Apr 18, 2022 - Food and Drink

The return of the Twin Cities date night special

Illustration of a neon sign depicting a rose.

Illustration: Allie Carl/Axios

Some Twin Cities restaurants are once again serving up targeted discounts to lure customers back, even as rising food prices eat into their margins.

What's happening: Pandemic disruptions and soaring inflation might seem like a recipe for canceling deals and date night specials. Indeed, an Axios review of date night deals found that is the case for some restaurants.

  • But others are stepping up the promotions in hopes of boosting business long term.

What they're saying: "It's brand awareness. We don't look at it money-wise, we look at getting repeat customers," Ashleigh Newman, owner of Tongue in Cheek in St. Paul, told Axios.

  • She's considering promoting the restaurant's discounted date night menu again this summer.

Meanwhile: Broders' Pasta Bar's long-running date night — an appetizer, two salads and two entrees for $40 — has been so successful the Minneapolis restaurant plans to offer specials at its other restaurant in the city, Terzo, executive director Charlie Broder told Axios.

  • "If we took it away, there would be a revolt. It might not be the most profitable… but it's a way to welcome people back into restaurants and bring a sense of familiarity," he said.

What we're seeing: It's not just restaurants creating date night deals. Arcade and mini-golf venue Can Can Wonderland is adding multiple specials next month, including "First Date Thursdays."

  • Couples receive an envelope with a list of suggested questions and talking points, a scavenger hunt, two stickers and a mystery buy one, get one coupon.
  • Saint Paul Brewing is also starting a BOGO date night special, which includes a free four-pack of dog treats if you bring your pup on your date.

The other side: Not everyone is keeping the lower-cost options on the menu: An Axios review of 10 restaurants with date night deals listed before 2020 found only three still advertise them as available.

The bottom line: Losing money in the short term may bring in more customers, but it remains to be seen if the gamble will pay off.

Tell us: Heard of any good date night deals in your neighborhood? Email me at [email protected].

  • My recommendation: Bryant Lake Bowl's Cheap Date Night, which offers two entrees, wine or beer and a game of bowling for $28 a couple.

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