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Make the Most of Valentine's Day

Make the Most of Valentine's Day

Cocktail classes, singles dance parties and other ways to market Valentine's Day

As the second most popular day to dine out during the year, just behind Mother's Day, according to the National Restaurant Association, Valentine's Day will see between 25 percent and 30 percent of all Americans eating out.

That's not just couples looking to add a little romance to their night. Plenty of singles will get together with friends for dinner or hit bars and go dancing. In fact, 42 percent of single people in America planned to dine out on Valentine's Day in 2016, according to a 2016 OpenTable survey. Of those singles, 35 percent planned to dine with platonic friends or family. All of these Valentine's Day diners equal more opportunities to boost your sales.

Pop-up flower shops, hands-on classes

Many restaurants will offer multi-course prix-fixe menus to entice diners looking to splurge for a romantic Valentine's Day dinner, but plenty of other promotions can grab people's attention to make the night special.

New York Spanish restaurant Salinas will have a temporary flower shop. The restaurant imports beautiful roses from Ecuador throughout the year to decorate its dining rooms. After guests inquired throughout the year about where they can get the flowers, co-owner Mary Catherine Mikula decided to set up a pop-up Valentine's Day flower shop inside the restaurant. She will offer two arrangements for $75 and $125 where guests can have a gorgeous bouquet at their table to then take home.

"It's a natural progression to offer floral arrangements as I have been creating a mood for the restaurant (all year)," Mikula says. "The roses are a part of our signature look and I wanted to offer a romantic gift for our guests to enjoy."

Through a $95 tapas tasting menu in its bar, Salinas hopes to draw people who want to walk in and sit at the bar without the pressure of needing to pre-plan a romantic evening.

You can also host different types of cooking or cocktail classes for couples and singles. Chicago's Violet Hour cocktail lounge will host a 90-minute bitters making class titled, "How Bitter is Your Love?" For $115 per person or $200 for two (couples aren't necessary), guests will learn the history of bitters, enjoy cocktails and leave with their own custom bitters blend.

"We weren't necessarily envisioning it as a couple's class," says Violet Hour events manager Rachael Thompson. "The expectation is more that, yes, this is an activity couples can absolutely enjoy together, but it also appeals to singles, whether in a group of friends or on their own."

In Denver, Italian restaurant Coperta will preempt Valentine's Day with a couple's cocktail making class on Feb. 10. The $45 class, led by beverage director Jon Feuersanger, will teach attendees a variety of cocktail tricks, including how to craft large-format drinks for two.

Add an anti-Valentine's Day focus

Chicago's the Whistler will host the singles-focused "I Love Me" dance party, offering a variety of drink specials for this anti-Valentine's Day bash, including the mezcal-based drink cheekily named I Will Survive after Gloria Gaynor's 1978 disco hit.

"Singles tend to be an afterthought around Valentine’s Day, but that is definitely not the case at The Whistler," says co-owner Billy Helmkamp. "Our goal is simply for everyone to have fun and make new friends."

Another singles-focused event includes the UnValentine's Day Mixer at Harold's Meat + Three in New York where chef/owner Harold Moore will host a party featuring a free buffet with tacos, fried chicken and cheeseburger sliders while patrons enjoy drink specials like sharable punch bowls and heart-shaped Jell-O shots and a live DJ. Chicago's casual taco-focused restaurant Tuco and Blondie will host a two-hour $30 wristband event between 7 p.m. and 9 p.m. on Valentine's Day to encourage people to mix and mingle while enjoying heavy appetizers and margarita specials. They'll also give away a $100 gift card to come back for a future meal — possibly with someone you meet on Feb. 14.

Keep it simple

Things don't need to be so organized either. You can host a game night or a trivia tournament at your establishment while offering drink specials and a prize. It's a way to drive in business for people who either don't want to spend a lot on a big dinner or simply get together with friends. Or offer a buy one get one free (BOGO) special for lower-priced menu items, appetizers or drinks. Fast-casual Chicago Indian restaurant Hakka Bakka Kati Rolls will offer BOGO entrees, including chicken or chickpea kati roll, a rice bowl or salad bowl, between $8 and $9.75. The offer will be available during lunch and dinner on Feb. 14 with one free entrée per order.

There are plenty of ways to stand out without having to do an over-the-top prix-fixe menu. You just need to get a little creative so you don't miss out on all that great Valentine's Day business.