For some industries, Valentine’s Day is one of the most profitable times of year and a breath of fresh air after a chilly January that was far from indulgent for many. Valentine’s profits for florists, restaurants, card shops and confectioners, are predicted to be in excess of £1.3bn according to last year’s statistics compiled by the British Retail Consortium, so it would be insane for many retailers, hoteliers and restaurateurs to ignore it.
26% of Brits celebrate Valentine’s Day with a meal out. It’s a hugely important and stressful occasion that can often make or break a business’ annual takings. Many couples are relying on their restaurant choice to make the evening a success, and many a Valentine’s dinner has been ruined by poor service, double bookings and bad food.
With this in mind, we’ve listed the top 5 biggest mistakes a restaurant owner can make before Valentine’s Day. Avoid these and business should be a roaring success, and even ensure some repeat business throughout the year. Fail to avoid them, however, and the opportunity may not present itself again next year.
Fail to Fill the Staff Rota
Most restaurants are usually packed on Valentine’s Day, irrespective of how busy they are throughout the rest of the year, partly because of the sheer volume of people looking for tables, and also because many leave it to the last minute and make rushed bookings wherever they can find a spare table for two. For chefs, waiters and bar staff the night can be an absolute nightmare, as many couples have higher expectations than usual. Failure to comprehensively fill the staff rota with enough people to cover these demands is a disaster waiting to happen.
Even a fairly new restaurant without much of a reputation can find its books full on the 14th February, and it’s an unmissable opportunity to cement itself in people’s memories. If anything, overfill your rota with reliable people who you know will work hard for tips, so you’ll have a surplus of staff to accommodate any illness or absence. You’ll have to pay more staff, but you can guarantee your diners receive quick, attentive service and experience as few mishaps as possible.
Plan an Untimely Refurbishment
Refurbishment can be a fantastic idea and can inject a bit of life into an otherwise deteriorating or inadequate environment. A new look and feel can really boost visitor numbers and transform the atmosphere in your restaurant. However, time is of the essence here and an untimely refurbishment can destroy a restaurant’s performance and takings; especially around Valentine’s Day.
If you own a restaurant and are thinking of carrying out some major interior design work, be smart and do it after February 14th or well before. No one wants to see ladders and dust sheets on the most romantic day of the year.
Neglect Your Tripadvisor Page
Tripadvisor is a hugely popular review site for hotels, getaways, restaurants and other leisure activities. If you own a restaurant then you should have a Tripadvisor page, as it’s become an essential component of many Brits’ dining experience.
Very few couples will try a new restaurant without looking at its reviews on Tripadvisor first, so make sure you’ve responded to any negative comments and shown that you’re proactive in dealing with them, quick to explain and, crucially, apologise. Neglecting this page will cause customers to neglect you and look elsewhere, because it doesn’t fill anyone with confidence.
Forget to Stock Up
Running out of champagne on Valentine’s Day will be an embarrassment. The same can be said for all of your usual ingredients, and desserts in particular! Telling diners that you’re out of the good stuff on their magical night will not be forgiven and those customers will probably not return again. Failure to stock up properly is a huge mistake and one that cannot be rectified on the day, especially as many restaurant owners will be demanding the same thing from their suppliers.
This doesn’t just include catering supplies, but all of those little finishing touches, such as place settings, red roses and immaculate silverware. If your wine glasses are looking tired, this is the time to order a new set from your wholesaler.
Fail to Organise a Promotion
You will struggle to find a restaurant on Valentine’s Day that isn’t doing a promotion of some sort. Valentine’s Day is a day of strong competition in the restaurant world, this is what separates each place and attracts customers both new and old. A signature cocktail, a half price bottle of champagne, or a specially selected, seasonal menu – whatever it may be, a Valentine’s Day giveaway is a must. Failure to provide a special promotion, or at the very least something a bit different will cause potential restaurant-goers to look elsewhere. It’s best to start a promotion two weeks before the big day, to allow time for your tables to be booked in advance and to spread the word as much as possible.
Valentine’s Day is a fantastically profitable occasion just waiting for restaurant owners to take advantage of it, so make sure you’re fully prepared and you might even be able to sit back and enjoy it yourself.