Valentine’s idea: Cooking classes

True, it’s a bit close to Valentine’s Day, and these sorts of things can weeks — if not months — to arrange and promote, but if that is the case, then save this as a reminder for next year.

Now, many hotels already offer in-house cooking classes, courses or an entire culinary teaching school. But perhaps you can still make it a very memorable event for this, the most romantic of all days. Here are five reasons cooking classes for your guests may work as a tactic for both building last-minute sales and generating more positive word of mouth.

1. One more point of differentiation

These days, consumers do a substantial amount of research prior to booking a room. Your location is static and your prices are tightly controlled, so the two other arenas to compete in are guest services and onsite features. Whether prospective guests find out that you offer cooking courses through a third-party Valentine’s-themed listing or by viewing your own, it’s all about potential. They might use the state-of-the-art fitness facilities, they might use the spa or they might partake in a cooking class, but it’s always good to know the options are available.

2. Builds an emotional connection with patrons

The more often guests or diners interact with your brand, the more likely they are to remember it. Cooking classes are fun, educational and not too long, meaning they are perfect for a couple looking for something a bit more hands-on. Ultimately, it’s one more item on the agenda to round out the hotel narrative for past guests to talk about with their friends and family.

3. A chance for menu input

Suppose instead of having one of your chefs use an everyday dish as a teaching tool, he or she shepherded the assembled Valentine’s class through the preparation of one of the culinary creations on the current restaurant menu. Not only is this great advertising for the showcased dish, but it affords the chef an opportunity to hear some firsthand feedback on how the food tastes and its presentation.

4. Lever a sense of community

Nowadays, a hotel should act as a place of business as well as a community center. We do this by hosting events for locals and serving up delicious food at our restaurants, to mention two. In-house cooking classes wouldn’t be just for resident travelers, but also for your local compatriots looking to maximize their fun on Valentine’s Day. These neighborly connections are great for website SEO.

5. Improves the reputation of your restaurant and, by extension, the hotel

Building on all the previous points, cooking classes can add some major esteem to your restaurant by allowing patrons to see it in a different light. You must also keep in mind that many guests do not separate the restaurant from the property — it’s all part of the overall hospitality experience. Hence, any efforts you put towards improving the Valentine’s Day dining experience will in turn reflect kindly on the hotel.

With those five reasons, it all may seem too good an opportunity to pass up. But I have to acknowledge that there are some serious impediments to implementing such a program. Free space is one — your kitchen might not be suitable nor will there be enough forecasted revenues after renovations. Then throw in chef availability, startup costs and promotions, and it isn’t so cut and dry.

Even with these drawbacks, many hotels are already primed to accommodate an impromptu cooking class come Valentine’s Day.