OPINIONMarketing

Restaurants embrace the darker side of Valentine’s Day

Marketing Bites: Chains are consoling those who’ve recently been dumped, as well as offering to do the breaking up on behalf of their customers.
P.F. Chang's DUMPlings
P.F. Chang's is offering a free order of DUMPlings to the broken hearted this Valentine's Day. | Photo courtesy: P.F. Chang's

Marketing Bites

Ah, Valentine’s Day. A time for love and pink hearts and arrows shot by a chubby little winged baby.

That is, of course, unless you’re one of a seemingly growing number of restaurant chains that will be observing the darker side of Feb. 14 this year. Think breakups and heartache and tears in your beer.

Sure, plenty of restaurants are offering deals on candlelit dinners for two. But quite a few concepts are finding ways to celebrate those who’ve been dumped, along with those doing the dumping.

Asian casual-dining brand P.F. Chang’s is doing just that with (what else?) dumplings.

If you’ve recently been dumped, you can text CHANGSDUMPLINGS to 855-697-6181 to get a free order of six shrimp or pork dumplings. Here’s the catch, though: You have to share your breakup story or a screenshot of getting kicked to the curb.

“At P.F. Chang’s, we believe in embracing every chapter of our guests’ lives, even the ones marked by heartbreak,” said P.F. Chang’s Director of Brand Marketing Elisa Cordova. “Our DUMPlings program is more than just a promotion; it’s a testament to our commitment to surprising and delighting our guests who aren’t feeling the love this season. We wanted to launch a fun, light-hearted program that reminds those finding themselves single, during a month that shines a spotlight on couples, that breakups may suck, but at least our dumplings don’t.”

Pizza Hut Goodbye Pie

Pizza Hut's Goodbye Pie. | Photo courtesy: Pizza Hut

Pizza Hut, on the flip side, is slinging Hot Honey “Goodbye Pies,” served in a box that can be personalized with your (in)significant other’s name.

Pizza Hut’s Goodbye Pies are only available in New York City, Chicago and Miami (“major U.S. cities notorious for heartbreaks,” the chain noted). Folks who live elsewhere can head to GoodbyePies.com and request that Pizza Hut write a breakup text for you to send, along with a link to a gift card for your “future-ex” to receive a free consolation pizza.

“With the launch of Goodbye Pies, we are bringing that perfect blend of sweet and heat experience to real life, delivering spicy news in the sweetest way for Valentine’s Day,” CMO Lindsay Morgan said.

Maybe you’d rather break up with somebody with cookies instead of pizza?

Insomnia Cookies

Insomnia Cookies breakup box. | Photo courtesy: Insomnia Cookies

Insomnia Cookies has you covered with its “It’s Not Me, It’s You” box that includes a dozen cookies and a choice of one of four handwritten breakup notes. Choices include: It’s not me, it’s you; You’re sweet, but not my flavor; I have the hots for your roommate; and We’re done. Have a nice life.

The sunnier side of Valentine’s Day

Apparently, not everybody is scheduling a solid dose of heartbreak this season.

Reservation management platform Tock reports a 56% increase in Valentine’s Day reservations compared to last year and a 53% jump in Valentine’s Day experiences booked this year.

And, for the 33rd year, White Castle will host its Valentine’s Dinner, transforming its quick-service dining rooms into fine-dining establishments complete with hostess seating, tableside service and seasonal decorations.

Shake Shack is also getting in on the full-service action, turning restaurants in seven cities into “Love Shacks” with prix fixe menus.

There are two Valentine’s dining options: The $80 Swicy Date Night for two or the $160 Umami Dinner Party for four. Both include plates, glassware, floral arrangements, candles and more, as well as either Korean-style fried Chicken Sandwiches or Korean BBQ Burgers, plus Spicy Korean BBQ Fries, Gochujang Caramel Sauce Sundaes and beverages.

By Wednesday afternoon, though, most Love Shack slots were booked.

Wingstop, which not long ago landed on a viral list of worst first date spots, is also reimagining itself as a sit-down restaurant for Valentine’s Day.

One of its Manhattan restaurants will become FLAV’R by Wingstop, with reservations open on OpenTable, for the big day. Guests will be treated to a “six-course flavor exploration” led by Chef Larry Bellah, Wingstop’s culinary chief. All of the wing chain’s 12 flavors will be served, including the reintroduced Hot Honey.

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