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Most Popular Valentine’s Day Restaurant Specials To Help Boost Sales

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Justin GuinnAuthor

Valentine’s Day 2024 is Wednesday, February 14. The date night service is a prime time for romantic dinners, heart-shaped foods, and all the volume restaurants can handle.

To help better understand Valentine’s Day specials and restaurant promotion ideas, Toast analyzed food and alcohol sales from Valentine’s Day 2023.

In this article, you’ll see the dominance of the Valentine’s Day service and learn what the most popular Valentine’s menu items were in 2023 across the 11 major metros we analyzed. See how Americans change their spending habits on V-Day for a romantic night and delicious dinner.

Read on to understand how these insights can help you plan crowd-pleasing Valentine’s Day restaurant specials to maximize revenue across dine-in and online ordering.

Top Valentine’s Day 2023 menu and performance insights1

  • Valentine's Day 2023 saw a 1% increase in total food items sold compared to the annual daily averages — but a whooping 34% increase in overall sales attributed to food on the day (measured by gross merchandise volume [GMV]).

  • Guests spend more than double (108%) on steaks on Valentine’s Day overall compared to the annual daily average — $191,000 vs $92,000.

  • Nearly three and a half times more wine was ordered on Valentine’s Day 2023 compared to an average day throughout the year.

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Valentine's Day holds immense potential for restaurant operators, making it a crucial day to maximize sales and profits.

According to insights from Toast, Valentine's Day 2023 had a significantly higher spend by diners compared to the daily average throughout the year. 

The total gross merchandise volume (GMV) for food sales on Valentine's Day 2023 was 34% higher1 than the annual daily average — not bad for a Tuesday.

Interestingly, Valentine's Day 2023 only saw a 1% increase in total food items sold on the day —  so the bump in food GMV isn't really attributable to order volume. It may be the case that guests order more expensive menu items on Valentine's Day. Or it may be that restaurants run special menus that feature more intricate, higher priced menu items.  

Along with food, Valentine's Day 2023 saw a 19% increase in alcohol items sold compared to the annual daily averages1.

All this on a relatively off year for Valentine’s Day in 2023...

Our research found that an average full-service restaurant (FSR) Valentine’s Day dinner with food and drink on the Toast platform was $102 in 2023 before tips — down from $107 in 20222.

By being strategic with menu prices and controlling costs, restaurant operators can capitalize on this surge in spending — giving themselves a Valentine’s Day gift in the form of heart-shaped profits.

Order insights to help plan Valentine’s Day Restaurant Specials

When planning Valentine's Day restaurant specials, it is crucial to identify the menu items that resonate most with diners on this romantic occasion — for in-store and takeaway orders.

The data can help provide a deeper understanding of the items that sell exceptionally well, both in terms of quantity and value.

Let’s look at the increases in total GMV attributable to specific food items on Valentine’s Day compared to the annual daily average.

This high-level look shows us that guests spend more than double (108%) on steaks on Valentine’s Day overall compared to the annual daily average — $191,000 vs $92,0001.

Let’s go a step deeper and compare that spend by the number of items ordered — the total attributable GMV for food items by the total number of those same food items sold. 

This will help us gauge the popularity and premium pricing potential of certain food items.

Desserts, baked goods, and pastry items experienced a staggering 54% increase in GMV per item sold on the day compared to the annual daily average1

This shows that guests are choosing to purchase more expensive desserts and baked goods, or restaurants are charging more for these items compared to normal — likely a combination of the two.

Regardless of how you cut the data, these increases highlight desserts, steak, and seafood as must-have menu ideas for Valentine’s Day dinner. 

Most popular overall Valentine’s Day food items

Here are the most popular Valentine's Day foods based on their increases in order rate compared to the daily average for all of 20231

Furthermore, analyzing Valentine's Day food item orders by city reveals interesting insights.

Let’s call out a few of the largest increases in Valentine’s Day menu orders compared to the annual daily averages for cities we analyzed.

In Atlanta, over twice as many fajitas were ordered on Valentine’s Days 2023 (+108%) compared to the annual daily average. That’s accompanied by a 70% increase in steak orders and a 32% increase in sushi orders1.

Miami saw nearly twice as many steak orders on Valentine’s Day 2023 compared to the annual daily average (86%). Miami also had six more menu items with at least 40% increase in order rate on Valentine’s Day1:

  • Enchilada +69%

  • Sushi +67% 

  • Rice +62%

  • Taco +53%

  • Dumpling +47%

  • Pasta + 45%

San Francisco had 74% more steak orders on Valentine’s Day 2023 compared to the annual daily average — followed by fajitas and enchiladas with 56% and 45% increases1.

Most popular overall Valentine’s Day alcohol items

Here are the most popular Valentine's Day alcohols based on their increases in order rate compared to the daily average for all of 2023:

Wine was THE DRINK for Valentine’s Day 2023, with a whooping 242% increase over the annual daily average — that’s almost three and a half more wines ordered on Valentine’s Day compared to a single wine ordered on an average day throughout the year1.

Interestingly, and perhaps as a result of the uptick in wine orders, beer and mixed drinks fell significantly on Valentine’s Day 2023 compared to the annual daily average.

Maximizing profits by balancing menu selection with plate costs

While aiming to create unforgettable dining experiences for your guests on Valentine's Day, it is important to consider cost control strategies to boost your profit margins.

Balancing your menu selection with plate costs allows you to offer special meals without compromising your bottom line.

One approach to maximize profitability is to focus on menu items that have a high profit margin and are also popular among diners.

By analyzing the data, you can identify the dishes that experienced significant increases in orders on Valentine's Day while keeping an eye on their associated costs.

For example, steak consistently ranks among the top choices for Valentine's Day, with significant increases in orders across various metros. This creates an opportunity to feature different cuts or preparations of steak that offer a higher profit margin.

Additionally, optimizing portion sizes and exploring ingredient substitutions can help control plate costs and increase profitability.

Offering pre-fixed menus with carefully selected dishes allows for better cost management while still providing a delightful dining experience. It also helps streamline operations in the kitchen, ensuring a smooth and efficient service on this bustling night.

Nail your Valentine’s Day promotion ideas

Last year, we researched what Valentine’s Day promotion ideas, restaurant specials, and limited-time offers would encourage guests to order from a restaurant for Cupid’s Day.

For consumers with restaurant plans for Valentine’s Day, 40% said buy-one, get-one (BOGO) promos are the most likely to encourage them to order from a particular restaurant. That was followed very closely by restaurant discounts on menu-specific items (36%), special Valentine’s Day tasting (35%), prix fixe menus (34%), and special discounts on the day for loyalty program members (33%)3.

The idea of unique, special menus can appeal to consumers who are looking for a limited-time, differentiated experience.

The proper amount of Valentine’s Day menu engineering can also make your appetizers, entrees, and desserts quite profitable — not to mention wine pairings.

Of course, they can also be a serious headache for your back of house — especially if you run your regular menu alongside these new pickups.

Social media and marketing tools to attract new customers on Valentine’s Day

Restaurant marketing strategies and tools can be a great way to bring repeat guests, new customers, and their significant others into your restaurant. 

A restaurant marketing strategy refers to the collective marketing efforts or activities — also known as marketing campaigns — made by a restaurant over a year. The run-up to Valentine’s Day can feature one or multiple campaigns targeting different guest segments.

Social media can be a great place to post photos of loved ones enjoying a heart-shaped pizza. There’s infinite potential for funny aphrodisiac hashtags about your menu items.

It can be helpful to organize and track your strategy in a restaurant marketing plan PDF.

For marketing tools, operators can leverage an email marketing platform as well as a customer loyalty program to engage past and potential customers in the run-up to Valentine’s Day — and all year long. 

It can be lovely to have these systems directly integrated, or native, to your point of sale system. For example, Toast POS marketing tool features seamless email and loyalty programs that can streamline messaging and help incentivize return visits.

Optimize your restaurant for Valentine’s Day and beyond

Forecasting and planning for Valentine’s Day and other such holidays is essential if you are aiming for optimized profits on the day. Margins are thin out there, especially with shrinking, but still present food inflation. This makes it all more important to capitalize on these higher-traffic days.

Sales data from the prior year can be a great starting point (reminder: Valentine’s Day is always on February 14.) Reviewing past sales can help give you an idea of what to expect, though it’s important to put that in the context of any relevant marketing efforts employed for the day. 

If your restaurant keeps notes from each shift, these would be great to analyze and provide context to the previous year's Valentine’s Day sales.

If you stop and think about it, why wouldn’t you do this restaurant forecasting and planning every day or at least every week? While the big days can be hugely impactful, detailed, consistent planning can help impact every day — like a rising tide lifts all ships. 

Many operators are already employing this level of consistent analysis. If that's you, great work! It may be time to think about going deeper. For example, perhaps you can turn your eye to maximizing margins by recipe costing and calculating plate costs

And if you’ve never reviewed past sales data or completed any type of forecasting, no sweat! There’s plenty of restaurant tech built precisely for you that can simplify this work. 

First, you’ll want a strong foundation in point of sale with basic reporting tied to it. From there, restaurant tech stacks can include: 



Methodology

1- This Valentine’s Day report, powered by Toast, uncovers key trends across the restaurant industry through aggregated sales data from a selection of 11 U.S. cities: Austin, Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Indianapolis, Los Angeles, Miami, Nashville, New Orleans, New York, San Francisco. 

Toast analyzed transactions on the Toast platform from January 1, 2023, to December 31, 2023, to determine the popularity of food items and alcoholic beverages. Toast then compared the 2023 daily average volume with the average volume for February 14, 2023.

This information is provided for general informational purposes only, and publication does not constitute an endorsement. Toast does not warrant the accuracy or completeness of any information, text, graphics, links, or other items contained within this content. Individual results may vary. Toast does not guarantee you will achieve any specific results if you follow any advice herein. It may be advisable for you to consult with a professional such as a lawyer, accountant, or business advisor for advice specific to your situation. This Valentine’s Day Report is not indicative of the operational performance of Toast or its reported financial metrics.

2 - The Restaurant Trends Report, powered by Toast, uncovers key trends across the restaurant industry through aggregated sales data from a selection of cohorts of restaurants on the Toast platform, which has approximately 79,000 locations as of Dec 31, 2022, in the U.S. All growth rates are calculated on a same-store sales basis for the applicable period of time. The Restaurant Trends Report is not indicative of the operational performance of Toast or its reported financial metrics, including GMV growth and same-store GMV growth.

3 - Toast conducted a blind survey of 970 U.S. adults ages 18 and older from January 13, 2023 - January 14, 2023. Respondents were not made aware that Toast was fielding the study.  All respondents indicated they order from restaurants at least 3 - 5 times per month. Using a standard margin of error calculation, at a confidence interval of 95%, the margin of error on average is +/- 4 - 5%.

Forward-Looking Statements

This report contains forward-looking statements within the meaning of the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995, which are not guaranteed, and are subject to risks, uncertainties, and changes in circumstances that are difficult to predict. Forward-looking statements are based on our current expectations and assumptions, which may not prove to be accurate. These statements are not guarantees and are subject to risks, uncertainties, and changes and we assume no obligation to update or revise any forward-looking statement, except as required by law. Specific factors that could cause actual results to differ materially from forward-looking statements include, but are not limited to, the effect of economic conditions in the United States and globally, general industry conditions and the other important factors disclosed previously and from time to time in Toast’s filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission. Toast does not guarantee you will achieve any specific results if you follow any advice herein.

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DISCLAIMER: This information is provided for general informational purposes only, and publication does not constitute an endorsement. Toast does not warrant the accuracy or completeness of any information, text, graphics, links, or other items contained within this content. Toast does not guarantee you will achieve any specific results if you follow any advice herein. It may be advisable for you to consult with a professional such as a lawyer, accountant, or business advisor for advice specific to your situation.