It’s the week before Valentine’s Day and Dave is behind when it comes to arranging swoon-worthy festivities for the object of his affection. His suit needs to be dry cleaned, every flower shop in his area is at capacity, he’s up against a sixty hour workweek and, by some cruel twist of fate, the custom heart necklace he ordered online is delayed. His Valentine’s Day plans are in flames. But just when he’s lost all hope, in comes an email from you, dear restaurant owner: “A Romantic Booth for Two: Join Us on Valentine’s Day for a Special Three-Course Meal.”
Last minute lovers exist and they’re looking for last minute promotions. In fact, 50% of gifts are purchased the week before Valentine’s Day. So if your restaurant is delayed in creating a Valentine’s Day promotion, reservations are thinner than expected, or you want to add one more pièce de résistance to separate you from the herd of pink and red, don’t fret.
To help you traverse the fine line between last minute and just in time, we’ve done our best to provide you with a list of un-cheesy promotions with fast turn-around. So get out the candlesticks, bust out the roses, dim the lights, and cue John Mayer – these strategies will help you effectively reach last minute lovers and entice them to choose you over the competition.
Create a Lover’s Menu
Valentine’s is all about the mood and romance but let’s not forget why everyone is really venturing out to restaurants – the food! There are a couple of ways to fancy up your menu offerings.
- Offer “romantic” foods: oysters, lobster, scallops, chocolate fondue, specialty coffee – or anything with honey, avocado, arugula, and chili peppers (all known aphrodisiacs.) While these are known to warm up the love chemicals in the brain, you’ll benefit because customers will be likely to indulge in an expensive dish since it’s a “special occasion”.
- Curate a series of dishes into a prix fixe: Everyone loves a menu that features an appetizer, dinner, and dessert. The common notion is that you’re getting a deal, and the beauty of this is, you don’t have to cheapen your offering by explicitly stating the discounted rate. The best thing about the prix fixe menu is it can be done on the fly with items already available on your menu.
Create a Last Minute Incentive
The average male spends $178 on Valentine’s Day. So whether you’re giving a percentage off the total bill, or a free appetizer and dessert, every little bit helps.
- Voucher and complimentary accoutrements: Make the terms of your voucher clear and smartphone friendly, so the romance of the evening isn’t burdened by logistics at billing time. Just be sure to be delicate with your wording by using “complementary” as an alternative to “free.”
- Taxi voucher or Uber gift card: Another small, but great incentive you can offer is to take care of a portion of guests’ taxi ride home. By partnering with a cab company and offering a discount on cab fare, or giving out redeemable uber amounts, it’s a win-win: customers get home safe after feeling free to consume that extra glass of wine, and the upsell on their bills will be worth your investment.
Send an Eleventh Hour Email
Don’t be shy about sending out a Valentine’s Day email a day or two before the big night. It might be the best way to become top of mind with customers looking to book a reservation under the wire.
- Write a knock-out subject line: To make this email effective, choose your subject line carefully. Remember, many retailers and restaurants will be vying for the attention of last minute lovers, so catchy is key. One study found that the words “sweet”, “ideas”, “coupon” and symbols, like the <3, performed best around Valentine’s Day.
- Include persuasive content: This is where you’d include a brief description of your incentive and, most importantly, where you create a sense of urgency. Include terms such as: “Time is running out”, “Cupid is just around the corner”, “Reservations are filling up fast!” and “Have you made a reservation for your lover yet?“
Social Media Promotion
While you may think the time has come and gone to promote via social media, it’s not too late if you do it right! Here are a few ways to engage last minute lovers over your social channels.
- Contest to win a complimentary romantic dinner for two: Offer a contest for a free romantic evening. But consider that at this late stage in the game customers still are looking to lock down their itinerary at this point. To ensure you get entries and convert that into business, be sure to provide any entrant with a prize they can use after Valentine’s is over. A couple of contest suggestions:
- Best Love Story: Ask guests to share a photo and the story behind how they met.
- Date Night Dish: Encourage customers to share a photo of their meal explain why they chose it.
- Promote your Valentine’s offerings through social media: Just as effective as email, share your Valentine’s Day incentives over social media. And remember, don’t just market the deal point blank; make the content shareable, likeable, and something that a customer would tag a friend in.
The way to the last minute lover’s heart is through the stomach. Don’t be dismayed if you haven’t promoted your Valentine’s Day offering yet, there’s still time. So go now and send that email, post that Instagram photo, and print off that prix fixe menu. You’ve got a hot date with last minute lovers and it’s going to be great.