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.