Are oysters truly aphrodisiacs?  Can honey actually stimulate a lagging libido?  Will chocolate really enhance a man’s stamina and sexual prowess?  For centuries, people have been mystified by the sensual powers of certain natural foods.  Karwoski & Courage took the mystique and brought it to the people of the Twin Cities with McCormick & Schmick’s Aphrodisiac Dinner on Valentine’s Day.  Not only did the event provide the public with an opportunity to experience such foods and to learn about the historic background of certain ingredients as aphrodisiacs, but it also “moved” the media to extensively cover the restaurant, the dinner and the aphrodisiac menu items.


Karwoski & Courage recommended that the executive chef’s special prix fixe menu feature items known for their aphrodisiac qualities, including oysters on the half shell and Grand Marnier-injected strawberries served with milk chocolate fondue.  In addition to the “stimulating” meal, the agency tied in with a well-known cookbook author to create a book for the guests describing common aphrodisiacs as well as foods not usually recognized for their libido-enhancing properties, such as avocado, basil, asparagus and rosemary. 




McCormick & Schmick’s has faced a local media scene that is less than welcoming to “chain” restaurants.  Karwoski & Courage needed to create something that would become a signature event associated with McCormick & Schmick’s and attract media attention because of it.


While McCormick & Schmick’s in Minneapolis had never held a dinner featuring a menu with foods considered aphrodisiacs, the executive chef was willing to design a creative menu and make several media appearance.  In addition, the agency knew it was important to maintain the upscale image of the restaurant while publicizing the event.




Karwoski & Courage conducted an analysis of similar events in the market, and finding none, identified the restaurant’s competitive advantage. 

The agency “tested” the idea with a few select media insiders who were very receptive.


Strategic Approach:


  • Create a signature event that would be associated with McCormick & Schmick’s and be synonymous with their reputation as “the seafood authority.”
  • Create media buzz leading up to the event to drive dinner sales during the typically sluggish month of February.
  • Target consumers outside of the typical clientele in order to introduce new customers to the restaurant.


Campaign Execution:


Karwoski & Courage created an eight-page booklet describing the myths, legends and lore surrounding foods as aphrodisiacs, and gave one to each guest during the entire week around Valentine’s Day.  The agency also distributed the booklets in advance of the event to local media along with the news release and special menu.


The agency tied in with Martha Hopkins, author of “InterCourses: an aphrodisiac cookbook.”  The restaurant sold her book during the weeks leading up to the Aphrodisiac Dinner, and offered them as prizes for radio promotions.


Summary of Results:


The Aphrodisiac Dinner was so popular that Valentine’s Day reservations were completely booked two weeks prior, and the restaurant extended the special menu into the weekend.  The restaurant reported that many of the reservations came from “new” guests.  The book of lore was an equal success, with guests seen quizzing each other on aphrodisiac myths during their meals. 


From a media standpoint, the executive chef made media appearances on three radio stations and one TV station, and all the print outlets in town reported that McCormick & Schmick’s was a sure bet for Valentine’s Day. 


One radio station even staged a weeklong promotion to recruit a “young couple in love” that would win a chance to try out the Aphrodisiac Dinner in studio prepared by the McCormick & Schmick’s chef.  As luck would have it, the couple selected was getting married the next day!  They reported back the following Monday that “it worked.”