Data gathered by guest experience platform SevenRooms has revealed how Australians are approaching Valentine’s Day, highlighting the opportunity for hospitality venues to capitalise on key trends.

Although 88 per cent of Australians who have made reservations through the platform have booked tables for two, which is a nine per cent increase from 2021, a small number of consumers are celebrating the occasion in groups, with five per cent of all reservations accounting for groups of five or more.

Australian consumers are dining much earlier than other global markets, and the two most popular booking slots on the SevenRooms platform have been 6:30pm and 6:00pm, with a noticeable increase in people booking prime spots well in advance.

Paul Hadida, General Manager APAC at SevenRooms, said: “There is perhaps no single bigger day on the Australian hospitality calendar than Valentine’s Day. From fine dining to the humble pub, it’s a hugely important day for operators to drive revenue and relationships, during the typical lull after the summer holiday peak season.

“So far this year, we’re seeing more people booking earlier than ever before, particularly for peak slots. It’s also interesting to note that it’s Sydney and not Melbourne – famed for the vibrancy of its nightlife – where people are placing later reservations.”

When comparing the two cities, 27.8 per cent of Sydney diners placed reservations after 8pm, compared with 24.7 in Melbourne, where more people placed reservations between 7pm and 8pm.

“For all its excitement, though, venues cannot simply sit back and rely on the romance of the day,” says Hadida.  

“Guests today want more than a meal; they want an experience. That’s especially true while cost-of-living pressures continue to impact household spending. In fact, according to SevenRooms research, two in three (68 per cent) of Australians are focused more on the quality rather than the quantity of their dining experiences.”

With guest experience acting as an antidote to economic pressures, set Valentine’s menus are one of the ways in which venues are creating a unique experience for guests while also offering value.

“We’re seeing a very notable trend in venues increasing the value – and therefore the guest experience – they provide, using that as a driver for loyalty,” added Hadida.

“For example, across Australia throughout 2023 there was a 26 per cent YoY increase in reservations completed with prepayments, like an upgrade, experience, special event, deposit, etc. On average, venues generated 25 per cent more in revenue from prepayments in 2023 than 2022.

“Clearly, that showcases the impact of a stellar guest experience, not just from when they sit down in a venue, but from the very first touchpoint. This year, venues must make a conscious effort to think about retention, not just acquisition. The former can drive a short-term surge in revenue, but through the latter, they can do so on a more sustainable basis.

“We’re seeing the venues who focus on the guest experience, and tap into personalised marketing automation, driving significant gains against those who don’t. And there is no more important time to provide those exceptional experiences, and build guest relationships and loyalty, than Valentine’s Day,” he concluded.

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