Parties of two make up the bulk of reservations on Valentines Day, but not every diner is part of a couple, and restaurants are increasingly finding ways to make this ever-romantic occasion inclusive for all guests. After all, thats what hospitality is all about.
In fact, nearly one-fifth of Valentine’s Day reservations* in 2019 were for parties of more than two people. We asked restaurants how they leverage a festive season to attract groups and singles, from Galentines Day celebrations to brand partnerships. Try these tips to win over guests and fill your books beyond the 14th.
Encourage communal dining
Like many restaurants, Chicagos Sunda New Asian is filled with couples on Valentines Day, but the most energized areas of the restaurant are the communal tables and sushi bar, says director of operations Brett Shane. Communal-style dining allows large groups to still enjoy the evening interacting with other diners next to them, he explains, adding that single diners are a fan of our sushi bar. Theres entertainment for everyone: Communal seatings sparks conversation and engagement, and singles at the bar can watch sushi masters at work.
Show off shareable plates
Restaurant operators agree that when it comes to group celebrations, shareable dishes are key. Charlestons Parcel 32 chose Bubbles and Pearls as their 2019 theme, serving Champagne specials (half-off select bottles) and $1.50 oysters. This time around, they will pair half-bottles of wine with cheese plates. Smaller, shareable plates make for a much more social experience, says Brittany Miller, the groups director of marketing.
At Sunda, the kitchen developed new dishes specifically for sharing, including baked oysters with uni lobster butter. For Washington, DCs Urbana, last years Galentines Day included $10 pizza and prosecco. Instead of bottles of wine, offer drink specials or large-format cocktails that can be shared with friends, advises Ryan Brewster, the restaurants general manager.
But dont forget your regular hits
In addition to Valentines Day specials, many restaurants offer their full dinner menu on Valentines Day, so single and group diners dont feel limited by the set menus that tend to rule on holidays. If youre celebrating Valentines Day, great. If youre not, we have you covered, too, says Brewster. Shane swears the format (something familiar, something new) pays off: Year after year, Sunda has always been booked by couples and large group parties.
Miller recommends highlighting relevant shareable dishes from your regular menu instead of developing an entirely new repertoire for Galentines Dayespecially if your kitchen is already learning a new Valentines Day menu.
Whether as singles, couples, or groups, guests are out to celebrate the week of Valentines Day themes and gimmicks are welcome. Along with Parcel 32s Bubbles and Pearls, the restaurant served decadent chocolates and petit fours. This year, Sunda will serve a Bleeding Heart sushi roll and umelicious pink plum sake. These dishes are not just for couples, theyre great options for large groups and single diners as well, says Shane.
If over-the-top romance isnt on brand, consider the opposite extreme: Bar Pilar in Washington, DC, offered an anti-Valentines Day menu with offal dishes and bitter cocktails.
Alternatively, consider a female-centric approach. This Galentines Day, Urbanas lead bartender will create three themed cocktails using spirits from Republic Restoratives, a local small-batch, women-owned distillery and bar. A DJ will spin from a power-themed playlist while guests make memories in a photo booth and everyone who visits the bar gets a complimentary glass of bubbles. [Read More…]