While some key moments are celebrated with bottles of Champagne at home with close friends, plenty of other holidays routinely cause beer, liquor and wine sales to spike in restaurants.
To better understand which holidays are the biggest money makers for bars and restaurants, Upserve’s Restaurant Sales and Turnover Forecast 2018 analyzed millions of daily food and beverage sales transactions made at thousands of restaurants in the U.S. in 2017 and found a number of interesting patterns throughout the year that will likely repeat in 2018.
Here’s a run-down of holidays for which restaurant owners should potentially ramp up inventory and consider creating new drink menus to ensure customers can have the boozy celebrations they want.
As the biggest party night of the year, most restaurants already know to stock up on extra staff and inventory on New Year’s Eve. Data reveal that, in particular, restaurants should plan to have around 30 percent more alcohol inventory than usual for this holiday. Most people tend to reach for cocktails and wine as they ring in the New Year. Compared to the Saturday after the holiday, beer sales on New Year’s Eve are up 22 percent, liquor sales are up 31 percent, and wine sales are up an astounding 35 percent.
Data show that January is the toughest month of the year for restaurant sales, and the sharp decline in sales after New Year’s Eve doesn’t pick back up again until Valentine’s Day. The good news is that we can safely predict that wine sales in particular will skyrocket. In fact, wine demand on the most romantic night of the year is second only to Mother’s Day, so restaurants can capitalize on this thirst for vino with special drink offers or wine pairings. The love doesn’t end on Valentine’s Day either: Last year, sales were 6 percent higher over the weekend after Valentine’s Day than on February 14 itself.
It’s no surprise that restaurants sell more beer on St. Patrick’s Day than any other holiday, with sales historically 19 percent higher than New Year’s Day and 22 percent higher than Valentine’s Day. But an unexpected boost is the intersection of March Madness and St. Patrick’s Day: Together, they account for the highest beer sales for the entire year. Restaurant owners should make sure they have kegs on standby this year because St. Patrick’s Day happens to fall on a weekend and also coincides with the second round of March Madness—you’ve been warned.
Despite its relatively low-key persona, Mother’s Day is surprisingly the biggest day for wine sales of the year, surpassing every other holiday (yes, even New Year’s Eve and Valentine’s Day) by 15 percent. Whether folks are celebrating mom by taking her out to breakfast, brunch or “linner,” restaurants should be ready have their wine racks stocked and be prepared to pop open bottle after bottle to celebrate moms everywhere.
As people make the trip back home to celebrate Thanksgiving, most restaurants and bars have become accustomed to the onslaught (and overall sloppiness) that is the night before Thanksgiving. “Blackout Wednesday,” as some have started calling this mini-holiday, brings huge sales for liquor and beer to restaurants nationwide. Data from years past show that compared to the prior Wednesday in November, overall beer sales increased by a whopping 270 percent, with growler sales up 658 percent. Liquor sales were also up by an average of 114 percent. If there is one day all year to make sure to stock up on growlers, it’s today.
Some holidays are a no brainer when it comes to restaurants anticipating high volumes of liquor, beer and wine sales—New Year’s Eve being a prime example, when people brave the elements of winter to get dolled up and spend the night out with friends. However, it’s crucial for restaurateurs to keep other important holidays on their calendar that will help drive alcohol sales throughout the year.
Meghan Kavanaugh is a marketing manager at Upserve, the industry's leading full-service restaurant management platform. Built specifically for restaurants, Upserve's technology suite includes Breadcrumb POS by Upserve and analytics technology that make it possible for restaurateurs to make data-backed decisions every single shift.