How to Maximise Your Restaurant and Bar Business over the Bank Holiday Weekends

Everybody loves a bank holiday. Even people who are working can celebrate. In the run-up to the Jubilee bank holiday, it was estimated that people would spend about £5 billion on food and drink bought from stores and takeaways and at pubs and restaurants. Industry figures confirms there was indeed a Jubilee boost.

While the Jubilee was a particularly special event, bank holidays generally bring people out to play. This is great news for restaurants and bars. However, you will only get the maximum benefit from bank holidays if you prepare for them. Here are some tips to help.

Know when they are

You can only prepare for bank holidays if you know when they are. The main bank holidays are predictable, though the dates for Easter vary a lot. In some years, bank holidays are moved and extra dates added; for example, the Jubilee bank holiday was created by moving the late May holiday and adding another day.

The dates for the remaining bank holidays in 2022 are:

England and Wales

29 August Monday Summer bank holiday
26 December Monday Boxing Day
27 December Tuesday Christmas Day (substitute day)

Scotland

1 August Monday Summer bank holiday
30 November Wednesday St Andrew’s Day
26 December Monday Boxing Day
27 December Tuesday Christmas Day (substitute day)

Northern Ireland

12 July Tuesday Battle of the Boyne (Orangemen’s Day)
29 August Monday Summer bank holiday
26 December Monday Boxing Day
27 December Tuesday Christmas Day (substitute day)

For 2023 they are:

England and Wales

2 January Monday New Year’s Day (substitute day)
7 April Friday Good Friday
10 April Monday Easter Monday
1 May Monday Early May bank holiday
29 May Monday Spring bank holiday
28 August Monday Summer bank holiday
25 December Monday Christmas Day
26 December Tuesday Boxing Day

Scotland

2 January Monday New Year’s Day (substitute day)
3 January Tuesday 2nd January (substitute day)
7 April Friday Good Friday
1 May Monday Early May bank holiday
29 May Monday Spring bank holiday
7 August Monday Summer bank holiday
30 November Thursday St Andrew’s Day
25 December Monday Christmas Day
26 December Tuesday Boxing Day

Northern Ireland

2 January Monday New Year’s Day (substitute day)
17 March Friday St Patrick’s Day
7 April Friday Good Friday
10 April Monday Easter Monday
1 May Monday Early May bank holiday
29 May Monday Spring bank holiday
12 July Wednesday Battle of the Boyne (Orangemen’s Day)
28 August Monday Summer bank holiday
25 December Monday Christmas Day
26 December Tuesday Boxing Day

Bank holiday dates for the UK are listed on the government’s website.

Make sure your regular operations are up to speed

Having an influx of visitors on a bank holiday weekend exposes any weaknesses in your current operations. Check actively to see if there are any areas that need improvement. The best way to do this is to follow the customer’s journey and see how smooth their path is.

These days, most customers start their journey at your website. If you don’t have one or if it needs improvement, Square Online for Restaurants is exactly what you need. Then look at the practicalities of ordering and serving food and drinks. In particular, think how to manage traffic when you’re full of bank-holiday revellers.

Keep customers in one place as much as possible. If you offer table service, consider taking payment at the table. Square Terminal is an economical and convenient way of doing this.

If customers go to a designated pay-point, make sure it works quickly and easily. Square for Restaurants is designed with the food and beverage industry in mind, speeding your customers through payment and giving you useful insights into your business.

Expand your space

If you have any sort of outdoor space, bank holidays are definitely the time to use it. The Great British weather being what it is, you might want to prepare some waterproofing also. For bank holidays later in the year, also provide some heating.

If you don’t have outdoor space, maybe run a pop-up of some sort. If you actually want to use your pop-up for sales, you need some form of licensing for food and beverage sales, especially if alcohol is involved.

Getting permission is reasonably easy, especially if you’re not selling alcohol, but does take some administration both from you and from the local authority. Local authorities are known for working slowly at the best of times. They also have multiple applications to process, so get yours in as early as possible.

On the other hand, if your pop-up is just for marketing, you have far fewer restrictions. A marketing pop-up can be as simple as having a member of staff in a visible place getting the attention of potential clients. Ideally, they should have something to attract people to them, such as free samples or vouchers.

Leverage the value of local marketing

On bank holidays, many people are off work, looking for somewhere to go and something to do. Put maximum effort into marketing so they know you’ll happily welcome them.

Make the most of your socials

Your starting point is social media. In addition to putting up relevant social media posts, explicitly ask your followers to like and share them. If the platform allows, ask them to tag their friends. Increase the chances of this by creating high-quality posts that people really want to share.

Keep local search in mind at all times, particularly on bank holidays. These are days when people are highly likely to be looking for somewhere to go. There is a strong chance they’ll just do a quick internet search and follow the results, so do your best to ensure those results point to you.

Partner with local businesses

Think about the businesses that feed into yours and are fed by yours. For example, if you’re running a bar, many of your customers may travel by minicab. See if you can partner with a local minicab company: they advertise your business and you display their details prominently in your bar.

Run paid adverts

Running well-targeted adverts can be a very cost-effective way to bring in customers. Again, go local. If you’re running online adverts, make sure that they’re only shown to people in your area. Also run adverts in local media and put posters in key locations near you.

Contact local media

One of the advantages of running paid adverts in local media is that it can help to get you organic (i.e. free) coverage. Increase your chances of this by creating a newsworthy hook for a local journalist. The easiest way to do this is to turn the regular bank holiday into some kind of special occasion. This also helps your marketing in general.

Create a special occasion

Make a bank holiday more than just a day off. Make it into a special occasion with just a little effort.

Have special promotions on the day

Run time-limited special offers. Consider varying them throughout the day. Alternatively, have a mixture of full-day promotions and flash promotions.

Have a theme

Just having a theme can make any event more interesting. Roll with whatever the bank holiday suggests or go for something completely different. Commit to it as much as you can. For example, even if you don’t want to create a new menu, at least decorate your standard one.

Offer entertainment

It’s great to have live performances. If you can’t, there’s still plenty you can do with little to no budget. For example in pubs and bars, quizzes are always popular. Also see if you can broadcast sports events or other one-off performances.