When you run a business in the hospitality industry, Valentine’s Day has the potential to be a big revenue day for your company. However, the chaos that can happen on big revenue days can cause disasters. The problems usually arise when you’re underprepared and understaffed.

While you do want to make sure to capitalize on the extra spending that happens on Valentine’s Day, you don’t want to step too far out of your business comfort zone. Your repeat customers have come to rely on you for excellent service. They appreciate your excellent attention to detail. Some restaurants might try crazy promotions, brand-new menus, extended seating options, and gift giveaways, but our advice is to continue doing what you do best– making great food and offering great service.

Let’s take a look at some of the ways Valentine’s Day can you impact your business, both in and good and bad ways, and consider ways to help your restaurant bring in additional revenue without compromising your reputation.

Delicious Valentine’s Day Facts

First off, let’s start with some information about Valentine’s Day. This data it was collected from various sources including Open Table.

  • Spending on Valentine’s Day is projected to hit close to $20 billion.
  • 4.4 billion people intend to spend the evening out on Valentine’s Day.
  • 81% of restaurant reservations for Valentine’s Day are two-tops.
  • The average to Valentine’s Day restaurant bill comes out to $87.
  • The days before and after Valentine’s Day are also extremely busy for restaurants.
  • 45% of Valentine’s Day dinner reservations are booked in the week leading up to that day.

Valentine’s Day Restaurant Disasters To Avoid

The lack of preparation and planning is the number one reason that restaurants have problems on Valentine’s Day. Here are some of the biggest issues that happen in restaurants on Valentine’s Day.


1. The restaurant is full. While this may not seem like a disaster, it is the reason that many things go wrong. For example, it is very common on Valentine’s Day to split up larger tables into two tops. This may seem like a great way to get more couples in for dinner, but it drains your staff. When your wait staff has more tables to work with, each table gets less attention. The couples spending Valentine’s Day at your restaurant want their evening to feel perfect and special. A lack of personalized service will likely upset some restaurant-goers that evening.

The fix: Be sure that you have enough wait staff on hand. Use a schedule planning software like Planday to be sure that you have extra people on the floor and in the kitchen. Plan for this day in advance so your staff knows whether they can make plans that evening for themselves.


2. You are trying a new menu. On Valentine’s Day, many restaurants choose to go with a prix fixe menu. They choose just a few things from their normal menu and offer them as a several-course meal. These restaurants choose to add new items to the menu to celebrate the day. This might include things like a large steak, heart-shaped shrimp salads, oysters, and other romantic foods. There’s nothing wrong with trying new things, but one of your busiest nights of the year might not be a time to do that. Your kitchen could get bogged down cooking food they’re unfamiliar with in such a high volume. In addition, your wait staff probably has not tasted the new food and may not be able to recommend good wine pairings.

The fix: Valentine’s Day is the one time of year that your customers will spend the reckless abandon. Rather than limiting them to a certain price point, consider keeping your regular menu and adding a special appetizer, wine selection, or dessert. This will keep consistency for the front and the back of the house, as well as for your regular customers were choosing to spend the evening at your restaurant.


3. There’s not enough food or wine. This potential disaster probably doesn’t need much explanation. When you know your restaurant will be experiencing an unusually high volume, you’ve got to make sure you have enough food and wine to cover the influx of customers.

The fix: If you are adding something new to the menu, it can be difficult to estimate how much of a particular ingredient you might need. Try to overestimate and plan to use any surplus of that ingredient in the days following Valentine’s Day.


4. Not filling last minute cancellations. Valentine’s Day diners are notorious for making reservations at several restaurants and only showing up for a one. Looking out at a dining room that is not full because of no-shows or last minute cancellations, will make you feel like you’re losing money on such a busy evening.

The fix: As soon as Valentine’s Day reservations are full, start a waiting list. Then, be sure you have a system in place to reach out to the people on your waiting list in a timely way. Explain to customers that you might call them at the last minute to offer an open table. If that is something they’re interested in, get their information and give them a call if there is an availability.


5. Bad reviews. If something goes wrong on Valentine’s Day, and your restaurant get so busy that things seem to fall off the rails, you’ll probably make some people unhappy. This unhappiness can lead to bad reviews. Some diners will be understanding that this is a busy night for the restaurant, but others are only thinking about their own experience.

The fix: When things go wrong, and they probably will, be sure to offer sincere apologies in the moment and do what you can to take care of the diners who’ve had extremely long waits or felt that the service had been subpar. In addition, respond to any negative online reviews candidly. Admitting your mistakes and explaining to customers what you will do to fix them in the future can go a long way toward mending relationships.

Some Other Things to be Prepared for on Valentine’s Day

You’ll be busy. That’s for sure. But in the midst of the fast pace, new menu, and busy staff, there are some other things to be aware of during Valentine’s Day.  You can’t always prepare to react to some of these events, but you should know that they might happen.

  • Early/late celebrators– Many people want to avoid the restaurant rush on Valentine’s Day, so they come the day before or the day after. In fact, many women get together with their girlfriends the day before Valentine’s Day for what’s known as “Gal-entine’s day.”
  • Proposals– People like to get proposed on the most romantic day of the year. Be prepared for someone to break out a diamond ring while they are eating. Your kitchen or wait staff might even be asked to help with the surprise.
  • Breakups– Emotions run high on Valentine’s Day. While some people get engaged, others break up. There may be some drama in your dining room that evening.
  • People who’ve had too much to drink– You’d be surprised how many people get stood up for Valentine’s Day dates. If one person gets there early and realizes his or her date is not coming, they may have a few too many drinks. Be prepared to call for rides and help people get home safely.
  • Table timing– Couples who schedule an early dinner (5:30 -7:00) might eat faster because they have plans after dinner. Tables coming in after seven are more likely to linger over the meal.

Valentine’s Day can be a great day for restaurants. Your business will probably be completely booked weeks in advance. The boom in diners also breaks up what feels like a slower time after the holidays. Some restaurants choose to go all out and do major promotions for Valentine’s Day. Others continue to offer the menu and service they’re known for. No matter what situation you find yourself in on Valentine’s Day there are ways to prepare in advance to avoid disasters and make the day a complete success.

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