St. Patrick’s Day Has Restaurant Operators Seeing Green

Written by Kristi Turner, CMO of Compeat, for Total Food Service.

St. Patrick’s Day is right around the corner, and there is nothing more popular on the rowdiest of holidays than for people to go out and celebrate with others.  You do not want to miss out on this huge opportunity to get people in your doors.

According to a National Retail Federation survey, American’s planned to spend a whopping $5.9 billion annually celebrating St. Patrick’s Day last year. According to the survey, this is not a holiday that should be ignored by operators. Take a look at these statistics that can directly affect your restaurant sales:

  • 149+ million U.S. adults plan to celebrate the Irish holiday
  • 27 percent will head to a party at a bar or restaurant
  • 50 percent will purchase food
  • 41 percent will purchase beverages

Whether you are trying to compete with other local restaurants or just need that “something extra” to win people over, there is money to be made.  And fortunately, it lands on a Sunday this year giving restaurants a full weekend to offer promotions. Here are a few ways that you can increase your sales:

Augment your menu

St. Patrick’s Day is all about going Irish.  No matter what your restaurant theme is, focus on a few Irish staples to get your guests in the spirit.  Most of the traditional Irish foods are surprisingly low cost.  For brunch, serve up a traditional Irish breakfast of Irish bangers, baked eggs and potato pancakes.  Lunch and dinner options can include corned beef and cabbage, Irish stew and shepherd’s pie. And be sure you have plenty of drinks to wash it all down. While many patrons will expect green beer to be on hand, don’t forget to stock up on Guinness, Irish whiskey, and other Celtic spirits.

Go Upscale

Corned beef and boiled cabbage not your thing?  Then take it up a notch. Even the most upscale locations can get in on the fun. Did you know that Ireland is also renowned for its oysters and fresh-baked soda breads? Or perhaps feature specials of steak and Guinness pie, Irish colcannon (substitute kale for the cabbage to impress even more), Irish cream cake and top things off with an offering of Irish coffee, or a traditional grasshopper.

Irish Music

Nothing gets a crowd into the holiday spirit like serving up some traditional Irish tunes. This can be scaled as necessary, depending on your budget and space. Whether you chose to hire a live band, dancing troupe to perform the traditional Irish jig, a bag piper, or just play Irish tunes in the background, the distinct Celtic music will add instant ambiance to your celebration.

Think outside the box 

Make it a family affair for families with children and no sitter.  Offer games to get the guests in the door and make them stay longer. It’s easy to organize rounds of pin the shamrock on the leprechaun or a scavenger hunt within your space. This kind of playful attitude may just win you some return customers.

Offer freebies

Everyone loves freebies!  These do not have to be elaborate – perhaps green beads, shamrock pins, or green top hats. Your local dollar store has so many options!  It’s the gesture that counts here – and there are many that will make your customers feel special.

Raffle off prizes

For something a little more exciting, you might consider a raffle. Prizes can be as simple as one lucky couple getting dinner on the house, a free round of drinks, or a coupon to return for dinner.

Partner up

Consider teaming up with a neighboring business for a win-win situation.  A little co-marketing for a package deal such as dinner and movie tickets, bowling passes, laser tag games, etc., can go a long way in getting your name in front of fresh eyes. See if a nearby business is willing to partner with you in advertising each other’s businesses online and in print for St. Patrick’s Day promotions.

Boost to-go sales

As seen in the survey, a lot of people prefer to host or attend private parties instead of facing the crowds. Irish themed take-out is a great way to appeal to these potential customers. Promote themed take out specials throughout your restaurant and online.

Leprechauns or not, it is not too late to start promoting your restaurant as the St. Patrick’s Day choice. Don’t get pinched by missing out on the opportunity this fun holiday provides.

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