Bob Geldof might not be a big fan of Mondays but this one could be different for the Dubliner because, of course, 17 March (a Monday) is St Patrick’s Day, the time when all good Irishmen have a party — and everyone’s honorary Irish.
Bring on the black stuff
People also feel it’s somehow their duty to drink Guinness and wear a silly hat. According to market research by the iconic Irish stout, 36% of UK pubs see an increase in non-regular customers on St Patrick’s Day and more than 60% agree that making a thing of serving Guinness and going mad with the merchandise drives footfall.
In fact, last year, pubs sold on average an extra 98 pints of beer (or £310 in takings), and Guinness Draught accounted for 57% of the increase.
With St Pat’s falling on a Monday this time around, it presents a tougher challenge, but the good thing is that, coming straight after the final games of the RBS Six Nations rugby union tournament, there’s a chance to make a long weekend of it.
the percentage of UK pubs that see an increase in non-regular customers on St Patrick’s Day
the number of outlets across the UK set to receive Guinness’s St Patrick’s Day celebration kits
Kitted out for the big day
For its part, Guinness will be providing more than 10,000 outlets with its St Patrick’s Day kits, containing PoS, décor and, naturally, hats.
“Publicans should think carefully about their offering and build an association with St Patrick’s Day in consumers’ minds using all available channels to publicise their celebrations,” advises Amy Mooney, head of on-trade category marketing at Guinness brand owner Diageo.
“It’s important, too, that they differentiate their outlets from the competition, and, as it falls on a Monday, make sure that celebrations take place over the weekend.
“Music and entertainment can help create a celebratory atmosphere,” she adds. “And a themed menu, such as Irish stew and pint-and-pie deals, will improve the overall experience and drive additional sales by extending the occasion.
“Publicans should remember that there are 6.5 million loyal Guinness consumers who spend more on food and drink than the average beer drinker, so by offering more and building association with St Patrick’s Day you can position your pub as the ‘go-to’ place to enjoy the festivities.”
Springboard into Easter
Stephen Martin, category trade manager at Punch Taverns, believes a successful St Patrick’s Day celebration can propel pubs into successful Easter trading.
“We’re encouraging our pubs to introduce food specials and organise special events, such as a themed quiz, karaoke or disco,” he says.
“About a week before, I would advise licensees to sit down and engage staff, especially if you’re expecting to be busy. Make them aware of any specials and promotions and get them excited about the day. If your staff are happy and enthusiastic it will rub off on your customers.”
While food can certainly add an extra income stream and keep people in the pub for longer, St Patrick’s Day is chiefly a wet-led occasion, and the drinks offer is crucial to success.
“St Patrick’s Day appeals to the ‘big night out’ consumer,” says Simon Green, marketing director at Global Brands. “It is a high-energy occasion with large groups of young consumers prepared to spend on new
experiences. They look for fun, colourful, sweeter-tasting drinks — and the traditional ‘Irish’ drinks do not always meet these needs throughout the night.
“So licensees should look at how brands in all drinks categories can support the event in different ways.”
Make it look good
Global’s RTD brand VK is promoting a range of shared serves for St Patrick’s Day in a variety of innovative vessels, such as fishbowls and half-yard glasses, as well as pitchers.
Cocktails such as Little Leprechaun (VK Apple and Mango with rum, topped with lemonade and ice) and Patrick’s Punch (VK Apple and Mango, 75ml Corky’s Sour Cherry, 75ml vodka, topped with lemonade and ice) aim to provide an interesting trade-up.
Corky’s is also offering a celebration shot in the shape of the new Mango Glitter Mix.
■ Think carefully about what you can do to ensure that your pub stands out as the best place to celebrate St Patrick’s Day. Why not make a weekend of it?
■ Target your customers. Are you going for a traditional or modern celebration?
■ Create a themed pub food menu, tempting meal deals and special cocktails using Guinness, Irish whiskey or something green.
■ You will need some lively entertainment for the day. Book a band or try karaoke.
■ Visibility is vital for success. Display your merchandising inside and out well ahead of 17 March.
■ Keep it at the front of people’s minds using social media, building up the frequency of mentions as the big day approaches.
■ Use the RBS Six Nations rugby union tournament as a springboard to promote your St Patrick’s event.
■ Make sure that your staff are right behind the celebrations. Encourage them to come up with some ideas, talk about the event to your customers, and dress up on the day.
Guinness Black Velvet cocktail
■ 1 part Guinness
■ 2 parts Champagne
■ Pour Guinness into a chilled Champagne flute
■ Add the Champagne carefully
Case study: the Castle Hotel, Swindon, Wiltshire
Now in her seventh year at the Castle, Punch tenant Martina McCann is again looking forward to the busiest day of 2014 at her “back-street boozer”.
“It’s always been known as an Irish pub,” she says. “And on St Patrick’s we can do a week’s takings in a day. Guinness is our top seller. We got through five barrels last year.
“We just get busier every time, and even though it’s on a Monday, I expect people to take the day off to come in — and the day after too.”
The Castle will stage two sessions of live music, the first starting at 3pm and the second featuring regulars Liam and Chris O’Leary with their own brand of contemporary upbeat Irish folk. Sandwiched in between there will be a show from the Farrell School of Irish Dancing, which is based in Fairford, Gloucestershire.
As it’s such a special occasion, there will be food on the bar, too — traditional Irish soda bread and boiled bacon, made by Martina’s sister and sister-in-law.
“It’s a real family affair,” she says.