What is the key to being fully booked this Valentine’s Day?
Better yet, how can a restaurant fully leverage this holiday all February? It’s all about the roses, but perhaps not in the way you are thinking.
I’m not suggesting that you put all other plans on hold and ring a super-quality florist to make sure that each couple is given only the most luscious of roses upon arrival –though that certainly would not hurt! What I am actually referring to is the example of ‘passionified roses’ given to us by 20th-Century French philosopher Roland Barthes.
Independent of its associations with love and Valentine’s Day, roses have another, more basic meaning. They are just flowers – thorny, crimson, and generally considered to be beautiful. They have existed since the dinosaurs and therefore concepts passion and love have zero inherent associations with them.
In Western culture we choose to signify our passion (the signified) to our lover with roses (the signifier). When roses are combined with passion – that is the signifier and signified respectively, they produce what we know as Valentine’s Day roses, which are an undisputed sign of one’s passion and love for another.
What is demonstrated above is that the term rose can exist with two rather different meanings. Rose the signifier, or a rose that is a flower of a certain genus that has nothing inherent about it to do with Valentine’s Day. And rose the sign that so utterly means love, passion and Valentine’s Day that it is almost a cliché to give a dozen of them as a gift to one’s partner on special occasions.
Restaurateur, if you are serious about filling up your restaurant with customers this Valentine’s Day consider how this is deeply relevant to you and your marketing.
Objects and words can be entirely empty of meaning (the signifier) or can be entirely full (the sign). Your job – or your marketer’s – is to communicate why people should choose your restaurant over the other ten thousand plus ones that exist in London… To have any hope of doing so effectively, your Valentine’s Day marketing message must be full to the brim!
For a successful and lucrative Valentine’s Day, it will take more than a half-hearted email marketing template that makes use of the colour pink, hearts and – of course – roses. It will take more than a rushed Valentine’s Day menu that is treated as an afterthought that may or may not include a glass of cheap ‘bubbly’. By doing this you will be falling in the trap of proposing a random collage of empty signifiers to your customers.
Empty signifiers – though technically meaningless – in the context of Valentine’s Day marketing are actually rather meaningful. They broadly flag to your customers that your restaurant is proposing an incoherent and therefore unappealing message and that your restaurant simply cannot be bothered to produce a worthwhile Valentine’s Day experience. Empty signifiers will mean that your marketing message will be passed up in favour of a restaurant’s whose Valentine’s Day marketing message is full.
Valentine’s Day customers are not looking for a deal or discount. They want the full force of the meaning of Valentine’s Day oozing out of your marketing – email and social media, content, website and menu. Beyond this, what they really want to see is how your restaurant’s version of Valentine’s Day is particularly worthwhile and unique.
So think about it… What does Valentine’s Day mean to you and/or your restaurant? Are you a fancy French restaurant and is Champagne your romantic beverage of choice? Make a Champagne tasting menu and allow your marketing to fully convey the reasons why for your restaurant Champagne and passion are inextricably linked…
Are you a simple but authentic Italian restaurant whose customers are not willing to spend upwards of £25 per person? No problem – full meaning does not have to be expensive! Why not dedicate your Valentine’s Day experience to the romantic city Roma with a menu centred on its famous pasta dishes (if you are spending more than £2 for the ingredients for a portion of cacio e pepe, you are making it incorrectly!)? The charms of Rome are an endless source inspiration for the most impactful and meaningful of marketing content, provided your message conveys why you love Rome without falling back on empty clichés.
Above everything else, it is crucial that you weigh the particular Valentine’s Day experience at your restaurant with your own passion to make each meal a veritable sign that your restaurant loves its customers and cares deeply about their satisfaction!