Boost your business with seven attractive Valentine’s Day promotional ideas

By Diane Chiasson

It is a well-known fact that Valentine’s Day is one of the busiest days of the year for restaurants and foodservice operations. This holiday gives restaurant owners and operators another opportunity to increase their traffic.

Diane Chiasson, FCSI, president of Chiasson Consultants Inc., a restaurant and foodservice consulting firm in Toronto offers some advice on how you can increase your sales and bring in more customers this Valentine’s Day:

1. Make it a Valentine’s Day weekend

Since Valentine’s Day falls on a Monday this year, it will be more of a struggle to get customers to come into your restaurant for a long, multi-course romantic dinner. Offer your Valentine’s Day promotions beginning on the Friday before. Many people may not fancy the idea of dining out on a Monday night, but you can increase your weekend business by making your specials available all weekend long.

2. Target the whole family

We like to think that only couples celebrate Valentine’s Day, but kids may actually love the holiday even more. Make your restaurant’s Valentine’s Day promotion available for the whole family, and create special prix fixe menus that also include something for children, or a family-style meal. Also consider offering a special Valentine’s Day family brunch on the Saturday and Sunday before, and give out small boxes of chocolates for the kids and flowers for the moms. Set up an arts and crafts table so that kids can make their parents a Valentine’s Day card while they are in your restaurant.

3. Promote two to four weeks in advance

If your restaurant does direct mail marketing or email marketing, make sure you notify your customers of your special promotions and festivities at least two to four weeks in advance, and be sure to send out a second or third email reminder one or two days before the event. Write “Happy Valentine’s Day” at the top of your newsletter or flyer, and entice readers to come into your restaurant with mouth-watering descriptions of your special menu and any other special surprises. Encourage readers to make a reservation.

4. Partner up with other businesses

A big part of celebrating Valentine’s Day is also the gifts. Partner up with local businesses to offer special discounts for services if they eat at your restaurant. Be creative. Consider a spa for a manicure/pedicure or massage, movie tickets, broadway tickets, oil changes, flower shops… or if you are more daring, even a coupon to a sex shop. The ideas are endless. Take a walk around your neighbourhood and see what types of businesses would work best with your restaurant.

5. Run a contest

Offer a special contest for a romantic weekend getaway, or fancy gift baskets, gift cards and gift certificates to your lucky diners on Valentine’s Day. Set up an eye-catching display at the front of your restaurant with proper signage and POP displays to encourage customers to celebrate Valentine’s Day at your restaurant. Have all your customers fill out a ballot form when they come in for dinner that night. This is also a great way to build up your database.

6. Promote to students

Young people tend to celebrate love and Valentine’s Day with more enthusiasm. But many young people are also students and limited to a tight budget, so they cannot afford to go out for a nice, romantic dinner. Offer a special Valentine’s Day dinner targeted at students for $15 to $20 for a 3-course meal. If they enjoy themselves, they will be sure to tell their parents about it!

7. Create a romantic atmosphere

As with any other holiday, proper decorations are always necessary to set the right tone and atmosphere in your restaurant operation. Dim the lights, put candles on the tables, hire a band or play more romantic music. Put fresh flowers on the tables, as well as the hostess stand and other areas of your restaurant. Create menu items using ingredients that are known to be aphrodisiacs. Desserts should feature lots of rich chocolates and whipped cream. Offer a complimentary glass of champagne to all your customers.

About the author:

Diane Chiasson, FCSI, president of Chiasson Consultants Inc., has been helping restaurant, foodservice, hospitality and retail operators increase sales for over 25 years. She is recognized as one of the best restaurant consultants in Toronto.  Her company provides innovative and revenue-increasing foodservice and retail merchandising programs, interior design, branding, menu engineering, marketing and promotional campaigns, and much more. Contact her at 416-926-1338, toll-free at 1-888-926-6655 or, or visit

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