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Celebrated on the 17th of March each year, Saint Patrick’s Day, or St. Paddy’s Day for short, is Ireland’s national holiday. It’s been celebrated for centuries with festivals, parades and the donning of anything green with a shamrock on it.
These days, for most consumers in the US and increasingly across Europe, St. Patrick’s Day has become an excuse for a raucous celebration involving plenty of drinking and merrymaking, especially in cities with a large population of Irish descent. In fact, it’s now celebrated in more countries than any other national festival.
More often than not, the holiday falls on a weekday, making it the perfect opportunity to boost mid-week sales with a special restaurant promotion or event. Parades and festivals are often held on the nearest Saturday or Sunday too, so operators should also make the most of the increase in weekend traffic.
Either way, the good vibes Saint Patrick’s Day brings to your neighborhood offer an opportunity to attract new customers and foster repeat business.
Whether you’re in a city like Boston or New York with a huge St. Paddy’s parade, or you operate in a part of the world less familiar with the festival – and want to bring Saint Patrick’s Day celebrations to a new audience — read on to discover unique campaigns that can get new faces into your restaurant.
I’ve come up with ideas that are a little different from your standard St. Paddy’s event while sticking wholeheartedly to the Irish theme. The aim is to encourage advance bookings in order to collect customer information and build new relationships.
The Guinness harp is almost as much of a symbol of St. Patrick’s Day as the shamrock. And although this famous export is produced in 50 countries and available in more than 150 worldwide, Guinness is by no means Ireland’s only brew.
There are plenty of alternatives that can provide a fresh option. Something to grab attention that you can include in your event promotions as a unique proposition. Try an alternative such as Murphy’s Stout, Smithwick’s Irish Ale, or Harp Lager.
Offering a promotion on Irish whiskey is another unique draw. For an upmarket event, why not bring in an expert to host a whiskey tasting. Or simply offer a glass of whiskey as an upsell at the end of the meal.
A staple of Dublin’s rowdiest pubs, you can’t beat a fresh oyster dropped into a shot of sharp and tangy Bloody Mary. This is a great upsell on a round of drinks offering an alternative many people won’t have seen before.
Although it is now predominantly seen as a drinking festival, Saint Patrick’s Day was originally about feasting. It’s the perfect excuse to offer a special menu celebrating Irish cuisine. Irish cooking revolves around traditional hearty fare, using locally abundant ingredients like lamb, beef, shellfish, milk, butter, local veggies and of course, potatoes.
Here are some ideas to incorporate a bit of Celtic influence into your menu.
If you don’t feel a full Irish menu is appropriate for your establishment, just take inspiration from the cuisine and add an Irish twist to some of your dishes. For example, switch your freshly made baguette for soda bread, or put a side of potato cakes with your signature meaty main.
If your city has a St. Paddy’s parade, revelers may be wanting to start the celebrations early with a boozy brunch. In any case, a breakfast or brunch promotion is a great way to take advantage of the increased footfall and fill tables before the peak rush.
A traditional Irish breakfast is similar to a full English. A fried feast of back bacon, sausages, blood pudding, beans, potato cakes, mushrooms, and tomatoes, served with slices of soda bread.
If a more modern approach is appropriate for your restaurant, take inspiration from the top Irish chefs, like JP McMahon, Claire Smyth, and Anna Haugh, who are exporting the cuisine to the world. Modern Irish food is a celebration of the excellent ingredients grown in the island’s fertile soil. Create a modern Irish menu highlighting the best local produce in your area.
Irish pubs are famous for having a lively atmosphere and nightly live music. Hiring a local Irish band is a great way to drive bookings. The band will promote the gig as well, helping you fill your restaurant or bar in advance.
Embrace the idea of the ‘luck of the Irish’ with a lottery game or raffle where guests buy tickets for the chance to win prizes. Ask local businesses to sponsor the event or donate prizes, and you’ll benefit from the extra boost from your joint marketing efforts.
To make the most of your Saint Patrick’s Day event, create a custom booking widget to take online reservations. Adding your branding, vibrant images, and sales copy helps to maximize conversions.
A booking widget helps you to build a relationship with guests before they walk in the door. Not only will it store customer data and record details like allergies and birthdays, it also enables you to convey important information such as your terms and conditions, cancellation policy, and promotions.
For new guests, this is just the beginning of the relationship. You can now start to build up their profiles with notes, tags, allergy info, purchase history, and personal preferences to offer the best experience and keep them coming back.
Increase your revenue per customer in advance by offering upgrades during the online reservation process. This simple addition to the booking widget is unintrusive to your guests but could be an easy win in terms of adding revenue to bookings.
The fun and colorful nature of St. Patrick’s Day makes it a prime candidate for an Instagram or Facebook campaign. Here you can be playful with guests and show them, with vibrant imagery and snappy captions, how much fun they could be having at your event.
You can easily add a ‘Book a Table’ button to your social profiles in order to make the most of your traffic and engagement on social media. Drive traffic directly to your booking widget and track the results of the campaign for analysis and optimization.
Despite the best efforts of email providers and their ever-stricter spam filters, email remains the most effective marketing channel in terms of ROI. But these days, you need to employ a more targeted approach to guarantee a successful campaign.
Use the customer data that you already have to segment your audience for a laser-focused email marketing approach. Improve your open and conversion rates by only sending your St. Paddy’s Day promotion emails to the people most likely to be interested. For example, those who are bigger drinkers, loyal customers who attend similar events, or your best reviewers.
Even if your restaurant or bar has no specific connection to the Emerald Isle, St. Patrick's Day is a giant opportunity to attract new customers and improve loyalty using guest data in a targeted way.
Using a smart system to manage bookings, collect customer data, send personalized marketing promotions, and manage customer relationships during future visits all leads to one place – improved customer experience and loyalty.