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While Valentine’s Day is likely a celebratory night for couples, the same isn’t necessarily true for restaurants when it comes to their bottom line.
In San Francisco, restaurants actually see revenue fall on Valentine’s Day, according to analysis from software company Womply of 42,000 small, local restaurants in 2018. The study found that transaction volume and revenue actually fall on Valentine’s Day for San Francisco restaurants — by 2 and 6 percent, respectively — compared to an average day.
In the city, Valentine’s Day sales were just the 203rd-best sales day of the year, lagging behind other holidays such as Mother’s Day, Cinco de Mayo and St. Patrick’s Day.
Nationally, California restaurants ranked 32nd in terms of Valentine’s Day sales.
On an average day, San Francisco restaurants generated $2,072 in revenue across 65 transactions, for an average value of $31.45 each. Revenue on Valentine’s Day averaged out to $1,956.
The Womply study focused on full-service restaurants that qualified as small businesses, excluding chain restaurants, cafes, and bars.
Certain categories of restaurants will benefit on Valentine’s Day, but the traffic boost “washes out” in the context of many other restaurants doing poorly that day, said Brad Plothow, vice president of branding and communications at Womply.
So what’s a restaurant to do to stand out to lovers and loners alike this Thursday?
“My favorite recommendation for restaurants is ‘surprise and delight,’” said Andrew Freeman, who helps restaurants design their concepts through his San-Francisco-based consulting firm, af & co. “Because (the customers) are going to buzz about it.”
Freeman’s other advice? Restaurants should stick to what they know best — “if your (restaurant’s) casual, stay casual” like it’s any other night — and price accordingly.
“Sometimes the wine pairing is pricier than the menu,” Freeman said, noting the expensive option some restaurants offer with special prix fixe (fixed price) courses on Valentine’s Day.
Freeman highlights the Cockscomb, a SoMa-district restaurant serving San-Franciscan inspired cuisine, as an example of Valentine’s Day done right. On that day, they offer a special “Lady and the Tramp”-inspired tasting menu.
“One of the reasons that works is that the chef there is playful all the time,” Freeman said.
For those of us who won’t be leaving the house that night, delivery is still an option. Whole Foods is offering a slew of products for emergency 1-hour or 2-hour delivery, for customers who need two dozen roses, fizzing bath bombs or Aura Cacia body oils in a pinch.