St Patrick's Day: an Irish opportunity for the on-trade

By Ben Winstanley

- Last updated on GMT

How to host a successful St Patrick's Day event

Related tags St patrick Saint patrick's day Ireland

St Patrick’s Day is a big celebration day across the world. Ben Winstanley finds out how you make a share of the profits too

As St Patrick’s Day continues to increase in popularity, the exponential growth of the event has made it an international excuse for a party, none more so than in the UK where green-clad party goers congregate in pubs to celebrate all things Irish.

Many will forget that the event commemorates Saint Patrick bringing Christianity to Ireland but the day is a godsend for the on-trade after the ‘dry’ period that follows the start of the new year and can propel pubs towards a successful Easter.

Top tips

With celebratory events now taking place in a variety of outlets, not just Irish-themed pubs, licensees need to work increasingly hard to capitalise on this lucrative opportunity. Here’s the Publican’s Morning Advertiser’s top tips:

• Target your main demographic with either a traditional or modern celebration. Both can be successful but pitching the right experience to locals and passing trade can be make or break for success in the evening.

• Under normal circumstances, you understand why, for a large portion of the on-trade, St Patrick’s Day does not represent a perfect opportunity to push the gastronomic boat out. But for a number of people, a raucous evening is off-putting. Creating a themed pub food menu with tempting meal deals that include the likes of a stout, cocktail or Irish whiskey may be the answer.

• Lively entertainment is a must on these energetic celebrations. Differentiate from the competition with a Gaelic band or karaoke — both must be booked well in advance to avoid missing out.

• Display your merchandising well ahead of 17 March. In particular, use the RBS 6 Nations rugby tournament as a springboard to promote the event. Likewise, brands such as Guinness, Jameson and Bulmers all offer a wide variety of PoS for the festivities so publicans must ensure these are highly visible ahead of the occasion to help drive pre-event awareness and footfall into the outlet.

• Publicans should ensure they are using all available channels to publicise their St Patrick’s Day celebrations ahead of the occasion, including the use of digital platforms and social media. Increase the frequency of mentions on social media in the days building up to the main event.

• Planning is crucial for a successful event but passing on information to staff is equally important. About a week before the big day, licensees should sit down and engage staff: make them aware of specials and promotions, along with any opportunities to up-sell to a craft stout or Irish whiskey. Encourage fancy dress and get them excited about the celebrations — like Irish charm, staff enthusiasm will rub off on customers.

• St Patrick’s Day may be synonymous with pints of Guinness but the interest in craft beer still applies — a huge number of craft stouts are available to the on-trade, which may prove an ample opportunity to up-sell.

• Elsewhere in the drinks offer, Irish whiskey offers an opportunity to educate customers in the spirit’s difference to Scottish whisky. Stock three or four and encourage a whiskey tasting.

A weekend opportunity?

With this year’s event falling on a Thursday, many publicans may look towards a focus on the ‘weekend opportunity’ available. Diego has branded all PoS with ‘St Patrick’s Weekend’ to encourage licensees to extend the occasion and to ultimately help drive Guinness sales. But for creative licensees, there is an opportunity for a series of events running through to Sunday, varying in style and intensity.
A four-day event schedule could include:

Thursday 17 March — start the weekend with the all-important St Patrick’s Day celebrations

Friday 18 March — keep the party going with a Ceilidh (a Gaelic social gathering that involves folk music and dancing) or go for a more sophisticated affair by offering an Irish whiskey tasting or an Irish-themed quiz

Saturday 19 March — publicans can take advantage of the final day of the RBS 6 Nations — there are three crucial matches between all of the home nations starting at 2.30pm.

Sunday 20 March — with food occasions continuing steady growth across the on-trade in 2015, take advantage of the sales opportunity by providing customers with a themed menu, such as Irish stew and a complimentary pint of Guinness deal.



Guinness and St Patrick’s Day has a long-standing association in the mind of the on-trade. Last year, Guinness Draught accounted for 61% of incremental total beer uplift (CGA analysis, March 2015), which proves how Guinness helps to drive the total category sales.

Despite St Patrick’s Day 2015 falling on a Tuesday in 2015, outlets that activated a PoS kit saw an uplift of +118 pints of total beer on average per outlet with 72 pints being Guinness Draught (CGA). With an average of 53% uplift in Guinness Draught sales seen over St Patrick’s Day 2015 (CGA), the potential sales are far greater this year if similar uplifts are seen across the extended weekend event.

This year, Guinness will be providing 10,000 outlets in the GB market with Guinness St Patrick’s Day PoS kits. The kits include a back bar flag, several metres of bunting and 15 of the highly popular Guinness hats. The kit allows publicans to craft the perfect atmosphere in which consumers can celebrate St Patrick’s Day and ensure a unique and exciting experience is created.

In addition to the physical kits, Guinness will be providing licensees with a suite of high-quality digital images for use throughout St Patrick’s Weekend including cover photos for Facebook and images that can be added to Twitter and Instagram accounts.


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