February 14 is one of the busiest restaurant days of the year, coming second only to Mother’s Day.  From booking reservations to paying the check, Valentine’s Day is one day which is not so much about the food but the entire overall experience – particularly with so many nervous suitors plucking up the courage to propose to their loved ones.

Get the ambiance right and restaurants can turn a single meal into an enduring relationship with their customers – after all, who wouldn’t want to return to place where a memorable Valentine’s Day meal was shared?

Technology is now playing an increasingly pivotal role in determining customer satisfaction in restaurants, particularly as younger generations of smartphone-obsessed diners are shown to their tables. Deloitte recently published a report on the future of restaurants and their next-gen foodies, stating that a massive 85% of consumers use restaurants’ digital channels to gather information such as location, menu, and pricing, which in turn is used to decide whether or not they want to eat there.

With this in mind, let’s review some of the digital strategies that restaurants can implement to ensure happy hearts (and stomachs) this Valentine’s Day.

A holistic approach

Having an all-encompassing website is a great starting point for restaurants – offering diners the ability to browse menus, review promotional offers, book tables, and even highlight special dietary requirements. But if the digital journey stops before the appetizers come out, it may leave diners cold. Today, restaurants need digital engagement to extend to the table itself, from the moment diners step inside to the moment they collect their coats to head home.

There’s a simple and cost-effective solution that restaurants can employ to keep the interaction flowing via the airwaves – offering guest WiFi through their existing network. This can allow restaurants to turn analogue conversations between waiter and patron into meaningful customer data that can be analyzed, stored and utilized, enabling more personalization and targeted marketing further down the line. It all begins with the user logging into the free WiFi and then it’s up to the restaurant to make the relationship flourish.

Getting to know your patrons

Collating customer data in an unobtrusive manner is a valuable skill – you provide customers with high-end internet connectivity in exchange for information that diners will happily provide so they can stay connected. Once customers have indicated their login preference, via social channels or by creating new online credentials, restaurants can use the welcome portal to personalize welcome messages, promote loyalty programs and offer daily specials.

Combine basic customer information with location and presence analytics associated with the guest WiFi, and restaurants can harness details of diner demographics, how often they return and at what time of day, and even how they behave online. These strands of information can then be used to build customer personas and give restaurants insight into how to best steer a longer-term digital conversation with customers. With careful analysis of previous purchase histories, staff can pre-order the perfect bottle of wine, having it ready at the table, or even make suggestions about menu choices, based on the diner’s preferences.

And the connection doesn’t have to end once the meal is over. Another effective way to stay connected to diners once they leave are personalized emails. Using the details obtained through guest WiFi, restaurants can send updates, offer tailored promotions to each customer, or even invite them to jump the booking queue during busy periods.

Valentine’s Day is just the beginning…

Valentine’s Day is an intimate and highly-celebrated occasion, and restaurants should use the time leading up to the special day to think of ways to charm customers, anticipate their needs, and provide the perfect dining experience. Research into last year’s bookings found a staggering 500% increase in reservations on Sunday, February 14, 2016 than on previous Sundays, highlighting just how many starry-eyed diners will be looking to share their love this Valentine’s Day with the restaurant of their choice.