Valentine’s Day is an ambiguous occasion—both dreamed about and dreaded—but within the limited-service space, February 14 is a day worth celebrating.
From Heart-Shaped Bo-Berry Biscuits at Bojangles’ to the seasonally inspired First Blush blend at Teavana, a slew of operators are offering special dishes, flavors, and promotions.
“The holiday sparks such creativity in part due to the flavors the holiday is known for, including the pairing of chocolate with different types of berries, such as strawberries and raspberries,” writes Jeff Miller in an e-mail; Miller is the executive chef and vice president of product innovation for Dunkin’ Brands, which also owns Baskin-Robbins.
In addition to the special ice cream flavor, Love Potion #31, Baskin-Robbins will bring back its Conversation Heart Cakes, which resemble giant versions of the iconic Necco Sweethearts candy.
“We’ve been very pleased with the guest response to our Conversation Heart Cakes since they launched in February 2013,” Miller writes. “Customization and personalized messages are such a key part to Baskin-Robbins' cake lineup, and what's better than a personalized message and a sweet treat for your loved one on Valentine's Day?”
Heart-shaped pizzas are another V-day favorite—Papa John’s, Zpizza, and Jet’s Pizza are among the operators serving it up—but for Papa Murphy’s, it’s a seasonal specialty almost as old as the company itself. Last year marked the 30th anniversary of the HeartBaker.
“It started out on a very small scale in just a few locations, and reactions were, ‘What is that?’” says Shauna Walker, senior director for national programs at Papa Murphy’s. “Today it is a tradition not just here in the Northwest but in all our stores.”
The novelty combined with its DIY appeal—Papa Murphy’s pizzas are baked at home—have made the HeartBaker a seasonal mainstay. Jayson Tipp, senior vice president of marketing, strategy, and technology at Papa Murphy’s, says that while many quick serves see their best numbers on the Super Bowl, Papa Murphy’s sales spike in February for the HeartBaker and October for the jack-o-lantern pizza.
“Two of our biggest days of the year are Valentine’s and Halloween because we deliver this product that allows families to connect uniquely,” Tipp says.
A fine-dining restaurant may capitalize on decadent specials and romantic ambiance, but quick-service operators have carved out their own niche by focusing on all types of love.
“We communicate Valentine’s Day not necessarily about two single people having a romantic evening but about people expressing appreciation and love for their family,” Tip says.
Walker adds, “What you see is families making this part of their celebration year after year, after year… What a perfect way to show the love.”
By Nicole Duncan