Despite its Irish roots, many of the traditions associated with St. Patrick's Day originated outside of the Emerald Isle. Drinking green beer, hitting multiple bars, and painting the town green—you don't have to be Irish, or even part of the Irish diaspora, to take part in the fun around March 17. The same goes for your bar or restaurant. Whether you operate an authentic Irish pub or a restaurant located near the parade route, here's how to delight St. Paddy's Day revelers this holiday.

What are some St. Patrick's Day traditions?

St. Patrick's Day observes the death of St. Patrick, the patron saint of Ireland. But the holiday has become a celebration of Irish culture as a whole, involving parades, consuming special foods and drinks, and listening to Celtic music.

If you don't want to go whole hog, there are many ways to dip your toe into the St. Patrick's Day celebration. Symbols like shamrocks, leprechauns, and Guinness can serve as inspiration for décor or special menu items. Even if you don't change a thing on your menu, researching the dates and times of local St. Patrick's Day parades can help you staff appropriately and have the luckiest St. Patrick's Day yet.

Tips for a successful St. Patrick's Day

1. Participate in a St. Patrick's Day pub crawl

A bar crawl or pub crawl is a popular way to celebrate St. Patrick's Day, especially in cities with many Irish pubs. Typically, patrons explore multiple bars offering exclusive drink specials or drink coupons with ticket purchases. The bar crawl is typically organized by a social or community group or participating bars that collaborate on a promotion.

If your bar participates in a bar crawl, be sure to staff appropriately. You might need an extra set of barbacking hands or someone checking IDs at the door. Restaurant manager software can help you communicate with your team and get any available shifts picked up. You'll also want to ensure you have enough inventory of popular drinks and the liquor featured in drink specials.

Green body of water near high rise buildings during daytime.
The famous dyeing of the Chicago River draws big crowds every March. Photo by Benjamin R. / Unsplash

2. Take advantage of parade foot traffic

Parades are one of the most popular ways to celebrate St. Paddy's Day. From Chicago's River North with the famous green river to the annual St. Patrick's Day parade in NYC, many cities host parades featuring Irish music, dance, and community members. Smaller cities and towns might host their own versions with a St. Patrick's Day block party or community celebration.

No matter your restaurant concept, if you're located along the parade route, this can be a huge boon to your business. Many celebrators follow up the parade with a day bar crawl or pub crawl, visiting multiple different venues.

Beyond taking local events into your staff schedule, you might want to adjust your operating hours and offer food specials, like brunch.

A beer glass on a table filled with a stout with people drinking lighter beer in the background.
Guinness is a popular Irish beverage and a must-have on any St. Patrick's Day drink menu. Photo by Elevate / Unsplash

3. Offer food and drink specials

Holidays like St. Patrick's Day create an opportunity for your kitchen to get creative. You might not be part of a bar crawl, but taking inspiration from St. Patrick's Day traditions can help drive traffic and excitement among diners looking for something different. Corned beef sliders, Guinness chocolate cake, a traditional Irish breakfast, "pot o gold" cupcakes flecked with edible gold, Irish breakfast tea-tinis. Let your kitchen and bar staff get wacky and inspired, or put subtle touches on your existing menu.

Of course, many patrons are happy for any excuse to participate in a bar crawl, no matter the holiday. They might not be looking for unique beverages, but they're probably looking for the great deals associated with a bar crawl or pub crawl. Discounts, free entry, or free welcome shots can turn any bar into a St. Patrick's Day bar.

4. Wear green

Something as simple as a green t-shirt or baseball cap can give a nod toward St. Patrick's Day. To participate in the fun of St. Patrick's Day without going full bar crawl, encourage your staff to wear green and put up some St. Patrick's Day-themed decor. Or, get your patrons in on fun. Offer discounts to guests dressed up for the occasion, and don't forget to wish them a happy St. Paddy's.

a man wearing a green hat and a green bow tie
Wearing green is a great way to get in the St. Patrick's Day spirit. Photo by Skyler Gerald / Unsplash

5. Advertise event details

Once you've made plans for a bar crawl or created St. Patrick's Day specials, it's time to spread the word with some bar or restaurant marketing. Post the details of your bar crawl or holiday specials on your social media channels. Use marketing software to reach out to your customers directly and offer them deals if they stop by. For inspiration, look at what other participating bars and select venues are posting on their social media pages.

Have a Happy St. Patrick's Day. Drink responsibly.

Whether you're going all out and hosting a pub crawl weekend or just offering specials on Irish beer, St. Patrick's Day offers an opportunity to bring in foot traffic after a quieter few months. Fill your staff schedule, place a bigger Guinness order, hang some shamrocks, and celebrate Irish culture at your bar or restaurant this March.

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