Winter is a rollercoaster of a time for many bars and pubs. On one hand, it hosts three of the four most popular holidays for drinking—Christmas, New Year’s, and St. Patrick’s Day. On the other hand, in between these holidays, people like to stay at home and avoid the wintery elements. That’s what makes St. Patrick’s Day such a big deal for your bar.

It’s a given that people are going to come out and drink, so you want to make the most of it, especially when it seems like your customers’ winter hibernation might drag on for a few more months.

With St. Patrick’s Day being such a potential revenue boost for your bar, pub, or restaurant, you’ll want to be sure to get ahead of any potential issues before they arise. In addition, there’s a lot more competition with other local drinking establishments for customers over the holiday. Running fun promotions and interacting with your clientele before your big event will help drive traffic to your place. Let’s take a look at some ways to prep your bar or pub for St. Patrick’s Day to make sure you bring in the people and keep them happy.

St. Patrick’s Day stats

Before diving into tips for a great St. Patrick’s Day celebration, it’s good to know what you might be dealing with. Here are a few stats about St. Patrick’s Day compiled from various sources, including The National Retail Federation.

  • Nearly 30% of Americans plan to attend a party at a bar, pub, or restaurant to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day.
  • The average person spends between $28-$42 on St. Patrick’s Day festivities.
  • 70% of people aged 18-34 plan to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day.
  • About 13 million pints of Guinness are served on St. Patrick’s Day.

Typical St. Patrick’s Day problems and simple fixes

Service doesn’t meet demand. St. Patrick’s Day is a drinking holiday, no doubt about it. Though Irish culture and heritage may play some role in the celebration, most of the customers you’ll serve just want to have a few drinks. Because Guinness is the drink of choice on St. Patrick’s Day, make sure your wait staff understands the two-part pour: the first to settle and the second to top off. And speaking of wait staff, make sure you’ve got enough people scheduled for your busiest times. Use a schedule planning software to keep your staff informed of shift changes. Get the schedule for St. Patrick’s Day settled with a few weeks to spare so you can hire part-time help if needed.

Customers have been drinking too much. If your bar is located in a central area, pub crawls are bound to happen. Customers who started drinking elsewhere will want to wander in to your place. If you’ve got the space, the revolving clientele can be a great thing. But your staff needs to be trained on when to stop serving people who are clearly inebriated.  There are many drunk driving accidents and even fatalities on St. Patrick’s Day. You don’t want your establishment to be responsible for tragedy on a day of celebration

College kids love St. Patrick’s Day. Unfortunately for them, most aren’t of legal drinking age yet. Be sure to give your door staff and bouncers training on what to look for in fake IDs. People will try to get in to join the party, but those who are underage will have to take in your Irish-themed breakfast or lunch rather than the drinking festivities.

It’s a different crowd. Holidays and celebrations bring out the people who don’t normally visit your bar and aren’t used to the normal vibe. Add a lot of alcohol to the mix and you’ve got the potential for volatile situations. Be sure to have enough bouncers on hand to keep people from getting violent. It’s not unusual for people drinking on St. Patrick’s Day to get upset about getting bumped or elbowed due to the crowds. Make sure you staff is on high alert for violence and know how to respond.

St. Patrick’s Day celebration ideas

Once you’ve got your plan in place for potential staff and safety issues, it’s time to be creative with possible ways to get your bar or pub into the St. Patrick’s Day mood. Remember to keep things in your bar’s comfort zone. If you don’t normally make a big deal out of holidays, that’s fine, keep doing what works for you. If you do want to try something new, go with one or two suggestions at a time to see what works!

1. Extend the celebration

Instead of Celebrating St. Patrick’s Day, which conveniently falls on a Friday this year, celebrate for the extended weekend—Wednesday through Sunday. Hold different theme contests each night: Best use of green, Nicest shamrock, Most smiley Irish eyes, etc. Offer different Irish drink specials each night: beers, whiskeys, special green mixed drinks, etc. Also consider extending your operating hours. If you usually open in the afternoons, try adding a breakfast or lunch service. A St. Patrick’s Day lunch might attract a more family-oriented or business crowd looking to avoid the partying later at night. A breakfast the day after could help with hangovers and to serve service industry people just finishing up with work.

2. Add green to everything

Green food is a big hit on St. Patrick’s Day. A little food coloring can go a long way toward coloring bread, cheese, and even fries. If that’s too extreme, add a green pin to your wait staff uniform or give them a special green shirt to wear during their shift.

3. Irish food is in demand

Corned beef and hash is a big seller around St. Patrick’s Day. You might add a few specials to your menu that include soda bread or brown bread, fish, and potatoes to get people into the Irish spirit.

4. Promote your celebration

Use social media to hold contests and promote your celebration. Get people to tag friends and share posts in order to win free drink tickets or appetizers. Use a green filter on your photos to get even more in the spirit.

St. Patrick’s Day is a holiday that helps your staff make great tips while your customers enjoy themselves. With the right planning and prep, and maybe a little luck o’ the Irish, St. Patrick’s Day will boost your bar’s revenue and keep you going for the next few months of winter!

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