Restaurants find fun ways to celebrate Valentine’s Day
If ever there was a February when people needed a little extra TLC, it’s this one. Rounding out their pandemic year, Americans are a little stir-crazy and still figuring out new ways to celebrate socially distanced holidays. More than half report that they’ve changed their Valentine’s Day plans, and four out of five say they’ll celebrate Cupid at home (per research technology firm Lucid via marketingdive.com).
Restaurants have always been in love with Valentine’s Day, usually the second busiest occasion all year. This year, besides their usual specials like heart-shaped foods, they’re also offering deals that reflect Americans’ altered lifestyles. Since Valentine’s Day falls on a Sunday this year, most specials are offered from Friday, Feb. 12, through the weekend.
Here’s a look at some of the more out-of-the-takeout-box offers.
♦ Dunkin’ Donuts is reprising its annual heart-shaped donuts and bringing back beverage specials: hot or iced mocha macchiato and Pink Velvet macchiato (espresso with flavors of red velvet cake and cream-cheese icing). Entirely new this year is a “Marriage is on the Menu” contest in New York state, in partnership with the drive-up wedding service I Do Drive Thru; the winning couple gets a Dunkin’ drive-thru wedding with décor, photos, a gift basket and $500. Other couples are invited to celebrate or renew their vows at the same Walkill, New York, unit on February 12. To share the love nationwide, there will be an online pop-up shop offering pink-and-orange wedding-themed Dunkin’ merchandise.
♦ White Castle, which for 30 consecutive Valentine’s Days has famously transformed its units into full-service eateries with waitstaff, table linens, festive décor, meals-for-two specials and champagne in paper cups, is doing something different: rebranding as “Slider Lover’s Point,” a classic drive-in with carhops delivering food to customers’ vehicles in pre-reserved parking spots. Offered as accompaniments are an activity brochure with suggestions for couples, families and groups to pass the time while waiting for their food order, and a special Spotify playlist featuring “shoutouts to loved ones and love stories from Cravers around the country,” collected beforehand via social media.
♦ McAlister’s Deli acknowledges that Valentine’s Day can be a time to express love en famille, not just à deux. For several years, the chain has offered a Valentine’s Day Family Date Night treat of two free kids’ meals from the children’s menu plus activity packs with purchase of an adult meal. This year, the deal is also available for takeout if ordered through the chain’s app with a special code. One new limited-time menu item perfect for sharing with loved ones: a slice of Godiva Double Chocolate Cheesecake.
♦ Red Lobster is combining fish and flowers: through Saturday, Feb. 13, rewards members who order takeout or delivery meals get a link to a 15%-off deal from 1-800-Flowers.com. Also available for all fans of the chain are downloadable recipe cards that use Red Lobster’s signature items, from Cheddar Bay Biscuit mix to Chocolate Wave Cake, as the ingredients for a Valentine’s Day dinner or brunch to make at home, including Cheddar Bay Biscuit Bowl Seafood Fondue and Chocolate Wave Cake Pops.
♦ Founding Farmers units in the Washington, D.C., area have a pick-and-choose menu of celebratory options for Valentine’s Day weekend takeout, including a dozen red roses; four meals-for-two packages (two seafood-based, one beef tenderloin and one surf-and-turf); à la carte starters, sides, breads, soups and salads; mini-cakes, chocolates and chocolate-dipped strawberries; and bottled cocktails, including a strawberry Negroni and Will You Be Mine? (house vodka, raspberry, lime and ginger).
♦ Remember the thrill of the Valentine’s Day card exchange in elementary school? Avli Taverna in Chicago’s Lincoln Park neighborhood brings it back with the Valentine Cocktail Gram, delivered to a sweetheart via DoorDash; it includes a craft cocktail, a box of housemade truffles and a kitschy Valentine’s card.
♦ What could be better for relationship-building than cooking a gourmet meal together? Scratchboard Kitchen in the Chicago suburb of Arlington Heights, Ill., is offering a live virtual cooking class on February 13. Kits with all the ingredients for a five-course dinner for two can be reserved for pickup at the restaurant earlier in the day. That evening, executive chef Grace Goudie will guide participants through preparation of the surf-and-turf menu, including a New York striploin with caramelized shallot butter; seared scallops with blood orange, fennel and pistachio; caramelized broccolini with chimichurri; black truffle risotto; and Black Forest Pavlova for dessert.
If your restaurant is planning a special treat for Valentine’s Day, start now training staff to spread the word. With every call-in order, every online order, every curbside pickup and drive-thru order, they could mention that you have special offers set up for Valentine’s Day weekend—customers will appreciate the reminder! Offer discounts if they pre-order the restaurant’s special deal early.