It’s the most popular date night of the year, and it’s a chance to build a long-lasting customer relationship. Instead, restaurants treat it like a one-night stand. Restaurant owners take note: Valentine’s Day can lose you business at the expense of making money for one night. There is a different way to do things.
Like most couples, my wife and I went out to eat last night. Knowing it would be crazy at almost every restaurant, we decided to just have an appetizer in the bar on our way to a Valentine’s Dance. We arrived at a popular restaurant and there was a line out the door with close to a one-hour wait. We skated right past the line and found a table in the bar.
The harried waiter scurried by our table saying “I’ll be right with you.” Several minutes later he returned to take our drink order and left. Then he returned to apologize and say that it would be another several minutes before our we could have our drink. The bartender was too busy to make our drinks! Customers waited, the staff made excuses and apologized, the atmosphere was frantic. This experience is typical of most good restaurants.
The point is, restaurant owners miss the real opportunity of Valentine’s Day. To a restaurant it’s a big revenue day. To the customer, it’s a special date. The customer doesn’t want to be part of a big revenue day, they want a romantic memory. Give customers what they want, or more than they expect, and they will reward you with their loyalty.
But the opposite is also true. When you give customers less than they want, you give them stories of poor service. Customer loyalty disappears. You create negative word of mouth. Yes, you make money on Valentine’s night, but at what expense to your long-term business?
So restaurant owners, instead of the typical way of handling this special night for customers, try this:
- On Valentine’s Day, only accept reservations for dinner. It’s the Red Velvet Rope policy. Don’t let everyone in who shows up. Make it an exclusive evening. You control exactly how many people you serve, so you can plan appropriately. You can also pay special attention to each customer.
- Schedule more staff than you need. Even more than you usually do for Valentine’s Day. Yes, it will increase your payroll expense for the evening. But that expense will be offset by the good will you create. Rather than wondering where the server is, or when the food will come, customers can concentrate on enjoying a romantic evening.
- Make it special for the couple. Create Magic Spots, those special, memorable moments in the customer’s experience. These are the memory points the couple can later recall when they are reminiscing about the evening. These are also the memory points they use to spread word of mouth about your restaurant. Give the ladies a rose, create a special dessert. It doesn’t take much, just do something different.
Valentine’s Day is not just a day to make a lot of money. It can be the starting point for a beautiful, long-lasting customer relationship.
More on restaurants and the customer experience:
Case Study: Word of Mouth for a Bar & Grill
Case Study Update: Eddie’s Trackside Bar & Grill
How to Become the Most Popular Restaurant in Town
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[…] Restaurants Miss The Point of Valentine’s Day – What customers want and how you can give it to them on Valentine’s Day. […]