While Mother’s Day still tops the calendar as the busiest dining day of the year, Cupid is right behind with big red hearts and credits cards ready to show the love!

According to the Retail Advertising and Marketing Association’s Valentine’s Day Consumer Intentions and Actions Survey, the average, annual spending on Valentine’s Day is $13.19 billion.

Most restaurants will have no shortage of business on the 12th, 13th, or 14th, but to get the biggest brand bump from this special day, consider these ideas.

1) Start Promoting Gift Cards Now
The NRA reported nearly one-third of American adults would like to receive a restaurant gift card as a Valentine’s Day gift. Men show a much stronger preference for restaurant gift cards as Valentine’s Day gifts than women do, by nearly half. Also, consider offering a more jazzed up package that is branded and feels special.

2) Add Some Romance to Your Atmosphere
21% of Valentine diners select a restaurant with a romantic atmosphere, followed by restaurants that offer special menus or promotions (13%). This can mean adding fresh flowers, candles, or even live music. Don’t forget to leverage social media visuals/images too. Make special heart shaped food items or add other heart shaped elements to your food presentation to create romantic food porn for couples to share online.

3) Offer Premium Selections
The host of the Valentine’s Day meal is often extra focused on impressing their date. In fact, OpenTable diners indicated that they plan to celebrate love in a big way with a projected check average of $139, which is 63% more than the average OpenTable check of $85 per couple. This is the result of buying pricier wines, featured Prix Fixe menus, and the chef’s recommendation.

4) Offer an Over the Top Valentines Package to Earn Publicity
The media are always looking for holiday-related news angles and photo-ops. Get creative by offering the ultimate Valentine’s package that is priced crazy high, like $50,000. Pack it full of unimaginable things like an ounce of rare caviar, 14k gold-dusted deserts, a bottle of Chateau Lafite’s, and dinner, of course. Send out a news release and create a special display around the offer.

5) Seal It With a Kiss
Do something special that gets guests talking. End the evening with a branded sweet treat chocolate, delivery the bill with romantic poem, or gift the guests with some token giveaway that reflects your brand. This can be anything from a special drink voucher for their next time in, to a small booklet of romantic recipes from the chef, or a chocolate scented greeting card with an iTunes card inside for some romantic tunes.

Finally, if you are not that in love with V-Day, consider creating a little cupid controversy and host an anti-Valentine’s Day celebration for the forever singles crowd. Whatever you do, do it well and don’t forget to let your staff know how much you love them too! After all, they a big part of the love connection with your customers.

If there is anything you’ve learned about Valentine’s Day and the restaurant business, please share below.