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Valentine’s Day

For many, Valentine’s Day will be the first eating-out landmark on the 2017 calendar. After a January spent watching the pennies or keeping healthy New Year resolutions, the prospect of an evening out with great food and drink will be eagerly anticipated, giving operators the opportunity to capitalise.

With three-quarters of consumers willing to spend more when eating out to celebrate a special occasion, and 42% of 16-34 year olds – an important demographic for out-of-home spending – choosing to dine out for Valentine’s Day, there is a huge opportunity available to chefs and operators who make dining experiences memorable for consumers.

Research from Callebaut – makers of Belgian chocolate – has revealed 40% are prepared to pay up to £30 more per head when celebrating a special occasion. Operators who run with this and provide an exceptional dining experience are highly likely to see their customers again. Callebaut’s research identified that 94% of people would be likely to return to an establishment that had made them feel special.

Robert Harrison, Sales Director Gourmet-Northern Europe, Callebaut, comments: “There are various reasons why people eat out but there’s a strong demand in particular around special occasions – MCA* recently highlighted this as one of the fastest growing motivators among diners.

“The fact consumers are more than willing to splash out when celebrating demonstrates that operators can boost profits by offering something extra special – which will in turn encourage them back through the door. Plus, through word of mouth and the popularity of social media, a memorable experience or dish leads to diners sharing it with friends and family, as well as online, and introducing the restaurant to a new audience.”

* MCA provides insight into the eating and drinking out market

Fizz is not just for Christmas

“Now that the mayhem of Christmas is once again out of the way, the next big consumer event looming on the horizon is Valentine’s Day,” says Bill Creighton, Wine Category Manager, Bestway Wholesale. “Fizz is a traditional and obvious choice for treating that special someone.”

Seizing the occasion

Heart in coffe

“Operators can help customers rekindle their love of eating out with appealing Valentine’s Day menus,” says Tony Holmes, Bestway Wholesale’s sales director. Here are Tony’s top tips for operators who are planning to lay on something special for Valentine’s Day:

  • Promote Valentine’s Day menus on your website and via social media from early January to encourage bookings
  • Set a menu price that allows you to welcome customers with a complimentary glass of sparkling wine, and encourage staff to suggest a bottle to go with the meal
  • Offer sharing choices with both “his and her’ appeal such as steaks, seafood and pasta
  • Include ingredients with appropriately romantic names, such as sweet potato fries and passion fruit desserts, or devise your own names for dishes e.g. Lovers’ Lasagne or Couple’s Carbonara
  • Create opportunities to upsell throughout the meal, such as Valentine’s day-themed cocktails, and liqueur coffees.

Keep it clean

Hotel room

Hotel bed

“During busy periods and on special occasions such as Valentine’s Day, it is essential operators are prepared for the rise in bookings and demand for freshly laundered sheets and crisp white table cloths that are pressed to perfection,” says Steve Clarke, Chief Commercial Officer of CLEAN – one of the UK’s leading independent laundry companies (

“The very nature of the hospitality industry is making visitors feel welcome and comfortable in an environment away from home. If the basics are addressed, such as clean linen, hotel and restaurant staff can focus on offering a generous reception, entertaining guests and providing exceptional levels of service to ensure an enjoyable stay.”

In a new research report, CLEAN got under the sheets with 1000 UK hotel guests to find out what elements of their stay are particularly important to them.

When asked what would make them rethink a return visit, 89% were put off by badly made beds and dated linen. Unsurprisingly, almost three quarters of people rated ‘cleanliness in all areas’ as a top factor when looking for a great hotel room experience, closely followed by clean, crisp and freshly pressed bed linen, which was a top factor for more than half of respondents.

The survey also revealed that UK consumers still value seamless service and a warm welcome above all else, with a third rating this the top factor.

Delicious desserts

Chocolate cake

“Desserts present a key opportunity for operators – 78% of people would be more likely to treat themselves when out for a special occasion, while a third of consumers think there should be more desserts targeting special occasions on menus,” says Robert Harrison, Sales Director Gourmet- Northern Europe, Callebaut.

“Make it a chocolate dessert and two-thirds of people would be more likely to order it. Chocolate continues to have a hold over diners and will often be the deciding factor in whether or not to order a dessert – ignore this at your peril!”

Make it special

To help chefs harness the chocolate factor, Callebaut’s Development Chef, Julie Sharp, has created ‘10 Ways To Make It Special’, a series of videos demonstrating recipes, techniques and simple tips – including heart-shaped fine decorations for Valentine’s Day as well as chocolate plaques and writing – to create a memorable experience for customers while increasing profits for the operator.

By using these easy-to-follow tips, chefs can upgrade their standard dessert to a Valentine’s Day version. The techniques demonstrated in the videos mean that chefs can offer a bespoke Valentine’s Day dessert menu without having to add new items, which can be time consuming and create other logistical difficulties. Simply add a heart-shaped decoration, for example, or pipe a message on a plaque and put that on top of the dessert.

The videos are available on Callebaut’s chocolate hub –

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