Valentine’s Day is coming up quickly and for many independent restaurants, it’s an opportunity to create some seriously romantic ambience, fill those tables and show off your chefs’ skills in the kitchen. A prix fixe menu is an excellent way to help achieve this—but you’ve got to get it right.
A prix fixe menu is often offered per person but for this particular holiday, it’s nice to offer a two-person prix fixe menu that’s designed for couples. Typically, a prix fixe menu for a couple consists of two appetizers, two entrees and two desserts—however, there are variations on this model. Consider offering a shareable app, two entrees and a shareable dessert for a slightly lighter take on a prix fixe menu. Or, offer both formats at different price points so customers can choose not only what they want to eat, but also how much food they’re ordering. Choice is good!
Have something for everyone
Let’s talk about the food. Start by mapping out the options for your main course. Ideally, you’ll offer at least three choices—perhaps a meat option, a seafood option and a vegetarian dish. You could also include a pasta, risotto or gnocchi option. Each dish must be something that can be executed efficiently and well in order to maintain a great flow of service. Focus on dishes the average customer wouldn’t prepare for themselves at home and don’t be afraid to be bold with your flavours—fusion dishes or global spice blends can be very appealing on a menu. You’ll want to clearly note which dishes are vegan, gluten-free or keto-friendly.
Next, add some first course options that complement your mains. This could include soups, salads, hot or chilled apps. We recommend offering several chilled apps (salmon tartare or a great caprese salad, for example) as this takes some of the pressure off your kitchen during service. Or, offer apps that can be prepared ahead of time, like a house-made seafood bisque. You don’t need to have pots going for all three courses!
Dessert options can range from petite bites or delicate truffles to oversized pieces of cheesecake. Consider some easy-to-execute options (gelato, chilled slices of cake) as well as oven-fresh options (a berry crumble, chocolate souffle, a warm chocolate cake or sticky toffee pudding). Ensure that your plating is beautiful—ultimately, you want to end up on Instagram with a caption explaining how delicious each bite was!
Leave room for upgrades
If you’re offering steak on your prix fixe menu, consider offering a lobster tail or seared scallops as an optional add-on. You can also offer additional apps or side dishes, bottles of champagne on ice, larger portions or other upgrades. Get creative and think about what your customers want—then, make it available so you can upsell them throughout the evening.
Include beverage options
When designing your prix fixe menu, consider your customers’ beverage options. Offer wine by the bottle, flights of craft beer, flutes of champagne or prosecco and handcrafted Valentine’s Day-themed cocktails. You may also want to include mocktail options for customers who prefer a non-alcoholic beverage. Remember, cocktail (and mocktail) presentation matters and adds value to your customer experience. Consider a romantic, colourful drink menu that utilizes lavender gin, aperol, fresh fruit, rose water, raspberry syrup and more. Finish these romantic featured drinks with a sprig of fresh rosemary, some pomegranate seeds, a heart-shaped strawberry garnish or a fresh cherry. You can also make specialty ice cubes that add colour, flavour and visual interest to each drink (think: frozen juice or fruit puree, frozen rosé, or some simple but sweet heart-shaped ice cubes). If you’re offering cappuccinos or lattes after dinner, add a dusting of cinnamon in the shape of a heart.
Create an experience
There are a few obvious ways to add romance to your independent restaurant—candles on the table, for example, or some romantic music softly playing in the background. We don’t want you to stop there, though! Give your customers an experience they won’t forget. Consider setting up different zones for couples to move in between: a glass of wine by the fireplace (or on your winter patio) before dinner, then a beautiful meal in the comfort of your main dining room. Work with a local florist to purchase roses or another flower, then hand out single blooms as couples enter the restaurant. If you see a regular customer walk in with their partner, send over two complementary glasses of prosecco as soon as they’re seated. If you have enough staff on hand, offer entrees that involve a tableside experience. And, if you’re able to make it work, consider offering live music (just make sure it’s elegant and doesn’t drown out your customer’s conversations—think romantic, not a party). By creating an experience, you’re adding value and ensuring that customers will be back the next time they’re looking for a romantic evening out.
A few more tips from our team:
- Consider offering your Valentine’s Day features for a full week instead of one evening. Not everyone can or wants to go out on a Tuesday night!
- If you aren’t interested in offering a traditional prix fixe menu, consider a tasting menu instead.
- Just this once, stay away from excessive onions and garlic on the menu. They don’t exactly say ‘kiss me’ at the end of the night!
- If your establishment is open all day, offer a Valentine’s Day lunch or brunch menu as well as dinner options.
- Remember, shareable plates are always a good idea—especially when creating a romantic dessert!
- If you want to get a bit cheeky while having fun with your menu, offer a series of courses designed around popular aphrodisiac ingredients—chocolate, figs, fresh oysters, fresh berries or melon, chocolate and hot peppers may make the list.
- Make sure your social media ads and other promotional materials are inclusive to all couples regardless of gender or sexuality. Love is love!
- You may also want to mention celebrating ‘Galentine’s Day’ or other options that may appeal to singles. You can even host a Galentine’s special on February 13th.
- Be sure to include a few rich, luxurious chocolate dessert options—a Valentine’s Day tradition—as well as lighter fare.
- Offer a pre-paid Valentine’s Day prix fixe dinner that can be given as a gift (for example, a longtime customer may treat her parents to a night out).
- Offer a call-ahead option where customers can arrange to have flowers, wine or champagne at the table upon their arrival.
- Consider holding a contest or giveaway in honour of Valentine’s Day—for example, allowing anyone who dines in to enter a draw for a gift card, or holding a social media contest that doubles as promotion for your establishment.
If you have any questions, please reach out to our team—we’d be glad to hear from you. Thank you for reading and happy Valentine’s Day!