If French is the language of love, then presumably a French restaurant should be where I head with my true love on Valentine’s Day. Certainly, the leading French chains are using several seduction techniques to secure my custom – and for good reason. February is a slow trading month and an event where consumers might be more inclined to loosen the purse strings for fear of having their heart strings damaged, is well worth aiming to capitalise upon. So who offered what on the big day?

Upsell charm at French chains

There were several similarities with the Valentine’s approaches taken by Café Rouge, Côte and Le Bistrot Pierre. The core offerings involved three courses priced in the £26-£30 bracket and drink deals are included. However, there were important positioning differences too.

Café Rouge was the cheapest operator, coming in at £25.95, with a complimentary glass of Prosecco. Le Bistrot Pierre was dearest at £29.95, accompanied by a glass of Veuve Devienne Brut. Côte was possibly the cutest operator, with three courses available for £28.95, but with the offer of trading up to £39.95 with a Kir Royale and wine pairing. However, Café Rouge was also very keen to capture additional upsell, with lovers able to trade up to a bottle of Pieper-Heidsieck champagne for an extra £12.50 per head.

What is also interesting is how the Valentine’s special occasion is being elongated. While the set menu offer was only available from 14th-15th February at Le Bistrot Pierre, the promotion window ran from 13th-16th at Cafe Rouge and further still, from 10th-16th at Côte (albeit without the exclusive upgrade outside of the 14th). So the French chains were looking to cash in, but how do other brands shape up?

More diverse appeal for Italian lovers?

While three course deals were also the norm at Ask, Bella Italia, Carluccio’s and Zizzi, albeit with prices varying in the more accessible £20-£25 range, there are a few notable points of difference from this continental cousin.

For more uncertain or financially challenged types, two course options were also available at Prezzo, priced at £16.50, and in addition, it had an off-menu, special offer deal of a bottle of Prosecco and 24 pizza bites for £30.

Pizza Express was also very keen on a slice of the romance action, with a three-course set menu for two available at a very competitive £28.95. It was also keen to ensure guests’ dating experiences go well, and handily produced a series of conversation suggestions, including the rather cheesy question: If you were a pizza, which would you be?

Cocktails to the fore

Certainly, it is not just the French chains looking for some alcoholic leverage. TGI Fridays took the slightly curious approach of offering a complimentary cocktail with a main meal in Valentine’s week, but with the caveat that this only runs from 10th-13th February. By contrast, and very much more intoxicatingly, Turtle Bay had a Valentine’s night only ‘special offer’ of one main course and unlimited cocktails for £35 per head. That offered a point of difference and helped the Caribbean crew stand out from the crowd.

Lonely hearts?

Very much in a different crowd, are several casual dining chains seemingly happy to let Valentine’s pass them by. Perhaps less surprising here, are the less glamorous likes of Nando’s, GBK and Byron. More noteworthy by their shyness, are several Asian chains, including Giggling Squid, Wagamama and Yo!, none of whom draw any online attention to Valentine’s. Also, and despite offering a more sophisticated dining experience that has the power to impress, The Ivy also elects to stand aside from love fest. Maybe just as the path of love is never smooth, so the best marketing route is not clear cut or predictable.