In this series we have partnered with Toast, a company providing cloud-based point of sale software to restaurants, to connect with local based restaurants across the country and share their stories. Interested in learning more about Toast? Check it out here.


We spoke with Robert Marcarelli, Director of Operations at Liv’s Oyster Bar in Old Saybrook, CT to find out his plans for promoting his restaurant this Valentine’s Day. Liv’s Oyster bar is a casual fine dining restaurant operating for over 12 years located in Old Saybrook, CT. Their menu is seafood centric and changes at least once a month. They use local and regional ingredients that change throughout the season. They also operate the Liv’s Shacks in Old Saybrook and Westbrook, CT - quick serve restaurants opened seasonally based off some of the more casual bites off of the Liv’s Oyster Bar menu like lobster rolls, tacos, and burgers.


What have you learned about keeping your business running during the pandemic?

We have learned a lot being in business for 12 years and we have a lot of data that we rely on in terms of what people are looking for in menu items. During these times it’s a lot less predictable. Years past we would expect 70% more business than we have right now. This year we’ve noticed we could have a great Wednesday and a Friday could be slow due to when people feel more comfortable eating out.


How important is holiday business to you?

Holiday business is certainly very important, especially gift card sales. Gift card sales around Christmas and New Year’s help us get through the winter. A lot of our customers live in NY and use them in the summer when they come to their beach homes.


What unique things do you do for holidays from a marketing and in restaurant perspective?

We do a $1 oyster promotion on a slow night and that helps us bring people in. We were doing $2 Oysters and one of those dollars was going to the local foodbank to give back to our community. We do promotions on Oysters because that’s what we are known for.


When do you start your marketing outreach prior to the holidays?

We send out an email letting people know what our holiday specific menu will be as well as post it on social media. We also make social posts reminding customers to make reservations for the holidays because we have limited seating. We start that marketing 2-3 weeks out for Valentine’s Day. For Christmas we begin marketing right after Thanksgiving.


What do you think the customer is looking from you during those holiday periods?

Customers are looking to see the holiday menu with specific additional items. They will also check out our normal updates to our static menu. We have been open for 12 years and we have relationships with most of our customers. New customers read our reviews and know they will get quality food in a casual setting.


How has Covid changed your approach for holidays coming up?

We’ve focused on trying to put together items that are better off to go because some people aren’t comfortable dining in. For Christmas we created a holiday to-go menu and are considering continuing it through winter. We are going to do a to-go menu for Valentine’s day.


In your mind what are the key elements to a successful holiday at your restaurant?

Putting together a great solid plan including what we plan to offer and being able to exceed the expectations of our guests. Also putting out a marketing effort of what your holiday plan is to get the word out.


What are your plans for Valentine’s day this year?

Valentine’s day we are open, and we offer specials for the night. People come to us for Valentine’s because they know and trust us, also Oysters are known as an aphrodisiac. We also custom print our menus for holiday like this on nicer paper to give them a more refined look.