Making the most of St Patrick's Day

By Sheila McWattie

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags St patrick Guinness Saint patrick's day

Time for pubs to gear up for St Patrick's Day
Time for pubs to gear up for St Patrick's Day
For those willing to put in the hard yards and prepare for it, St Patrick’s Day can provide licensees with one of the busiest days of their year. Sheila McWattie reports.

For that’s when the city’s journeymen plumbers famously dye the Chicago River green for St Patrick’s Day.

While our rivers may not look quite so spectacular on 17 March, you can be certain there will be a number of enterprising pubs turning emerald in honour of the Irish Saint.

And, with Paddy’s Day falling on the Saturday of the three final Six Nations rugby matches — including England v Ireland — and the Cheltenham Gold Cup being run the day before, licensees have more opportunities to tap into lucrative Celtic shenanigans than you could shake a shillelagh at.

St Patrick’s Day happening on a Saturday will really encourage pubs to replace the word “day” with “weekend”, suggests Fuller’s retail marketing manager Elton Mouna.

“Pubs will have every excuse to celebrate from Friday 16 March, with early festivities offering perfect opportunities for after-work celebrations,” Mouna advises.

For many Fuller’s pubs, the weekend will be about creating a great Irish menu alongside a glass of the black stuff, but some — such as the Churchill Arms in Kensington, west London — go a step further.

Licensee Gerry O’Brien can’t wait. “The Ireland v England Six Nations match and Cheltenham racing will be huge highlights,” he says.

“We’ll be up until 4am blowing up 800 balloons for inside and 400 for outside and we’ll fly five Irish flags plus a Union Flag. We’re famous for our Thai food so we’ll give away ‘Thairish’ stew. After the rugby we’ll have singers behind the bar. Staff dress up and give away hand-held flags, plus bowls of shamrocks, sent from home. It’s fantastic,” O’Brien adds.

One song that might be heard at the Churchill Arms is Black is the Colour and, of course, there’s nothing like the black stuff to get Paddy’s Day parties started.

Guinness plans to make 17 March the year’s ‘friendliest day’, by linking the brand with the Guinness World Records. Consumers are invited to pledge to be friendly by sharing a pint with friends and to help attain an official world record.

Diageo will distribute 17,000 Guinness-branded PoS kits including hats, inflatable pints, balloons, posters and T-shirts.

“In 2011, outlets using Guinness PoS sold around 67 extra pints,” says Nick Britton, senior brand manager for Guinness at Diageo.

“Guinness Draught is synonymous with St Patrick’s Day and the brand is driving value into the beer category by outperforming the market by 2% over the past three months, giving outlets a fantastic opportunity to increase footfall and profits.”

Jameson, meanwhile, is offering licensees a premium take on St Patrick’s Day with on-trade initiatives to boost the whiskey’s ‘mixable and approachable’ image.

Patrick Venning, marketing director for spirits at Pernod Ricard UK, says: “Our Discover Jameson sampling campaign targets more than 290 bars across major UK cities, with ambassadors offering a premium glass-in-hand experience from a branded pop-up bar to 20,000 consumers in five weeks.”

Venning adds: “Our PoS kits include images of Jameson’s signature serve, the Irish Mule — Jameson with ginger beer, angostura bitters, wedge of lime and cubed ice.”

St Patrick’s Day isn’t just about the alcohol — hot beverages and sweet treats help to sustain energy for jigging and singing as well. “Traditional Irish coffee with Kerrymaid single cream gives publicans a great opportunity for incremental profit,” says Kerry Foodservice development chef Adrian Coulter.

“Have a look at our website for our tipsy Irish trifle recipe. It’s a celebratory take on tiramisu.”

The ‘Irishness’ of your pub is another aspect you may consider.

John Heverin, of Dublin-based OL Irish Design and Build, believes a taste of the Emerald Isle could boost business all year round.
Using Irish products, Heverin’s company specialises in refurbishing bars in a country or Victorian Irish style.

“Restaurant-style outlets serving Irish cuisine and drink are increasingly popular,” Heverin explains. “We’re cost-conscious and supply everything for front-of-house, from joinery to memorabilia.”

Wherever you and your customers call home, make sure that your pub looks the part all weekend, with themed refreshments flowing. Sláinte!

What pubs are planning for the big day

Fiddlers Elbow, Brighton

The Fiddler's Elbow, Brighton

Penny O’Reilly is preparing for an unforgettable St Patrick’s Day street festival at her East Sussex pub. A giant outdoor screen on the day itself will show all three final Six Nations matches, and there will be live music till 3am, while on the Sunday, festivities include family-friendly Irish dancing and vast urns of Irish stew. “We offer a seasonal Irish menu all year,” says O’Reilly.

“This is my third St Patrick’s Day here and the first time we have organised two-day entertainment — it builds loyalty and involvement. A new favourite tipple here is Tullamore Dew — women love its mild taste. Both William Grant, which produces Tullamore Dew, and Diageo really get behind us, helping us to provide great live music and a full outdoor bar.”

Betjeman Arms, St Pancras, central London

Celtic flavours appeal to a wide range of customers. A dozen oysters with a pint of Guinness, plus Irish-themed dishes, accompanied by live Irish music, will be available across Geronimo Inns outlets. Its Betjeman Arms at St Pancras International railway station will host a beer festival, offering oysters and Guinness on the concourse.

Farmers Boy Inn, Longhope, Gloucestershire

“It’s my busiest week,” says Phil Kiernan, owner of Mad about Pies and the Farmers Boy Inn in the village of Longhope. Kiernan offers an Irish menu all week and transports guests to and from the Cheltenham Festival for £130, including accommodation. He screens the racing daily, charging an entry fee to raise funds for a children’s charity.

Swan With Two Necks, Longdon, Staffordshire

Licensee Anne Walters at Punch lease the Swan With Two Necks will optimise opportunities with meals and a coach outing for fans to Uttoxeter’s Betfred Midlands Grand National horse race for £45. “Demand is so high, we may run two coaches,” says Walters.

“Guests will enjoy smoked salmon & cream cheese here at midday, with Champagne for the best-dressed lady, and return for a full Irish menu, including Dublin Bay prawns and Baileys cheesecake.”


Celebrations at O’Neill’s outlets start on Monday 12 March and continue through to the Sunday.

Senior marketing manager Sarah Taylor says the chain’s packed events calendar starts with a national ‘Join Our Jig’.

“A troupe of Irish dancers and musicians will tour five cities from Glasgow to London, while all 50 O’Neill’s pubs host a Join Our Jig in their town, creating a Mexican wave of events throughout the country,” says Taylor.

The events include a charity night in every pub that week, along with live music, quizzes, raffles and other competitions, are supporting children’s charity scheme Cash for Kids, with an overall target of £100,000.

“Friday is O’Neill’s live-music night, with a New Year’s Eve-style midnight countdown,” Taylor explains.

“The big day itself is packed with reasons to be in O’Neill’s — the last three matches of the Six Nations rugby, live music, big hats, great craic and some of the best Guinness in town. And there’s nothing better on a relaxed Sunday than our famous Irish breakfast.”

Our top 10 Paddy’s Day tips

1. Offer promotions all weekend.

2. Include a Friday midnight countdown.

3. Optimise PoS with at least one themed event.

4. Submit your licensing applications early.

5. If you show sport, publicise the big events.

6. Time entertainment around sporting fixtures.

7. Offer Irish-themed menus.

8. Include family-friendly activities.

9. Organise help with decorations.

10. Plan a sponsored street festival next year.

Related topics Events & Occasions

Property of the week


- Leasehold

Village position close to Reading and Newbury Extensively renovated public house Bar, conservatory, snug and function room (80-90) Four en suite letting bedrooms Two bedroom owner/staff accommodation Part-covered trade garden...

Follow us

Pub Trade Guides

View more