While it sucks as a customer servant to work on holidays, for your business it can be a fantastic opportunity to renew customer engagement and boost sales; you can also use almost any holiday to boost your employees’ engagement and enthusiasm, which makes up for having to work when many others don’t and which will enhance their customer serving success!
Coming up in March is a holiday that can be equal parts fun and messy depending on where you are in the world and what the main demographic is. St. Patrick’s Day has been coopted in America to mean either the clean fun of wearing green or getting pinched, or the often-not-clean-at-all fun of day-drinking. My partner and I traditionally make something like bangers and mash or shepherd’s pie and watch The Boondock Saints. I did one St. Patrick’s Day where I day-drank—starting on an empty stomach at 10 in the morning, and I had emptied my stomach, sprained my ankle, broken up with my then-partner (even though we were already officially broken up and just doing a benefits thing) and passed out by 5 pm.
I have also worked in the heart of Time’s Square in a coffee shop on St. Patrick’s Day. It’s not as bad as working on 5th Avenue (which I’ve had friends experience) when that parade is marching down and lots of people have to break the seal or risk exploding from every orifice (sorry, too graphic?).
If you’re going to be open in a major city during St. Patrick’s Day, be prepared for a swarm of drunk people who may not want to spend money and who may just want to try to make their way, essentially cross-eyed, toward your toilet and use their inability to aim to relieve themselves of green cocktails and Guinness.
If you’re in a particularly busy area, you’ll probably have to close your bathroom to minimize that unwanted and messy traffic. You could consider having someone on the clock whose job it is to clean the bathroom all day; but, that could be considered a little cruel. I suggest having extra employees on staff anyway, so you could have a rotation where one person per hour or so is assigned to bathroom and general clean-up duty.
Now, if massive, messy crowds aren’t something you think you’ll have to worry about, you can focus on making the holiday fun for your employees and your customers. My first suggestion is letting your employees incorporate green into their wardrobe if they want; I would discourage pinching because of harassment. You can also offer a special to customers who wear green, something simple like a free small coffee or half off a drink of their choice. Most people will be wearing green, most likely, so I would recommend charging unless you are set up for giving away the majority of your day’s stock. Giving them a deal of some sort—maybe you make a green (matcha, pistachio, food dye) themed beverage or party—enhances the holiday spirit people are hopefully carrying with them, or initiates it in the cynics. This boosts their good feelings in relation to your business, which increases the chances that they’ll return, tell their friends about your business, and that they’ll spend more money at the time and/or next time. Giving things away makes most people happy; it’ll give your employees that good feeling most people get when they make someone else unexpectedly happy. This will enhance their customer service, boosting their mood and making them less cynical, which the customers and other employees feed off of, giving you a circular exchange of positive feelings all associated with your brand.
You can decorate for the holiday, making the experience of entering your shop a new and stimulating one even for your every-day regulars. This breaks up the monotony to just enough of a degree that they may spend slightly more money or tip a little more.
I say again, however, to be prepared when it comes to staffing and stocking. If you’ve been in business for more than a year, gauge your potential St. Patrick’s Day business based on the previous years, but always estimate a little higher unless you know something I don’t (which you probably do). Bring in one or two (or more depending on your shop/city’s size) extra employees; you can always send someone home if things aren’t crazy. It’s significantly more difficult to bring someone in last minute than to let them go home early. It’s best to be prepared so that your employees don’t spend the day in a state of high-anxiety because you’re under-staffed and so that your customers don’t get frustrated, associating various negative feelings with your brand. The longer someone has to wait, the more likely they are to leave, not come back, feeling dissatisfied with their overall experience, tip and spend less.
When it comes to decorating, shamrocks are fun and you can offer your customers the opportunity to earn a free drink by bringing one in that they’ve made. You could also go hyper-specific and research St. Patrick’s Day, featuring posters or portraits having to do with its history, either in Ireland or in America. You can feature cartoon leprauchans, you could even invest in gold-coin chocolates and place pots of cold around the store for your customers to indulge.
If you feature a more extensive menu you could consider featuring St. Patrick’s Day themed foods, or recognizably Irish dishes like banger or shepherd’s pie.
If you feature alcohol as well you could do a special happy hour or plan to be a bar all day instead of a coffee shop in the morning, or you can work out the logistics of both. You can feature green beer but the obvious choice seems to be Irish coffee.
I would recommend stocking your supply of water (bottles, or tap) so that you aren’t contributing to the totally unhealthy and messy mess that can occur when people day drink until they’re blind. If you’re really thinking ahead, you could also have your employees aware of the local hospital’s location, have a number or two for a cab service on hand (though most people will probably have a ride-share app). Keeping a lookout for people is another way to boost the good feelings associated with your business and thinking and planning ahead is another way to ensure that your employees don’t feel completely overwhelmed and abandoned in the middle of a chaotic mess! Making a holiday safe means making it more fun for more people!