This month, co-owner Cara Graham brings the LT Blog. She gives readers a behind the scenes look at Valentine’s Day taking a look at: what it takes for the restaurant to help make your night great, three tips to help you make it your best experience yet and the one thing you need to do as soon as you finish reading this blog!
Valentine’s is a very festive time for a restaurant. It’s one of those nights of the year when servers have a bit more spirit to them. They dress differently, just like they do on New Year’s Eve. They put on some sparkles and such. The feel of the restaurant is more like a Hallmark Holiday. It’s special. You can feel the difference in the air.
The pace is different on that night as well. When the kitchen and the front of the house find their timing everything falls together into a nice rhythm. They know what to prepare for, and it gives the entire restaurant a different feel. When those doors open, they’re ready. It’s not one of those nights where you have walk-ins or just random situations. It’s very organized and very planned. We have fewer curve balls thrown our way.
The menu is limited on Valentine’s. That’s the only way you can produce that amount of food for that amount of people in that short amount of time. For those of you who may not know, we offer five courses that are specially designed just for Valentines. We start you off with champagne and lobster popcorn.
When it comes to Valentine’s Day, there are some key ingredients to assure the guest has a great night. One of them is organization. For example, a casual diner may not be aware that on this one particular night, you have to literally reconfigure the restaurant to fit just tables for two. No groups. In the food industry we refer to these as two tops (tables that seat only two).
This means that it changes the whole dynamic of the entire restaurant. Whereas on a normal night I am working around tables for 4 and 6, now I have to redesign the tables and chairs to fit tables for two only.
Another ingredient is timing. On an average night 2 tops are given about 1.5 hours for a turn (which means the length of time the diners are at the table). Four-tops get about two hours, six-tops usually 2.5 hours. 90% of the time that is about dead on. But on a night like Valentine’s Day, you have to allow more time.
It’s funny. In preparing for this blog, I actually asked random people, “Give me your first thoughts about Valentine’s Day.” The majority of the responses were, “It’s Amateur night.” What that means to industry folks is this: that is the night when the rest of the world comes out to dine—basically, those who only go out to eat at a fine restaurant about twice a year. We are happy that they have trusted and chosen us with their hard earned money. They can also be assured that we don’t take this lightly. We will ensure they have an amazing night.
So whether you’re a professional diner or feeling a bit like an amateur, no worries. Here are three tips to ensure you have a great Valentine’s experience:
Cara’s Top Three!
1. Be Nice.
The first person you are going to encounter is the one who answers the phone at the restaurant you call. When you make your reservation be nice…that is the first step into your night. Whether you know it or not, you are setting the tone for your entire evening. Remember: You will see them again. Your interaction with them sets the whole tone for your upcoming night.
2. Be Calm.
Chill out—as best as you can. People get very uptight and expectations are high on Valentine’s. Sad, but true. What you need to hear is this: there really aren’t a lot of fumbles on that night. So, spare yourself the stress. Don’t set expectations so high, enjoy the moment that you’re in, and relax. Our job is to take excellent care of you.
3. Be Aware.
One thing you need to know—Everyone else on the entire planet wants to come to dinner at 7:30 pm. Unless you call 2-3 months in advance, chances are slim to none that you’re going to get that precious time slot. Believe it or not, people that call me during Christmas are the ones that get that spot. And it fills up fast! (Hey, if you’re smart, mark your calendar next Christmas for your Valentine’s Date. Even if you don’t have a Valentine yet, be prepared.) To be honest, this situation is true for every Friday night and Saturday, but we really want to focus on Valentine’s at this time.
If you’re still reading this and you don’t yet have a reservation, stop what you’re doing, pick up the phone now and make them. People actually walk into a restaurant on Valentine’s without a reservation. Don’t let this be you…