In recent years, St Patrick’s Day has fallen on the same weekend as the Six Nations rugby, drawing more customers and ensuring they are kept entertained for hours on end.
In 2020, things will be slightly different – there’s no rugby, there’s no weekend crowd, it’s on a Tuesday of all days. Pubs will have to work a lot harder to bring people in and keep them entertained.
The battle for St Patrick’s Day customers will be won and lost long before the day itself.
While some people will make their plans on the fly or just head to their local, most groups will research the best venues, events and discounts prior to the day. For pubs, that means publicising your promotions as soon as possible, and thinking of creative ways to get people through the door.
When creating new promotions, it’s always harder to win new customers than retain old ones, so put up posters, schedule regular social media updates, email your customer database and set up new email/SMS marketing triggers. In my experience, most people need to be prompted about a deal or event at least three times before they commit, whether that’s a tweet, poster, email, or word of mouth.
For potential new customers, give your Google and TripAdvisor accounts a spruce up so that your photos and descriptions are accurate. Also consider encouraging and rewarding loyal customers to leave a review this week so that the place looks its best for people researching potential venues.
On the day
Offering Guinness with a free hat is outdated, and just hanging a few shamrocks around the place can feel superficial. Neither keeps people entertained for any length of time.
It’s trite but true to say that Millennials want more of an experience, so if you expect serious results on the day, you’ve got to take it seriously. Consider hiring a traditional Irish band or just a few musicians to create a more immersive atmosphere for your customers.
Rethink your drinks menu and provide more than just Guinness, add a selection of Irish whiskeys or create a tasting flight for the day. As for food, an Irish stew or a ham hock colcannon will make the day feel a bit more distinct from any other.
If you’re planning a pub quiz for Tuesday, make it a themed event. Serve Tayto crisps not Walkers.
Post-St Patrick’s Day
There’s no time to bask in your success. Post-St Patrick’s Day activity can make future weeks more profitable. Encourage your new customers to leave reviews as reward for your hard work. Make sure you know who they are and think of ways to bring them back again in the weeks and months ahead (especially around the upcoming bank holidays).
It’s a long way off but schedule an email to automatically send in 2021. Do everything you can to make your pub part of people’s St Patrick’s Day annual tradition now.