With Super Bowl weekend now a part of history, we can look to a busy Valentine’s Day weekend. And, if that seems strange since it falls on a Tuesday, don’t kid yourself. Valentine’s Day, this year is big.
Although there are mixed feelings about the success of business on special days that fall mid-week, the business can be huge. Valentine´s Day is one of the biggest. So think of a four-day celebration. That, however, takes more than just a note in the reservation book. It takes some planning and there isn´t a lot of time.
You don’t have to spend a fortune in newspaper advertising, or those special sections that every ad person has attempted to sell you. Of course the ad in the local paper looks good, and may bring in a few customers, I always preferred in-house marketing.
In 1995, Valentine’s Day fell on a Tuesday. My small 50 seat, Minnesota Faux-French Bistro was full weeks in advance for the special romantic night. But, the weekend preceeding the Tuesday looked very bleak.
When I overheard the hostess tell a customer that we couldn’t fit them in on Tuesday, did they want to settle for Monday, I figured out why. What a thing to ask. Settle for Monday?
Immediately, I inquired about the weekend reservations and realized I was getting killed because everyone was saving up for that special Tuesday night. However, unpredictable snow storms in Minnesota had sent me to the bowling alley with the staff on more than one snow day, I wasn’t going to the bottom- line dice table with all my chips on a cold, February evening, just because it was Valentine’s Day.
Staff guerilla marketing was initiated. Conferring with the chef, we designed a romance infused menu, long beforeTruffle Oil hit the shores of Lake Minnetonka. We made table tents and featured the Sweetheart of a Weekend menu.
The hostess was educated in the art of table sales. She used key words, and was instructed on what to say. “We still have availability on Saturday night, Sunday or Monday” was her response to "I´d like to make a reservation for Tuesday." She booked more weekend tables in three hours than she had in three weeks.
Hearts of Palm Salad headlined the evening. The second act, Apple of My Eye Crostini, followed. Flaming Rosemary Rack of Lamb, along with other Valentine-ized menu items were created for that romantic interlude. Everyone received a complimentary glass of Champagne. And of course, we offered music.
We added a Red-Rose Champagne Sunday Brunch, which sold out. At brunch, every woman got a rose. We marketed that event especially for Mom´s, so they would still know, guys were sweet on them.
Goofy? You bet. Romance is always goofy. We flirted with other marketing ideas over the years, but the Valentine’s Day menu that ran in 1995 stole the hearts of our customers and brought some love to the bottom line. Yearly, after that.
And, nothing brings romance to a restaurant venture more than a weekend full of lovely profits.
Go make up a table tent and put some creativity in that menu.
Pretend your flirting with each customer.
And don´t forget to sell the availabilty you have on Sunday and Monday nights.
Gotta love it.