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How Restaurants Can Win Valentine’s Day Reservations

For one thing, restaurants should be prepared by knowing Valentine's Day is becoming a more communal experience, says OpenTable.

Valentine’s Day is OpenTable’s most booked date of the year, so it’s natural the reservation platform has some advice for restaurants looking to take best advantage of the day.

For one thing, Olivia Terenzio, OpenTable’s senior manager,  restaurant marketing, notes that the date is no longer just for two.

Case in point: in 2016, 79 percent of all Valentine’s Day reservations booked via OpenTable were for parties of two. That was down a bit from 81 percent in 2015.  Terenzio writes.

While Valentine’s Day is clearly still a time for a “table for two” the trend is that percentage of party sizes of three or more has grown over the past few years. From 2014 to 2015 OpenTable saw a 26 percent increase for groups of three or more, and between 2015 and 2016 the number grew another 15 percent.

“It’s interesting to see that party sizes larger than two are growing year after year, showing a larger percentage of OpenTable diners are going out in groups on Valentine’s Day,”Terenzio tells GeoMarketing. “While duos will always fill the dining room on Valentine’s Day, restaurants should prepare for larger party sizes as well.”

The other big trend that will be felt this Valentine’s Day is that day-of bookings have been steadily growing. That’s part of a wider role that “micro-moment” mobile searches are playing in the lives of consumers and local businesses.

The use of mobile to book tables for Valentine’s Day has risen significantly over the past four years, jumping from 24 percent in 2013 to 45 percent in 2016.

In general, roughly half of all OpenTable reservations are now booked on mobile, looks like smartphones are just as useful for special occasions as they are for the everyday meal.

“Last year 16 percent of Valentine’s Day reservations on OpenTable were booked day-of,”Terenzio says. “If you have last-minute availability, be sure to show it online. Promote open tables on your social media channels and via email blasts to get the word out.”

Terenzio’s other advice for restauranteurs preparing for Valentine’s Day:

  • Be ready for proposals! Have a champagne toast, flowers, or a special gift ready to send out to couples after someone pops the question. That way you’re not scrambling at the last minute to come up with something special.
  • Encourage guests dining on Valentine’s Day to add in details about their likes and dislikes in the notes section, or send them a follow-up email to ask about special preferences. It means a lot when a server shows up at the table with a favorite drink or dessert — and those little gestures pay large dividends.
  • To fill your books early, offer add-ons for advance bookings — think a complimentary glass of bubbly or dessert. Diners will be encouraged to book a couple of weeks out, and your restaurant managers will have a better handle on the evening.
About The Author
David Kaplan David Kaplan @davidakaplan

A New York City-based journalist for over 20 years, David Kaplan is managing editor of GeoMarketing.com. A former editor and reporter at AdExchanger, paidContent, Adweek and MediaPost.