Valentine's Day is a massive opportunity in the hospitality industry to fill every table and their diners' hearts... not to mention the tills too!
According to the latest evidence from the United States, where consumer trends are often set for the whole world, people are splashing out more than ever on their loved ones this year.
It would be easy to think that to fully maximise their bookings and their sales, bars and restaurants really need February 14th to fall on the weekend. But that would be a mistake, as you'll soon see that Valentine's Day is no “one-night wonder” for hospitality venues, but is actually a great opportunity to boost your revenue for a whole week or even more.
With a weekend at each end and the big day itself falling right in the middle on a Wednesday this year (2024), there are many ways you can squeeze more value from every service over seven days!
So, in this blog, we're going to share some of the key statistics you need to know about Valentine's Day and it's potential value to hospitality venues in the UK. We'll also include a few tips from the ResDiary team to help you charm your customers and avoid any heartbreaks by being fully prepared.
Food remains at the heart of Valentine's Day (and the heart of the week this year)
Around 25% of Brits prefer to celebrate Valentine's Day with a meal out, offering a substantial pool of potential customers that probably wouldn't normally be making reservations midweek.
That's only counting the big day and many people will also prefer to stick to booking tables on the weekend, of which, there are two either side. With Valentine’s Day falling on a Wednesday in 2024, there's an opportunity to not just squeeze as many couples in as you can on a single night, but you could extend the festivities across nine whole days - you could even turn it into something of a mini festival - spreading the love even further!
This also means that you could also squeeze as much value as possible out of any investment in themed menus, special offers, and perhaps additional entertainment too.
Going beyond the big day also broadens the appeal to include events and offer something different to previously untapped markets, like "Galentine's," catering to female friends.
From first impressions to everlasting love
First impressions can count for a lot, especially on a first date. That's true not just for your customers, but for your venue too! Becoming the memorable venue for a romantic date holds significant value in you building a long lasting relationship with your customers and turning them into regular diners.
Research indicates that nearly half of Brits prefer to revisit a place where they enjoyed a special meal and drinks before. ResDiary’s Beyond the Booking report from 2023 also found that 53% of diners, looking back to the last time they dined out, went to a restaurant they had visited before.
Make them fall in love with you and that first encounter might be a marriage for life. At ResDiary, we've seen case studies where this is proven to be true and those venues were able to provide a more personalised experience every time their regular diners returned and even became the go-to choice for future celebrations.
Beyond the menu, factors such as ambiance, service, and personal touches play a crucial role in setting the scene for an unforgettable Valentine's Day experience. By being imaginative with small, memorable extras throughout the from booking to paying the bill, venues can make a lasting impression, potentially turning a first encounter into a long-term relationship.
"If you like it then you'd better put a ring on it"
Valentine's Day presents a unique challenge for hospitality venues in that they don't just want to attract as many bookings as possible, but keeping them can also be a struggle.
Grappling with no-shows can be a constant stress for restaurants, bars, pubs, and hotels. According to our research, 5% of confirmed bookings in January and February last year failed to materialise, resulting in significant revenue losses for those businesses. This issue becomes even more pronounced during an extended Valentine’s offer spanning multiple days, where a missed booking could result in lost revenue.
Sending out booking reminders before their reservation and accepting credit card details as a deposit are all tried and tested methods for preventing no-shows. They can also seamless slip into your booking journey.
ResDiary expert, Rui Martins (Head of Customer Success), emphasises the importance of communication in addressing this concern. He said, “Similar to any relationship, the language you use can significantly impact outcomes, so ensure your messaging is friendly and approachable.
Avoid overwhelming customers with excessive texts and emails, but also ensure they remain aware of their reservation by sending carefully-timed reminders, accompanied by the option to modify the booking prior to their reservation. Additionally, clearly outline your no-show terms to prevent disputes in case cancellation fees need to be applied—a sort of hospitality industry pre-nup!”
Venues shouldn't be shy about making the first move
This may be contrary to assumptions among hospitality venue operators, but research indicates that more than a third of diners (36%) typically look for a table only two or three days in advance, dispelling the notion that venues are generally fully booked on Valentine's Day. With more days available to run promotions and fill seats, the competition for Valentine's reservations will be fierce.
That's why a bold and well-targeted approach to sharing special offers is crucial leading up to the Valentine's period. This could be weeks or even months in advance. So, don't rely on diners to make the first move or discover you by chance, make the first move!
Young heart run free (all over social media)
Here's an interesting fact, did you know that Gen Z and younger millennials (18-34 years old) are the most likely to make restaurant reservations in advance, with 29% expressing an interest in doing so. Interestingly, the trend skips a generation or two, with those over 55 (24%) being the second most likely to seek reservations in advance, instead of Generation X or older millennials.
But it's not just booking habits venue operators need to consider when they want to maximise their table bookings for Valentine's Day. Age plays a role in how people celebrate Valentine's Day too and how you should market to them. Unsurprisingly, the best approach with Gen Z diners could be incorporating Instagrammable elements into the experience. This could mean getting creative with the decor or creating a menu that looks as pretty on social snaps as it tastes!
Valentine's Day is synonymous with increased drink sales in the hospitality industry. CGA by NIQ data reveals a 135% jump in cocktail sales, making inventive, love-themed concoctions a core component of any Valentine's Day menu. Remember, this year you've got a whole week to keep the romance flowing with tasty cocktails featured every night for the whole duration of the Valentine’s offering!
Additionally, and perhaps unsurprisingly, sparkling wine and wine see significant increases in popularity, presenting an opportunity for venues to capitalise on these trends. Why not offer a couple of glasses (or even bottles) up front during the booking process to charm your diners and take some up-front revenue?
A match made in heaven
With a mid-week Valentine's Day approaching, an extended celebration offers hospitality operators a unique opportunity to maximise profits, broaden appeal, and create lasting impressions to new diners. By implementing some of the insights outlined in this article, you can make the most of this romantic occasion, turning it into a memorable experience for both customers and your businesses.