February 14th is a date in the calendar that can either be filled with excitement or dread. Not for the more obvious reasons, but because it is one of the busiest nights of the year for restaurants. Whether you are a diner or restaurateur, a successful Valentine’s Day dining experience can come down to a few things, but let’s take a look at the restaurant ‘love triangles’ to avoid so no one’s heart ends up being served up for dinner!
Be our Valentine.
The first main problem that a restaurant has to manage is turning the inside of their establishment into a skillfully-devised chessboard as tables of two become the order of business. Front of house will carefully plot their moves as pawns, sorry, customers are seated around each other, but too close or far away and it could end in disaster! Maintaining a firm chessmaster mien for the evening is the best way to handle nervous and excited couples.
It is a difficult night for restaurant staff as expectations at every table run high. Ensure staff are as pleasant as possible and ready for anything.
To help with the ambience of the evening, why not ask diners to turn their phones off as you greet them? Okay you might have some parents who need to keep them on in case the babysitter calls, but offering a ‘cloakroom’ facility for phones would get around this and that way they can still check them when they pop to the bathroom. Nothing ruins romance like using a mobile phone at the dinner table!
If your restaurant contains bench seating, try sitting couples beside each other, opposite other couples, rather than across the table to create a cosier dining option and it makes for a more involved atmosphere among diners.
Don’t overdo the Valentine’s Day decorations, in fact, less is more. Trying to create a romantic atmosphere with heart-shaped garlands will only distract from where you can truly make an impression – on the plate.
The way to a person’s heart is through their stomach.
There is no doubt of the link between food and mood and that starts in our gut, so enjoying good food equals good vibrations, so to speak. When devising a Valentine’s Day menu, it makes sense to fill it with dishes brimming with positive nutritional values and some simple tricks such as desserts for sharing, that will ensure lots of happy couples.
Carbohydrate-rich foods trigger the production of serotonin and tryptophan, which are chemicals that the brain produces that promote a feeling of well-being. Refined carbohydrates, primarily sugar and sugary foods, tend to provide immediate, but temporary relief. Once the benefit is gone, mood and energy levels drop, whereas complex carbohydrates, such as wholegrains, cereals, breads, pastas, and fruits and vegetables, are more likely to supply a moderate, but lasting effect on brain chemistry, mood, and energy level.
Other ingredients that are energy and romance boosting are: steak – red meat is a great source of zinc, the same romance-boosting nutrient found in oysters; salmon – the omega-3s in fatty fish are great for improving circulation in your body and can also raise dopamine / feel-good levels in the brain; eggs – the protein in eggs can boost energy and focus – two things your diners will definitely need for their Valentine’s Day dates.
Lest we forget the aphrodisiacs.
Oysters have long been suspected as a love drug. Cleopatra and Casanova had one thing in common, they loved oysters (apparently). Oysters improve dopamine levels which boosts libido in men and women.
Chillies can actually rev up your mood too. Capsaicin, the stuff that makes chillies hot, promotes the release of chemicals that can raise your heart rate and trigger the release of endorphins that give you a natural high.
Cardamom has long been deemed a powerful aphrodisiac, containing high concentrations of the compound 1,8-cineole, which increases blood flow and releases muscular tension. Its aroma is equally as stimulating
Chocolate, of course! It is a great aphrodisiac and it contains magnesium, which will make your customers feel very relaxed, which is always good. Dark chocolate in particular, contains a compound called phenylethylamine, which has been shown to release the same endorphins triggered by romance.
Other aphrodisiac ingredients to include on your menu are: figs, ginger, pomegranate and cinnamon, but obviously seasonal is key too.