Crush Valentine’s Day with 13 easy-to-execute ideas

Give guests an unforgettable date night on Valentine’s Day with an OpenTable Experience. They are a cinch to set up, and you probably already have special events and promotions, like brunch or happy hour, that can be easily rebranded as an experience. And once you do that, you’ll reap the rewards of new marketing opportunities, upfront cash flow, and more predictable, streamlined service.

As Valentine’s Day approaches, here are some ideas for transforming what you’re already doing into an experience to create memorable events for your guests with minimal effort.

Experience-ify what you’re already doing

It’s easy to overlook the special nature of something that happens in your restaurant week in and week out. But recasting these moments as the experiences they are is often a more accurate way to show them off to guests.

Here are some examples of how to rebrand things you may already be doing as Valentine’s Day experiences:

Happy hour

Not every couple looking to celebrate can carve out the time or money for a multi-course meal. In the days leading up to Valentine’s Day, rename your usual happy hour “Valentine’s Happy Hour.” Promote your cozy lounge or two-top bar tables as well as any drink or food specials that would appeal to the romantically inclined—like two-for-one oysters or specials on sparkling wine.

Prix fixe menus

If your regular menu has a built-in prix fixe or tasting menu option, that’s a Valentine’s experience waiting to happen. It’s as simple as reframing it as a date night and requiring prepayment. This strategy can reduce no-shows, streamline operations, and make the meal simpler for guests. Consider offering a few upsell options, like luxurious supplements (such as shaved white truffles, ethically produced foie gras, or a single-origin chocolate dessert) to increase revenue.

Weekend brunch

Because Valentine’s Day falls on a Monday this year, many guests may want to celebrate the weekend before. It’s the perfect opportunity to spin your usual brunch into a holiday brunch experience. One simple way to make it feel a little more special is to encourage guests to order appetizers and desserts and then course the meal out to elevate it to special-occasion status. Take the opportunity to hype up your mimosa or bloody mary bar if that’s part of your brunch routine.

Lunch specials

Since Valentine’s Day is on a workday this year, you might want to highlight your usual two- or three-course weekday lunch special. It may appeal to those who are working from home, especially since couples with kids will likely already have daytime childcare in place. You can help them sneak away and squeeze in a midday celebration of romance.

Drink pairings

Capitalize on the celebratory mood with drink pairings. You can offer wine, beer, cocktail, or non-alcoholic beverage pairings for every course on a tasting menu, which may be something you are already doing anyway.

Dessert menu

If you have a pastry chef, consider offering a Valentine’s Day dessert experience to incentivize couples to come in toward the end of your service or at another shoulder time for a sweet treat. You can offer your regular dessert menu and after-dinner drinks menu, or try a dessert tasting with several smaller portions served as mini courses.

Bonus merch

Many restaurants sell bottled sauces, cookbooks, T-shirts, and other branded merchandise. If you sell items, consider including one with a prix fixe meal and packaging it as an experience. Many guests will welcome the opportunity to kill two birds with one stone by merging a Valentine’s gift and a night out. Or have your pastry chef make a small item to-go such as a bag of granola or a few scones for guests to enjoy the next morning.

Easy ways to uplevel

There are plenty of opportunities to take what you’re already doing and turn it into Experiences for guests with minimal effort. However, if you want to do something bigger, there are also many ways to create memorable and romantic Valentine’s Day Experiences for guests that are extra special.

Champagne toast

Add sparkling wine specials by-the-glass to your normal happy hour and package it as a champagne toast experience. This gives guests a low-key way to celebrate love this year, but it still feels like a romantic and festive event.

Floral arrangements

Setting a romantic scene is important, and few touches are more romantic than fresh flowers. Partner with a local florist to make your dining room’s atmosphere stand out from the crowd, both in person and on Instagram, or offer bouquets as an experience add-on.

High tea

It’s true that the vast majority of people visiting restaurants for Valentine’s Day will likely be paired off. However, in recent years love birds have been joined by groups of friends for celebrations like “Galentine’s Day” as well. These groups, and even some couples, might prefer an afternoon tea experience to a traditional meal. Tea service can keep your costs low even as guests are willing to pay a premium for this special experience.

Proposal packages

Restaurants are the backdrop for many marriage proposals each Valentine’s Day. Capitalize on this by setting up an experience for people who want to pop the question. A proposal Experience might include a special menu, the service of hiding the ring, a server willing to snap photos, and a glass of bubbly.

Give back

One feel-good way to encourage guests to book—and perhaps pay!—in advance is to donate a portion of the cost (either a percentage of the price or a dollar amount) to a charity that’s close to your heart.

Aphrodisiac menu

Give your holiday menu a theme by adding an aphrodisiac ingredient to every course. Oysters, figs, chili peppers, asparagus, and strawberries are all thought to enhance the mood for love—whether or not these ingredients have any effect is questionable, but it is a fun way to spark menu creativity and get guests into the spirit.

Mood music

The right kind of live music—a piano player or a jazz trio—can really enhance the romantic vibes. If you go this route, don’t forget to play it up in your experience description. But even if musicians aren’t in the budget, you can still put together a swoon-worthy playlist that will strike the right note for Valentine’s Day guests.

Once you’ve seen how easy it can be to set up an experience, you may find yourself looking for ways you can host them not only on holidays but any time throughout the year.

Download our checklist for more tips on how to make Valentine’s Day a hit.

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