St. Patrick’s Day is coming, and it's one of the biggest drinking days of the year. Is your bar or restaurant ready? Give Saint Patrick the respect he deserves, and make sure you have the right marketing in place. Here are some tips to get you started.
Setting a Date
St. Patrick’s Day is on March 17. According to Bar & Restaurant Success, over 25 percent of people in the United States will be going out to celebrate their Irish heritage (real or honorary). That’s big business.
And they aren’t just going out on the day of. Some people celebrate the weekend before, others the weekend after and some the entire month, so don't focus only on St. Paddy’s Day. Instead, run your specials during the weekend that falls nearest the actual date, or go crazy and offer specials all month. When you avoid naming a specific date, you can reuse your signage from year to year — be it banners or tent cards.
Many celebrants are going to go to a bar they know, whether you are doing anything special for St. Paddy’s Day or not, but (and this is a big but) almost 30 percent of the people who go out to celebrate the day are going to look for places that feature traditional St. Patrick’s Day items, like green beer. This is especially important if you're trying to attract more women to your establishment. The fair sex is roughly twice as likely to seek out a place that serves traditional Irish food or drinks for St. Paddy’s Day. Think customary Irish food and standard drinks from Ireland, such as Guinness, Harp, Bailey’s and Jameson.
Food for St. Paddy’s Day
Traditional Irish food is going to be an easy sell around St. Patrick’s Day, but it’s not the only thing moving. Sure, you may be able to sell a few shepherd’s pies or some corned beef and cabbage, but if that type of food doesn’t exactly fit with the theme of your restaurant, don’t stress. There are other options for serving St. Paddy’s Day foods. Anything green with a festive name is going to work.
You know you're going to have people in your place for St. Patrick’s Day. These people are going out for a drink and some food regardless; you don’t have to attract them with sales. So, rather than use low-priced drink specials to bring them in, promote Irish drinks instead. Let people know you will have Guinness on tap, promote green beer, mention how much you charge for Jameson, or create an Irish-themed drink. You may not even have to discount them. Just advertise that you have them. People are looking for places that offer festive food and drink, so make it obvious what you offer.
Green beer was a big success the first time someone did it because it was different. Now, it has become a standard. That’s not to say that you shouldn’t dye your beer green in honor of St. Patrick (let’s not go crazy), but you're going to have to think outside the box. Green beer and a hottest leprechaun contest are not going to make you competitive. The latter could even cost you business if your clientele isn’t into that sort of thing. Instead, put your focus on doing something genuinely different rather than just coloring things green (be it beer or women).
Why not hire an Irish music band instead of offering the same cheeky contests? They play ballads as well as a ton of drinking songs — plus, many people know the words and sing along. Irish music works for a variety of venues as well. You could go traditional, and have a group playing Irish folk music with the bodhran (Irish drum) and fiddle or appeal to a younger crowd with a group that covers the Dropkick Murphys or the Pogues. Own a nightclub? Have the DJ spin in some Celtic beats. Choose a format that fits your bar or restaurant.
You don’t have to stock up with Irish drinks and music. Depending on your establishment, you might have more luck with an Irish poetry reading or a scene from an Irish play, especially in more sedate settings. Have a family restaurant? Maybe a reading of Irish folk tales would be a better fit. Own a dive bar? Hire a comedian. Run a small establishment with no room for entertainment? Sell them on services, like a free ride home or a shuttle to a nearby hotel.
Luck Be With Ye
You can also focus on the luck aspect of the Irish holiday. After all, the day isn't all green things and Guinness. Start by running promotions on your social media a few weeks before the big day. Ask followers to comment on a post or tag your business, then pick a winner at random for free drinks or a free meal. You could also run an in-person promotion. Let customers buy a chance to get a discount or a free menu item, then let them spin a wheel or pull from a fishbowl to see what they get. Or, host a scavenger hunt.
Go Big or Go Home
Whatever you decide to do for St. Patrick’s Day, the holiday is a huge opportunity for your bar or restaurant, so don’t sell yourself short. Promotions cost money to get going, but you can always take a small business loan to cover the costs. After all, the people you draw in for St. Patrick’s Day could become regular patrons.