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On St. Patrick’s Day, Restaurants Have the Luck of the Irish

Ah, St. Patrick’s Day—a day known for four-leaf clovers, leprechauns, and a day that restaurants can count on customers’ dollars and overindulgence, celebrating the Irish Saint Patrick and feasting on such delicacies as corned beef and cabbage, Irish lamb stew, and, of course, alcohol (usually consisting of green beer or Irish stouts).  Most restaurants view St. Patrick’s Day as one of the busiest holidays of the year.  According to a St. Patrick’s Day survey by BigInsight.com, a consumer research portal, 54.4 percent of Americans said they will celebrate the holiday this year, the most in the survey’s nine-year history.   So, how did the holiday come about?  Do Irish restaurants make more than their non-Irish counterparts?  And what’s with all that green?

The History Behind St. Patrick’s Day

Born in A.D. 385, the man that would eventually be named a saint, was first bestowed with the name Maelwyn.   He lived as a rebel until he was 16, when his village was raided by Irish intruders.  Sold into slavery, he turned to Christianity and changed his name to Patrick.  After six years of slavery, he escaped and fled to a monastery in Gaul, where he felt God was calling him to lead pagans toward Christianity.  He decided to venture back to Ireland and convert the native pagans.  Unfortunately, St. Palladius was appointed to become the nation’s bishop;  yet, two years later, he transferred to Scotland, and it was then when Patrick was appointed second bishop of Ireland.

While traveling around the country, he established many monasteries, schools and churches, and his influence converted many into Christian believers.  After 30 years of working hard in Ireland he retired, and he was laid to rest on March 17, A.D. 461. That date has been recognized as St. Patrick’s Day since he died.

Many myths were established after St. Patrick died, including that he raised the dead and that he drove all of the snakes out of Ireland (there have never been any snakes known to exist on the island).  So, while it was first established as a religious holiday, it quickly converted to a secular holiday when it was brought over to Boston, Mass., in 1737.  Instead of celebrating a saint that converted many into Christians, we now celebrate the Irish by wearing green and shamrocks (it’s said that people started to wear green because it’s only a few days before spring begins), conducting parades, and congregating at local restaurants and bars to eat and consume traditional Irish food and brew.

On March 17th, It Pays To Be Authentic

Although March 17th was originally set in religious roots, it now brings thoughts of debauchery and gluttony.  Bars and restaurants everywhere are packed to the gull with patrons wanting to claim that 1% of so-called Irish “heritage” that they claim exists somewhere in their lineage.  And although restaurants’ cash registers benefit from the day, it’s authentic Irish restaurants that cash in big.

Irish restaurants and pubs say it’s usually the busiest day of the year; Chaz Hastings, owner of The Tally-Ho, located in Erin, Wis., said, “It’s huge for us.  On that day I’ll do as much [business] as an entire month.”

It’s similar at other Irish restaurants and pubs—places like The Claddaugh and Bennigan’s, the restaurant known for its signature “Irish Hospitality”—sales go through the roof on the holiday.  This year, Bennigan’s is promoting St. Patrick’s Day with a “Pub in a Box” giveaway:  each guest will receive a game card at various Bennigan’s locations, and on March 17th, a winner will be announced for a $2,500 “Pub in a Box”, where he/she will receive a full-service bar with pub mirror, two bar stools, bar supplies, wall art and more.

“St. Patrick’s Day is annually the biggest day of the year,” said Shaun Clancy, whose family runs Foley’s NY Pub on West 33 Street in New York City, just off Fifth Avenue. “You have to make corned beef and cabbage. People expect it. We’ll go through 300 orders on St. Patrick’s Day.”

So, when St. Patrick’s Day arrives, most customers want the real thing, and will often arrive early in the morning to make sure they grab a spot.  Some restaurants open early in the morning to accommodate these consumers, because you really aren’t drinking like the Irish unless you drink all day!


In the End, the People Just Want a Party

When all is said and done, St. Patrick’s Day has evolved into a day to party.  Restaurants have figured out that the Irish restaurants are going to be full, so they need to jump on the Irish bandwagon for March 17th, too.  Buffalo Wild Wings will be opening at 7 a.m. with food and drink specials, TGI Friday’s will be introducing two new drinks, the “Irish ‘Rita” and “Paddy Peach,” and will also give their “Give Me More Stripes” program members double the points if they visit on the holiday, and Kona Grill will be offering Happy Hour prices all day at their “Luck-O Patio,” as well as giveaways, green sake bombers, and other incentives.  Opening early in the morning, offering Irish-themed food and green-colored drinks, and contests including gift cards and money seem to be the incentives that restaurants have incorporated to lure consumers in.

This year is being poised to be the busiest St. Patrick’s Day in years, no doubt since it falls on a Saturday during the early stages of March Madness.  Restaurants nationwide will be clamoring for customers’ wallets, hanging up shamrocks and leprechauns from the walls, encouraging the wait staff to integrate green into their uniform, and praying that the luck of the Irish is with them as the crowd evolves.

Sign Your Restaurant Up For Dine Out For No Kid Hungry

Image from Dine Out Website

September is just around the corner, which means it is time to start gearing up for this year’s Dine Out For No Kid Hungry™ (formally known as the Great American Dine Out).

This year’s event will be September 18-24.

With childhood obesity being such a heavily discussed topic lately, we can’t forget the over 17 million children who face hunger each day in America.

Dine Out For No Kid Hungry™ is a national event and a great way for both restaurants and diners to combat child hunger together.  It is a part of  Share Our Strength’s national campaign to end childhood hunger in America.

Last year, over 4000 restaurants helped to raise over $1.5 million.

This year, Share Our Strength’s Senior Manager of Communications, Catherine Puzo, says their goal is to raise over $3 million by engaging 5000 restaurants around the country.

Image from Dine Out Website

“Restaurants that have participated in the past tell us that participating in Dine Out For No Kid Hungry—especially when they register early enough to plan a well-thought promotion around it, and market it to their customers—engages employees around a relevant cause, connects them to their community, and, depending on the type of promotion developed, increases sales,” she says.

Puzo also mentions many restaurants were successful in gaining repeat business by using bounce back coupons.  So even though we’re still in July, now is the time to sign up and start planning.

Restaurants participating, or interested in participating, in this year’s Dine Out For No Kid Hungry™ can go here to learn how to become involved.  They also provide detailed information for both multi-unit or independently owned establishments.

When planning, they advise restaurants to make a tangible goal such as a specific dollar amount, number of redeemed coupons or sales from the promotion. As Puzo said, bounce back coupons have been a great way previous participants have benefited.

They also recommend restaurants use both social and traditional media to help promote and educate both employees and customers.

Image from Dine Out Website

“Invite them to be a part of the solution, too, by supporting your efforts,” they say—followed by an extensive list of ideas to get a restaurant started, shown on this page.  There is also a Participant Resource Center, so your restaurant will not be left in the dark and you will have everything you need.

In-store materials will be available to order starting August 1.

Donations from Dine Out For No Kid Hungry™ have helped provide meals of nutritional value for after school programs, feed kids lunch during the summer, provide more access to school breakfast, help families meet nutritional needs and expand access to programs such as SNAP  (food stamps) and WIC (the Women, Infants and Children program). It has also helped teach families how to provide healthy and tasty food while on a limited budget.

If you are looking for other ways to participate, you can become a sponsor or donate to the cause.  Some of this year’s national sponsors include Sysco, American Express, Ecolab, USA Today and the National Restaurant Association.

A few restaurants participating in this year’s event, who are also Central customers, include Dave & Buster’s, Monical’s Pizza, Buffalo Wild Wings and Kona Grill.

To learn more, explore the Dine Out website, visit them on Facebook, follow them on Twitter and take the pledge to help end childhood hunger in American by 2015.

Image from Dine Out Website