Major events can roll away the winter blues

busy pubBars and pubs can capitalise on special occasions to keep their tills ringing

IT’S no secret that the early months of the year can be a little leaner for the licensed trade as consumer wallets recover from the festive season.

But with spring just around the corner and events like Mothers’ Day (March 15), St Patrick’s Day (March 17) and Easter (April 5) on the horizon, customers have more and more reasons to visit bars and restaurants.

Lucy Morgan, head of marketing at Proof Drinks, reckons the coming weeks could bring an uplift in trade.

“Traditionally, spring is a profitable time for pubs,” said Morgan.

“As Mothers’ Day kicks off the boom time for bars and restaurants in Scotland, St Patrick’s Day is obviously an important time for trade.”

Katerina Podtserkovskaya, of Guinness owner Diageo, agreed, saying events like St Patrick’s Day are “definitely of growing importance to the pub trade”.

“St. Patrick’s Day is popular for many reasons, but mainly because it is one of the first events in the calendar year where people have a reason to get together and celebrate an official occasion,” she said.

“People see it as a day when they can raise a glass and take part in an Irish ritual, even if they are not Irish or not in an Irish pub.”

Podtserkovskaya said that as the popularity of St Patrick’s Day has increased, so too has the scale of events put on by publicans – and not just in Irish bars.

With widespread competition, publicans should make the effort to spread the word if they want to make the most of the occasion, Podtserkovskaya said.

“Publicans should ensure that St Patrick’s Day POS is highly visible ahead of the occasion,” she added.

“As it falls on a Tuesday this year, publicans should focus on the ‘weekend opportunity’ that it offers to increase customer footfall and profits and ensure their celebrations take place over the prior weekend.

“Publicans should also 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.”

Amy Ledger of Continental Wine & Food (CWF) agreed that spring occasions mark “the first really big opportunities” since Christmas, adding that expectations are “very high”.

“The challenge is to provide events and activities that span the generations and have very mainstream appeal,” she said.

“Keeping things simple this Mothers’ Day will pay dividends for pub and bar owners. Why not emulate the success of the ‘dine for less’ themed package and offer great meal and drink promotional mechanics that will encourage people to venture out?”

Amanda Humphrey, senior mixologist at Maxxium UK, suggested adding some special Mothers’ Day cocktails to the menu.

“Cocktails are increasingly popular and it is important for operators to offer different cocktails to suit changing seasons and events throughout the year,” said Humphrey.

“For example, offering a selection of unique cocktails on Mothers’ Day is attractive to customers as they will be looking to treat their mothers to something special.”

Whatever the offer, quality is key.

Ledger at CWF advised operators to source a “really keenly priced but good quality range of house wines”, link them to a menu choice and “pitch at a reasonable offer” to attract customers.

“This Mothers’ Day offers many opportunities for Italian wine sales that continue to thrive within the on-trade and research is indicating that consumers will be happy to pay for the quality which Italy has on offer,” she added.

“To cater for those looking for something a little more special, then Prosecco is a must-stock item.”

Making the most of the spring events isn’t all about drinks ranges, however.

Licensees were also advised to consider hosting family activities in order to attract extra business over Easter weekend (April 3 to 6).

“Egg hunts are great,” said Ledger.

“Ceramic or plastic eggs can be purchased easily – simply use your imagination and ‘hide’ the eggs inside or out.

“Each ceramic egg found can then be exchanged for a ‘prize’ – usually a chocolate egg.”

shutterstock_family in restaurant

While the kids are hunting for eggs, Ledger said parents can peruse themed Easter restaurant menus, wine lists and special promotions.

This was echoed by Morgan of Proof Drinks.

“With Mothering Sunday, St Patrick’s Day and Easter falling quite close together, this is a good opportunity for pubs to offer deals to encourage punters in,” said Morgan.

Ensuring staff are up to speed on any Easter-related activity is vital, she said, adding that licensees should consider spreading word of any special offers on social media.