The well prepared should feel the love

With Valentine’s approaching, licensees can plan ahead for a day of success

AFTER customers’ wallets have taken the month of January to recover from the onslaught of the festive season, Valentine’s Day will mark one of the first big occasions of the year for operators to really get their teeth into.

And suppliers have said that, with some careful planning, outlets across the country could be well-positioned to capitalise on the most romantic day of the year.

While it’s only one night in the on-trade, Will Holt, a director of Pinkster Gin, said the increased spend on February 14 makes Valentine’s Day “a definite red letter day for takings”.

He said: “We see Valentine’s as an annual trading highlight for the on-trade.

“Year in, year out, people are looking to spend more than usual, flash the cash and spoil their loved ones with a romantic night out.

“Last year, analysts at Global Data forecast that people would spend a whopping £987 million on gifts and cards.

“On the basis that a good chunk of this would go on drinks and dinner, there’s huge potential for bars and restaurants.”

An exclusive cocktail that has been rebranded for the occasion is bound to draw attention.

That view was echoed by Dan Bolton, managing director of Hi-Spirits, who said that with wage rises slow and consumer confidence still low, Valentine’s Day could be a “genuinely special” event.

He added that “interesting and unusual serves, including drinks with a touch of fizz and fruit, will help make a visit to the pub memorable and encourage repeat trade”.

Putting together a special drinks menu for the day, consisting of romance-themed cocktails and sparkling as well as rosé wines, is seen to be crucial for those intent on making the most of the event, alongside decorative use of warm, romantic colours to mark the venue out as one that’s celebrating the occasion.

“The colours pink and red have always been synonymously linked with Valentine’s Day,” said Jen Draper, head of marketing for soft drinks firm Franklin & Sons.

“Many vendors will look to decorate using this colour scheme both in-venue and on-menu.

“Using a colour that is specific to an occasion will direct consumers who want to celebrate specifically.

“Offering an exclusive cocktail that has been rebranded specially for the occasion is bound to draw attention and be purchased as part of a novelty among guests.

“Strawberry is the most popular flavour to be linked with Valentine’s Day.

“A natural aphrodisiac, the fruit is often linked with romantic themes and regularly features on Valentine’s specials.”

The merits of creating an interesting one-off drinks menu for the event were extolled by Bob Fowkes, founder and marketing director of Brockman’s Gin, who said it will prove “well-worth” the effort, providing “a talking point for the bartender and allows for a more creative approach”.

On the food side, a considered set menu paired with relevant wines was highlighted as a simple way to increase turnover on the night by Leslie Somerville of wine and spirits supplier Enotria & Coe.

“With set menus for food you can prepare a lot in advance and then add different drinks packages to increase the spend, and with by the glass people can try wines they would not normally buy, such as trading up from sparkling wine to Champagne,” said Somerville.

Naturally, it’s necessary to ensure that a good promotional drive accompanies any special Valentine’s Day offer to enhance awareness and make sure venues are well attended.

A considered set menu paired with relevant wines is a simple way to increase turnover.

The best way to do this is via social media, said Gillian Fagan, director of Alexander Wines.

However, a mid-January build up in marketing activity inside the venue “via blackboards and tent cards” is also a proven way to ensure word gets out, she said.

And once the event comes, it provides a prime opportunity to showcase the best of a venue’s drinks offer online – using customers’ own social media accounts.

This is something licensees would do well to take advantage of, said Fowkes of Brockman’s.

He said: “If serving special Valentine’s cocktails, remember to ensure that you have the correct garnishes to make these look really special.

“Ask your customers to Instragram or tweet images and post details of their great experience at your bar on Facebook.

“Offer a [prize] for the best social media activity.”

The potential of social media was also highlighted by Lindsay Blair, global brand ambassador for gin brand Daffy’s.

She said running competitions to like or share posts on Facebook in order to win a dinner for two “can increase awareness and ideally, lead to additional sales”.