guide to Restaurant Social Media Marketing and join DoorDash to promote Valentine's Day menu items, offers, and discounts to a wider audience.