Industry News | March 17, 2016 | QSR Exclusive Brief

Luck of the Irish: St. Patrick's Day Boosts Foot Traffic


Long a day celebrated only in neighborhood pubs, St. Patrick’s Day (and the accompanying weekend) has become a busy time for restaurants. And the action isn’t just limited to full-service restaurants and bars. Fast casuals serving wine and beer or a full bar menu are capturing some of that luck o’ the Irish.

“We didn’t specifically break out that segment to see if fast casual stood out relative to the rest of the eating places, but they are in there and they obviously have an impact,” says Krish Mantripragada, senior vice president and general manager of software and analytics products at research firm First Data. “It is something that is rapidly growing both in terms of number of outlets and locations … as well as their own growth in same-store sales.”

First Data analyzed four markets renowned for their St. Patrick’s Day celebrations—Boston, Chicago, New York, and Savannah, Georgia—and found that last year customers consistently spent $49 to $54 per ticket in the 10-day period around the holiday.

Furthermore non-Irish concepts got to join in the blitz: American fare restaurants took the lion’s share with 20.1 percent of those sales while Italian claimed 12.7 percent. For all four markets, traditional bars earned between 12 and 13 percent of the pie.

“Clearly what stood out in the St. Patrick’s Day analysis is that the spending seemed to be focused specifically on the weekend. St. Patrick’s Day itself—barring Savannah as an exception—didn’t see that much of an uptick,” Mantripragada says.

Indeed the Hostess City of the South was outlier not only in it diminutive size, but also in its dedication to St. Patrick’s Day. During the past couple of years, the holiday has fallen on a weekday, and in that same timeframe, average spending during the month of March was higher than St. Patrick’s Day specifically—except for Savannah. In both 2014 and 2015, the city saw strong sales March 2017 while Boston, Chicago, and New York witnessed strong sales the weekend around St. Patrick’s Day with a dip during the week.

“We were curious to see if the data actually backed up what was being said in the media coverage and lo and behold it did. We did find it to be an outlier,” Mantripragada says. While First Data does not yet have a reason behind Savannah’s St. Patrick’s Day spike, good weather this year give a sales boost to all markets.

“In general what we’re seeing is more favorable weather patterns this year … combined also with low gas prices, we’re seeing availability of more disposable income that increases discretionary spending.”


By Nicole Duncan

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