Ideas budding as Cork businesses prepare for an unusual Valentine’s

Ideas budding as Cork businesses prepare for an unusual Valentine’s

Eavan Cotter, Katie Roche and Justine Looney getting out the orders of flowers for Valentine's day at the Cork Flower Studio on Douglas Street, Cork. Picture Dan Linehan

BUSINESSES across Cork have been adapting to Covid-19 guidelines and this Valentine’s Day is no different.

Shops, restaurants, cafes, and hotels have found ways to make up for losses from what is usually a very busy weekend.

The staff at the Celtic Ross Hotel, like the rest of the hospitality sector, have adapted their business to mark a Valentine’s Day like no other, given the restrictions of the Covid-19 lockdown.

The hotel has created takeaway ‘meal kits’ for customers to enjoy Valentine’s Day dinner at home, or, as general manager Neil Grant described it: To enjoy “a night out, in”.

A few days before February 14, the hotel had sold out of the kits.

However, despite the great response, this year’s Valentine’s Day celebrations will be very different.

Mr Grant said there has been a slight drop in the numbers of customers celebrating Valentine’s Day.

Last year, however, was one of the busiest Valentine’s Days.

The hotel held a Valentine’s Day event with live music and had between 40 and 50 people for dinner, in one area of the hotel, in addition to their bar and bistro, which can seat about 200 people.

“It was probably one of the strongest Valentine’s night-Valentine’s weekends we had in years, last year, so actually, it kicked us off quite nicely for what we thought was going to be a busy season,” said Mr Grant.

This year, the hotel will have about a third of the staff in the kitchen, prepping the boxes, and a “skeleton” team, compared to up 40 to 50 staff at this time of year typically.

Innovative alternatives 

The Kingsley Hotel has also been implementing new ideas to celebrate what would, every other year, be “an important” and “very busy” occasion.

“It would probably be in and around about 200 covers on Valentine’s night itself and then, obviously, if it wasn’t falling on a Friday or Saturday night, the closest Friday and Saturday as well,” said the hotel’s general manager, Fergal Harte.

Last year, Valentine’s Day was busy for the Kingsley Hotel and it would, ordinarily, be almost fully booked for the weekend around February 14.

“There always would have been a nice atmosphere, generally speaking. Because of the facilities here, we attract kind of a wide range of clientele; you would have people of all ages coming to celebrate Valentine’s and we would have done a glass of Prosecco with dinner; we would have had flowers and all that,” he said.

To adhere to the restrictions of social distancing, the Kingsley, like every other hotel, has thought of innovative alternatives for the occasion.

“Because it is a big loss to us, in terms of what we would normally do, we have had to come up with some innovative ideas,” said Mr Harte.

This year, the Kingsley has been running competitions for Valentine’s Day and has also had a great response to its range of Valentine-themed vouchers.

A blooming online business 

Meanwhile, for the Cork Flower Studio, things have never been busier.

According to Justine Looney, staff have been “up the walls” with orders this year and particularly ahead of Valentine’s Day.

Ms Looney said that, in a normal year, Christmas is the busiest time, but that Valentine’s Day is a close second.

By Wednesday of this week, the Douglas St store had almost sold out their Valentine’s Day flowers.

“We’ve sold out of red roses at this stage, but we have some offerings left; for how long, I’m not sure,” said Ms Looney.

Despite operating solely online and through deliveries, the flower studio had been inundated with orders.

“It’s definitely as busy, if not busier [than last year].

“Our main thing this year is that we don’t have our click and collect, so we are, obviously, under a lot more pressure now to get things out on delivery.”

While they have always had an online store, this year the business has ‘bloomed’.

“We’ve noticed a massive increase in business since the pandemic started.”

“We’ve actually never been busier,” added Ms Looney.

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