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St Patrick's Day: Promoting responsible drinking for a profitable & safe celebration

The excessive drinking associated with St Patrick's came about as a result of the catholic church lifting lent restrictions in accordance with the Irish national public holiday. Today, "St Paddy's Day" is considered a publican's dream, or nightmare depending on what side of the bar you're on. Whether you're counting the cash in the back office or serving the hoards at the bar, it’s in everyone's best interest to have a profitable and safe celebration.

Ofcourse, publicans should welcome the additional business with open arms, but the trouble associated with excessive drinking can have a long term effect on the profitability of your pub. Promoting responsible drinking doesn't mean hampering the party celebrations. By encouraging responsible alcohol consumption you can create a welcoming and safe environment for your customers to celebrate St Patrick's Day and other national holidays long into the future. Here are some tips on how to encourage your customers to part with their cash and drink responsibly.

Offer food

Traditionally food has better margins than drinks, so offering affordable meals to your customers is a quick and easy way to boost profits. It also encourages people to eat in between necking pints of Guinness, reducing the likelihood of your customers becoming overly intoxicated. Offering simple bar meals, such as sandwiches, chips and nachos are cheap to produce and can easily be sold at a 300%+ markup.

You could even get in the spirit of things and serve traditional Irish cuisine. Some of the emerald isle’s signature dishes include Irish stew, colcannon, soda bread and shepherd's pie. These dishes are heavily potato-based meaning they are cheap to produce and can be made in bulk. If you want to pursue a sweeter option how about chocolate stout cupcakes?

The best way to encourage people to indulge is to advertise what you're doing. Table toppers, A-boards and social media advertising is a cheap way to spread the word. Running promotions such as ‘2 for 1’ or ‘10% off’ makes customers feel like they're getting a good deal. Don’t forget, all premises serving food need an up to date A3 licence from their local council and a food hygiene rating certificate from EHO!

Responsible service

Whilst drunken behaviour is to be expected to some degree, undoubtedly there will be some punters who take it too far. Drunk people famously have lower inhibitions and tolerance for annoyances that might normally go unnoticed. Every weekend knocked drinks and damaged pride needlessly escalate to violence. Alcohol-related harm costs around £21bn every year in England alone. This kind of behaviour can be very damaging to your business' reputation and these associations can linger, affecting profitability long term.

By taking actions that encourage responsible drinking you are making your pub a safer, more enjoyable environment to be in. You can help promote responsible drinking by serving a good range of non-alcoholic drinks. This not only offers your customers more choice it also means other valuable customers aren't excluded from the celebrations. There is an increasing trend of people shunning alcohol for health reasons, as well as designated drivers, pregnant women and people who don't drink for religious reasons.

Other actions to promote responsible drinking include effective staff training. Busy times such as sporting events and national holidays put additional pressure on employees. It's imperative they vigilantly check IDs and should never be afraid to turn drunk people away. The £4 you gain in a drinks sales could cost you £1000s in fines, risks closure and have an irrecoverable effect on your reputation. Why not have a jug of water at the bar? Many people forget to drink water in between alcoholic drinks or they may feel some embarrassment going to the bar and asking. By leaving a jug on the bar you free up bar staff's time to serve customers waiting for other drinks and remove the social pressure associated with asking for a glass of water.

Retain additional custom

It’s likely you’ll see an influx of custom on the night regardless (presuming you serve Guinness!), the real skill lies in retaining those customers in the future. First impressions count, which is all the more reason to promote responsible drinking in your establishment. You don’t want a prospective new customer remembering you for all the wrong reasons. A pub that summons visions of grown men in green hats vomiting in the flowerbeds is never going to be a popular first choice.

Providing your first impression was a good one and they enjoyed their experience, there are a number of ways to motivate these customers to return. Find a way to encourage your customers to leave their email address. Businesses often persuade customers to part with their valuable contact details by incentivising them in some way, such as a competition, raffle or the promise of money off promotions. Once you've compiled your mailing list you can send out offers and promotions to encourage footfall during slow periods. These mailing lists will also allow you to send regular communications to your customers to pique interest periodically. These newsletters are a prime opportunity to advertise events, showcase products and encourage customer engagement.


The majority of people will don their giant Guinness hat, have a few drinks with their friends and enjoy St Patrick's Day without incident. Unfortunately, there will always be some trouble associated with excessive drinking that has become tradition with this Irish public holiday. Small tweaks in how you operate could have a big effect on reducing alcohol-related violence and damage in your establishment.


Erin Heenan

Erin joined Epos Now in 2016 as an in-house content writer for the marketing department, making use of 10 years experience working in busy restaurants. An avid fan of shopping and eating out, she is committed to helping retail and hospitality SMEs get the most out of their businesses.

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