Do This Now: 5 Tips to St. Pattyas Day Green

After a sluggish January that often has bar or club owners struggling to get customers through their doors — even the most kitschy of promotions can fall by the wayside — there’s an onslaught of holidays and big events that follow in the coming months. It’s almost hard to keep track of how to acknowledge Super Bowl Sunday, Valentine’s Day, Mardi Gras, March Madness and St. Patrick’s Day without being overwhelmed by all the planning, marketing and working with suppliers that needs to be done. If the public knows there’s something big on the horizon, then they expect you to know, too.

One of the biggest bar days of the year, and one that brings out some of the most intrepid revelers is St. Patrick’s Day. Because it draws out the Irish as well as those Irish only for the day, it’s the one event that guarantees profits while pushing your business into overdrive. While gearing up for your Mardi Gras promotion, owners also should be hammering out the details on what’s happening March 17.  

If you want the luck of the Irish to rub off on your bar or club, follow these tips and ideas that will help you get started. While patrons want to toast the holiday with green beer and shots, it’s important for owners to see green as well.

1. Play to your strengths. Just because you’re not an Irish bar doesn’t mean you shouldn’t celebrate St. Patrick’s Day. This year, the holiday falls on a Saturday, so patrons will want to go out, no matter what. If you’re not looking to attract a debauched crowd of revelers, then forgo typical St. Patrick’s Day ideas and formulate something outside the box. If you own a beer bar, make beer the focus. For example, last year Old Chicago hosted its St. Pat’s Mini Tour, which featured eight specialty beers including Guinness Irish Stout, Killian’s Irish Red Lager, Smithwick’s Irish Ale and more. By paying tribute to great Irish brews, Old Chicago also paid homage to Ireland without being over the top.

2. Safety first. It’s no surprise that St. Patrick’s Day brings out some of the craziest crowds, so have staff on hand who know how to deal with patrons who will be acting rowdier than usual. Get ahead by planning on having additional staff (consider even doubling staff) on St. Patrick's Day and reviewing training and security measures. In fact, holding a refresher course for your staff before St. Patrick’s Day is important. Don’t expect just a crowd — anticipate a packed house. Make sure security is ready and that there’s fluidity in the bar so high-trafficked areas aren’t stopping the flow of traffic.

3. Differentiate yourself. When planning a St. Patrick’s Day promo, it can seem like your options are limited to green drinks and green beer. But that doesn’t have to be the case. Get your staff together to brainstorm ideas now, check out what the competition is doing and review your past St. Patrick’s promos. Did they help you hit your bottom line or did things go bust? Don’t feel confined by the holiday; have fun with it!

4. Create an Annual Event. St. Patrick’s Day falls on March 17, but that doesn’t mean you’re limited to one day of celebration. The Irish, after all, always are up for celebrating their heritage. O’Shea’s Caesars Entertainment in Las Vegas creates a can’t-miss block party every year, expanding on normal weekend activities for the holiday. This block party continues to grow, and the 2010 party saw beverage sales increase by 36.7%. Irish-themed bands played throughout the four-day bash, and beer pong vs. “Lucky the Leprechaun” had patrons spending $40 for a buy-in. Now’s the time to start planning an event of this caliber. Remember, an annual gimmick will continue to draw crowds for years to come.

5. Be Tech Savvy. Not to sound like a broken record, but operators can forget how important being on top of social networking can be for their business.  So, capitalize on these Internet trends. It may seem time-consuming and tedious, but your guests, who have access to computers, notebooks and smartphones, are always available to check Facebook, Twitter or Foursquare. Take advantage of these savvy users by creating a contest on your Facebook page now. For example, grow your number of “likes” by hosting a contest. Have your “fans” post photos of themselves in their best St. Patrick’s Day getup. Then, award the most interesting and clever entrant with a VIP pass for the evening. Social networking is an easy, inexpensive and smart way to keep customers engaged early in the promotional stages that they won’t forget when St. Patrick’s Day comes around.

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