romance is served

Eight ideas for a mouth-watering menu of Valentine’s Day delights.

by Teresa P. Lanker

What are you serving for Valentine’s Day this year? Red roses with baby’s breath are the steak and potatoes of the holiday. But do you have alternative entrées for customers who don’t like red roses or whose taste buds are ready for a change?

By likening flowers to food and creating a tantalizing menu of Valentine’s Day “cuisine,” you can tempt consumers who may have grown tired of your usual fare. So this Valentine’s Day, try these eight ideas designed to cater to floral clients and foodies alike.

1. Create a tasty menu. Build a menu that looks and feels like the real thing. Use standard menu covers from sources such as The Menu Shoppe. Name and describe your “dishes” (such as raspberry parfait, chocolate rose soufflé, peaches and cream, and so on). Specify how each dish is garnished, such as a glaze of Gypsophila or a remoulade of ribbon. Pass out menus to in-store shoppers and post them on your website. Send menus via e-mail to regular customers, and feature one or two “specials” in preholiday print ads.

2. Offer several sides. Expand the menu with tempting “side dishes” that make each order a more complete “meal.” Include traditional Valentine-inspired extras such as heart-shaped picks, plush cupids and novelty balloons along with upscale companion gifts including candles, perfume, photo frames, romance novels and CDs of love songs. Offer these sides à la carte or include a choice of one or two with selected entrées.

3. Finish with dessert. Sell customers on the idea of having their cake and eating it, too. Offer sweet treats, including heart-shaped truffles, chocolate-covered strawberries, gourmet candy apples and decadent cookies as add-ons that can be tucked in or tied to vases and arrangements of flowers.

4. Display a dish. Feature an “entrée,” complete with suggested sides and dessert, in the sales area of the shop during the weeks prior to Valentine’s Day. Offer free samples of dessert items to increase appeal. Have staff get into the spirit by wearing aprons and chef hats. Play romantic restaurant music, and provide a table for two where customers can study the menu. Take photos of your restaurant setting and post them on your website to help virtual shoppers relate to the theme.

5. Take reservations. Encourage early orders and day-ahead deliveries with “reservation” incentives. Offer a dollar-off discount or a free “side dish” to customers who place orders by your reservation deadline. Model day-ahead deliveries after restaurant “early-bird” specials by reducing the price per entrée or discounting the delivery fee. Doing so rewards customers who place orders in advance or who are willing to accept preholiday delivery.

6. Plate it pretty. Surround your culinary delights in tissues and wrappings that make the contents more special. Color coordinate the trappings, and add holiday motifs. Allow in-store customers to make their own Valentine cards using paper, lace and trims on-site.

7. Ask for tips. Choose a charitable cause to benefit from the generosity of patrons who wish to tip their “servers.” Place a “tip jar” on the sales counter, with signage that explains the intended use of donations. At the end of all phone calls, ask customers if they would like to give a dollar or two to the cause.

8. Deliver with panache. Offer delivery upgrades (for a fee) that enhance the surprise of receiving flowers. Flowers delivered by a driver in formalwear or in costume (such as Cupid, love bug or king-of-hearts attire) offer a sense of humor and a memorable holiday experience. Hired professionals who can sing, dance or otherwise entertain are possibilities as well. To round out your floral “restaurant,” offer an alternative to delivery via drive-through service. ■

Teresa P. Lanker is assistant professor and chair for the Horticultural Technologies Division and coordinator of Floral Design and Marketing at The Ohio State University Agricultural Technical Institute. Contact her at

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