You know that it must be close to St. Patrick’s Day when you see people out and about with their Shamrock Shakes. This perennial favorite from McDonald’s (a green milkshake, and not because of its spinach content) is highly prized and creates a lot of excitement when it appears on the menu. I know this because my son will ask me to get him one, although McDonald’s is not a place that we frequent. Don’t get confused; you’re definitely reading a blog about the spa industry, even though the words “spa” and “McDonald’s” are not frequently seen in the same paragraph. The reason is that the reappearance of the Shamrock Shake made me think about the way the quick service restaurant (QSR) sector uses these kinds of promotions to drive business, and they’re very successful.
QSRs call these Limited Time Offers (LTOs) and an article in this week’s Wall Street Journal outlines how fast food restaurants create promotions around the calendar. Some restaurants offer a certain item at the same time each year, such as with the Shamrock Shake, and others introduce variations, like a different kind of fish dish during Lent each year. The purpose of this, according to the article, is “To attract consumers more frequently or boost their spending during each visit.” This is goal of most consumer-oriented businesses, including spas.
Maybe it’s just my years in the industry, but spa menus tend to be predictable. This is not necessarily a bad thing. We’ve finally managed to educate our consumers about what they can have done at a spa, and we don’t want to confuse them now with random and unexpected changes. However, offering up more frequent variations can help refresh service menus.
Many spas offer seasonal variations; you’ll see a plethora of pumpkin and spice treatments in the fall, cinnamon and chocolate for the winter holidays, and cooling mint and fruity services in the summer. However, I think the industry possesses the potential to be much more creative, and to do so with more regularity.
At a yoga studio I frequent, they feature a “pose of the month,” and during the month that particular pose gets more attention by being highlighted during flow sequencing. Why can’t spas offer a “featured” body service, or the eye treatment of the month? We can do it with retail as well. What about offering a highlighted product, or even ingredient, for a limited time? Why not experiment a little this spring, and see if we can create some excitement for our clients, as well as our staff?
I will provide a note of caution, which holds true for any industry, including restaurants. In promotional planning, as in all things you do, keep your branding and mission front and center. Any variation or spin on services or products should still be in keeping with your value proposition to your clients. Jonathan Muhtar, Chief Marketing Officer of Captain D’s Restaurant, says it best in an article from QSR Magazine: “If you’re trying lots of different menu items, customers may wonder what type of restaurant you are. For us, it’s freshly prepared seafood. Everything, including LTOs, moves from that point. We don’t lose sight of that focus.” Keep this in mind as your plan your own variations for spring.