Attention Restaurant Owners: How to Have a Profitable (and Safe) St. Patrick’s Day
March is here, so that means St. Patrick’s Day is right around the corner. As a restaurant or bar owner, this holiday is a great opportunity to boost sales, considering it’s one of the most widely celebrated holidays globally. No matter where your establishment is located, you are bound to have an influx of customers during the weekends surrounding St. Patrick’s Day.
You don’t need the luck of the Irish to have a successful St. Patrick’s Day at your restaurant or bar. Here’s everything you need to know to have a safe holiday while still boosting sales.
St. Patrick’s Day is a huge marketing opportunity for restaurants and bars during the entire month of March. Come up with unique ways to attract customers to your establishment. When the holiday falls on a weekday, use it as an opportunity to celebrate during the two weekends that it’s sandwiched between.
If you want to celebrate during the week(s) leading up to St. Patrick’s Day, there are plenty of ways to attract customers without overthinking it. Hosting trivia nights and costume contests are cost-friendly and equally as exciting for your guests.
If you want to turn it up a notch, hire a local band to play during the weekend before St. Patrick’s Day. Even if it’s not your cup of tea, get an Irish rock band or some bagpipers to play at your restaurant to get everybody in the St. Patrick’s Day spirit.
St. Patrick’s Day Bar Crawl
Bars and restaurants in many major cities (and even smaller towns) come together to host bar crawls for St. Patrick’s Day. Partner with local bars and restaurant-bars to make your business a stop in a city-wide bar crawl.
Work together with the other small business owners to create a map to make it easy for people to travel from bar to bar. You can even list pertinent information such as happy hours and other specials for each destination. If you do choose the bar crawl route, make sure you use some other promotional ideas to set your bar apart from the others.
The last and most crucial step is to publicize the bar crawl. You won’t get a turnout if you don’t get the word out. Post the schedule and promotions on your social media networks, in your restaurant, and on your website. Take it a step further and make shirts for customers to wear during the bar crawl that promotes your business.
Besides Earth Day, St. Patrick’s Day is the best time to “go green” in the eco sense of the word. Use this holiday as an opportunity to practice restaurant sustainability. Consider using live greenery instead of a bunch of plastic decorations.
You can also partner with a local environmental charity or organization to come up with ways to cut back on waste. If you don’t already recycle, join a recycling program. Make sure to recycle all bottles and cans instead of throwing them in the trash at the end of the night.
Make a Special Menu
When you think of typical Irish meals, your mind probably goes straight to corned beef with cabbage or shepherd’s pie. If you’re thinking this way, the chances are that every other restaurant owner is too. While there’s nothing wrong with serving traditional Irish fare this time of year, don’t be afraid to add some unique touches to the menu.
- Kegs and eggs- Start the day early with a kegs and eggs special for those early risers.
- Add “Irish twists” to common foods- Rather than create an entire traditional Irish menu, add some Irish touches to dishes you already serve. For instance, corned beef and cabbage nachos or egg rolls are a tasty spin on classic culinary fare.
- Discount classic Irish beverages- Discount drinks such as Jameson, Guinness, or Irish Car Bombs.
- Green foods- If you don’t want to change up anything on your menu, green food dye is an easy way to be festive. Make any bread items green and check with your beer distributor and see if you can arrange for some green beer kegs.
- Offer non-alcoholic drinks- If you want to craft a more family-friendly offering, creating green-themed drinks for people under 21 is the perfect way to do that.
You Need all Hands on Deck
As the fourth most popular drinking day in America creeps closer, you’re going to need all the help you can get. Being understaffed leads to more mistakes, longer wait times, and even safety issues.
Here are some ways to ensure you’re well-equipped with staff members to make the weekend goes smoothly:
- Hire security
With hundreds of guests who’ve been drinking coming in and out of your establishment, it’s in your best interest to hire a few people to make sure nobody gets out of hand or violent. Don’t skip this step and wind up leaving your bar or restaurant susceptible to substantial damages of lawsuits.
- Put the best staff on during the busiest hours
Even if you open early for kegs and eggs, you probably won’t be at your busiest until later in the day. Have the bulk of your staff arrive between late-morning and early afternoon. Leverage historical data from your Point of Sale (POS) reports to look at last year’s information to determine when your busiest hours were, and staff accordingly.
- Train staff for the holiday
Consider holding a handful of training sessions in the month(s) leading up to St. Patrick’s Day weekend. This refresher course will help jog the staff’s memory on policies that might be overlooked and emphasizes the importance of following these guidelines.
Inventory and Supplies
The last thing you want to do on a busy money-making holiday is run out of stock. Whether it’s product inventory or general supplies, if you have historical data from previous years, use it to your advantage to prep for this year’s event. Here are a few questions to “ask” the data:
- How many guests came through your doors last year, and do you expect that number to increase or decrease this year?
- What were your liquor and beer sales? How many kegs or bottles of Jameson did you go through?
- What were your top-selling menu items?
- What did you run out of in previous years?
When it comes to perishable inventory items, make sure you have enough product on hand to last from open until close. You can use any leftovers as daily specials for the coming days or even donate the items to a local soup kitchen.
As for products like alcohol that have a longer shelf life or even non-perishable products like plastic cups or paper towels, don’t be afraid to order more than you need to get through the day. The lifespan of these types of items will last much longer than the celebration, so it’s less inventory you’ll need to order down the road.
According to a report by the National Retail Federation, it was projected that 49 percent of people would be spending money on food, and 40 percent of people spending money on beverages in 2019. After all, this holiday is centered around drinking and eating, so you need to be prepared for just that.
You will also need to update your restaurant POS system before the holiday. Be sure to load your St. Patrick’s Day menu into it, including all drink specials and limited time only menu items.
Take Necessary Safety Precautions
Having a successful weekend is close to impossible if you’re constantly worried about your patrons’ safety. Taking steps to avoid dangerous situations at your restaurant or bar increases the likelihood of a weekend with zero safety hiccups.
Adhere to Maximum Occupancy Standards
I know it might be hard to say no to perfectly good customers, but having too many people crammed into your restaurant like a can of sardines is a considerable safety hazard. If your restaurant is on the smaller side, you can free up some space by moving (or removing) tables and chairs.
Take Liability Seriously
This may seem like a no brainer, but some restaurant and bar owners don’t want to put in a little bit of extra effort to make sure they aren’t liable for anything that may happen in their establishment. Getting liquor liability insurance is bound to save you a lot of grief (and money), especially during this holiday centered around people drinking all day.
In addition to this, don’t be afraid to refuse service when it’s necessary. You’ll be happy in the long run to turn away someone who is belligerent and looking for trouble when you don’t have to break up a fight or clean up broken glass and spilled drinks.
Check all IDs
When bars and restaurants are at their busiest, it’s easy to get caught up in the rush and forget the basics like checking IDs for age verification. Whether your establishment’s minimum age of entry or consumption is 18 or 21, make sure the staff is appropriately verifying IDs at the appropriate checkpoints.
- If you’re running a bar, check all IDs at the door
- Ask your bartenders to check all IDs anytime a drink is ordered
- Give everyone 21 and over a stamp or wristband
- Rely on your POS system to help with age verification
We all want to go out and have fun on St. Patrick’s Day, but getting a ride to and from bars can be tricky. Ride services like Uber and Lyft shoot up in price and have longer wait times during busy holidays.
This is the perfect excuse to set up some type of cab service for your customers. If you don’t have the resources for this, make your customers feel lucky by offering groups of people with a designated driver a free meal or other small gifts.
The Bottom Line
Come March 17th, true Irish-Americans and wannabes will flow into your restaurant or bar looking to spend money. Don’t pass up the perfect opportunity to boost your small business around the St. Patrick’s Day celebration. Put some of these ideas into motion, and you’ll have a successful yet safe holiday bash.