If there's one thing that Valentine's Day stands for, it's not love, but opportunity. Sure, it's the opportunity for couples to show their romantic side and the uncoupled to either send a gutsy card, or avoid the nauseatingly lovestruck. But it's also an opportunity for pubs to transform themselves for one day of the year into a backdrop for couples looking to lavish time and attention on one another. Jo Spencer, head of marketing for Champagne at Pernod Ricard UK, says there are real opportunities to drive further sales of Champagne by selling bubbly by the glass or creating displays to grab attention, illustrating that, during this time of year, people need encouragement to show their romantic side.
People are often wooed by the associations Champagne continues to exude, suggests Jo. "Perrier-Jouët has successfully forged a host of long term relationships with such legendary luxury names as Harvey Nichols, The Royal Opera House and The Ritz," she points out, reminding that G.H. Mumm has a "more food-orientated focus as witnessed by a series of partnerships including the London Restaurant Festival, the Academy of Culinary Arts and the World's 50 best restaurants".
Whichever the guest chooses, Jo says that each present an "incremental profit opportunity for many sectors of the on-trade, particularly on Valentine's Day when couples are likely to dine out together", adding that it needn't be an expensive gesture either, because buying Champagne by the glass is becoming extremely cost-effective. "By the glass is a great way of marking a sense of occasion for consumers and maximising profit for customers," says Jo. But what are the main Dos and Don'ts, you might ask? See below for a basic guide.
The Champagne Dos
- Display bottles of Champagne, ice buckets and display cards on the bar and in the fridge to capture attention.
- Encourage sales of Champagne by the glass.
- Valentine's Day is a great trading up opportunity so include Champagne (by the glass or by the bottle) on Valentine's Day menus. Why not create a prix fixe menu that includes a glass of Champagne?
- Ensure that all your staff have tasted the Champagne and that they know what they are talking about and how to sell it.
- Ensure sufficient Champagne is in stock and chilled correctly (three hours in the fridge or 15-30 minutes in an ice bucket with half ice and half water).
The mistakes you won't make
- Not proactively suggesting a glass of Champagne as an aperitif when customers arrive.
- Not creating a Champagne display to put it at the front of customers' minds.
- Not keeping it chilled for immediate consumption.
- Being shy about providing a personal recommendation from staff who have tried the Champagne - a passionate endorsement is a highly effective sales tool.
Most Valentine's Day menus are in the region of £20 per person for three courses, £12.50 for two courses or just over £30 including a bottle of prosecco or Champagne, according to respondents to our recent Valentine tweets. Here are some more pieces of information gleaned from your responses.
For a Valentine's Day menu it's often best to kick off with classic starters that people recognise, but dressed up to show the quality of ingredients fitting for a treat occasion. For example, a seasonal soup or paté with onion marmalade and toast can work well on a starter menu and much of it can be prepared in advance without compromising on the dish. Tempura or salads can also appeal at this time of year, using fresh ingredients with little preparation time.
For mains, steak on the menu is always popular. This year, Wetherspoons will be doing a Valentine's Day offer on steak and wine on the day itself, and the three days leading up to it.
But other menu options might suit your pub more. For instance, sea bass has become an increasing favourite to balance the menu's red meat dishes. For fish dishes, flagging up messages of sustainability or locally-caught fare can boost appeal too, while seasonal vegetables such as cabbage, carrots and leeks teamed with the decadence of something like Dauphinnoise potatoes can be pre-prepared earlier in the day.
For dessert, make one of your dishes - whether cake, mousse or brownie - a chocolate one. For chocoholics, this is a treat to end the meal. For others, classics like crème brulee, banoffee pie or pavlovas topped with raspberries have Valentine's allure. While those without a sweet tooth often enjoy a course of cheese and biscuits with homemade chutneys from a miniature board with celery and grapes, as well as coffee.
"Red Grand Prix roses, the largest headed Dutch roses you can get, have a thick and strong stem so will not wilt when standing singularly in bud vases," says Sebastian Wright, owner of Brighton florist Scent. "During Valentine's Day, roses that are ruby red in colour with velvety petals, like Grand Prix, add a touch of sophisticated romance to many a pub table," he adds.
Pink Garden Valentine's cocktail
- Cut a red pepper and use a quarter to muddle in a shaker.
- Add a spring of thyme and a large measure of Croft pink port, then shake and strain into a cocktail glass and serve.
The quirky pub's choice
Rosella Wild Hibiscus Flowers in syrup from Porter Foods are great for Valentine's Day and best served as a garnish in Champagne or good sparkling white wine.
Licensees simply place a whole Rosella flower in a Champagne flute, pour some of the crimson syrup from the jar over the top, then fill with bubbles of their choice. The crown-shaped flower is lifted until it sits among the bubbles, making an eye-catching cocktail. Add more syrup at the end and the flute graduates from crimson at the bottom to light pink at the top. After guests have enjoyed the Champagne they can also eat the flower. The Rosella flowers have a high Vitamin C content and are good in anti-oxidants too, so this can be pointed out when served. A trade-sized 750g jar of 40 flowers costs just £20 if purchased as a case of four and is available to purchase online at www.porterfoods.co.uk
The cynical pub's choice
Bootleg Valentines Ale was named after the St Valentine's Day Massacre and not for any romantic reason. Suitable for unromantic pubs that would find the hearts and flowers stuff unpalatable, but still want to take advantage of seasonal opportunities, this well-balanced fruity beer has a five per cent ABV and is fairly sweet, with a very dry after taste. Bootleg Valentines Ale is brewed in late January for delivery at the beginning of February; the beer can be either pre-ordered or purchased up to and after February 14 depending on availability. Team with either a screening of a classic horror film or tinnitus-threatening heavy metal and your tongue firmly in your cheek.
This February 14, Bernard Matthews is offering caterers the chance to win a romantic break away in Norfolk.
The first reader will win £200 to spend with Farm Stay, which provides quintessentially British holiday accommodation ranging from stylish country B&Bs and handsome farmhouses built centuries ago to picturesque, self-catering cottages with chickens in the orchard and roses round the door. Every farm is Quality British Turkey and Assured Foods (Red Tractor) certified, welcoming unannounced visits from Defra and independent welfare bodies.
Duncan Marsh, general manager for Bernard Matthews Foodservice, said: "This Valentine's Day, we hope caterers and customers alike will fall head over heels in love with this wonderful meat, which offers natural appeal and huge margin opportunities all year round."
To enter the giveaway, email