Love Spurned, Restaurant Style
Valentine’s Day is one of the busiest nights of the year for restaurants but for some, their revenue is coming from an unusual source: singles.
A number of operators around the country are choosing to not celebrate Valentine’s Day, or to celebrate an anti Valentine’s Day, and are reaping the financial rewards.
Last year, sales were around 60 percent higher on Valentine’s Day than a typical night at 1534, a French restaurant in New York City.
Next month it will host its second Valentine’s Day Summer Fling, which it says transports diners from the Big Apple “to an exotic paradise far from Lover’s Cove.”
The restaurant will offer special cocktails, tapas, unromantic music, and no tables for two, between 9 p.m. and 2 a.m.
“We’re trying to create an atmosphere for people who are not so lucky to have someone on Valentine’s Day,” says owner Justin Noel.
“We’ll promote it as an official event but the idea of it is that we’re creating an atmosphere for people who would like to go out, but don’t want to go to a place where they can’t partake in a prix fixe menu because they’re not part of a couple. It’s for people coming out with their friends and realizing that there are other people who are single or unattached.”
Noel expects sales this year to be similar to last year’s, but is making a couple of changes. He will introduce a DJ playing Tiki-inspired music but will abandon a message board that was used last year for diners to leave anonymous messages for each other.
Hula’s Modern Tiki in Phoenix is celebrating Valentine’s Day by doing nothing at all, in the hope of attracting singles to its restaurant.
“We’re staying away from the pre-fixe menus, two-top tables, pink hearts on the wall, and Michael Bolton music,” says owner Dana Mule. “So we decided to be the alternate Valentine’s Day.”
Hula’s runs an anti-Valentine’s Day every year and sales are typically 50 percent higher than on a typical night, Mule says.
And he doesn’t even do anything to promote the event beyond mentioning it on social media and table tents.
1534 also uses social media and includes a flyer with checks to inform diners about its event.
Eighteen Applebee’s locations in California that are owned and operated by Gala Corp. will be hosting a late-night party from 9 p.m. to midnight on Valentine’s Day, especially for singles.
“We’ve been focusing more on a late-night push for the last year and a half or so this fits in with that,” says spokeswoman Stacy Griffis. “We’ve been interested in bringing in a different group and making our restaurants more relevant in our communities.
“[We] provide a place for our target demographic to go when everything else in the area has shut down. Our locations are located in more rural areas that may not have late hour events and by offering late-night parties, we, as a restaurant concept, become a relevant piece of late night activities.”
Last year, the first of running this event, the Applebee’s locations saw sales between 9 p.m. and 2 a.m. rise by between five and 10 percent.
Drink specials such as the Flirtini and appetizer specials are offered and some locations even do some speed dating events.
There’s an additional benefit to holding a late-night Valentine’s party, says Griffis. “We are able to increase the awareness of our events and in turn, gain new regular customers.”
By Amanda Baltazar