Should Your Bar or Restaurant Be Open on Labor Day?

Sarah Buckholtz
Post by Sarah Buckholtz
August 3, 2022
Should Your Bar or Restaurant Be Open on Labor Day?

If you're a restaurant or bar owner, your livelihood depends on customers year round.

Which is why, when it comes to federal holidays such as July Fourth or Labor Day, as a business owner you have an important decision to make: Stay open or close your doors for the day.

On the first Monday in September, restaurants and bars are often greeted by an influx of patrons ready to spend money on some well-deserved fun during a long weekend.

Staying open on that Monday could provide potential opportunities to boost your bottom line.

On the other hand, consider your employees. Should restaurant owners and staff also have the day off? Will that help with your team morale?

When it comes to Labor Day, a restaurant, bar, or brewery owner should weigh the pros to both staying open and closing for the day.

Luckily, we’ve started a list for you. And if you do choose to welcome guests, we’ve laid out a few ideas to set you apart from the pack.

What Is Labor Day?

A busy table at a bar or restaurant with people talking and eating

Nationally observed on the first Monday in September, Labor Day celebrates the contributions and achievements of the American worker.

In the United States, union leader Peter J. McGuire generally receives credit for suggesting the idea of a day honoring American workers in 1881. The next year, 10,000 workers held a parade in New York City to unofficially recognize the day. But it wasn’t until 1894 that President Grover Cleveland made Labor Day an official federal holiday.

Culturally, Labor Day signifies the end of summer, giving Americans a final three-day weekend to enjoy the season.

For most, the holiday means a day off, but for restaurants, bars, and breweries this occasion could be a great day to stay open, generating some additional sales and traffic.

Alternatively, it could be a good day to give your staff off.

Ultimately, the decision is up to you, so let’s look at the pros of each.

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What Are the Pros of Closing on Labor Day?

Chef cooking in kitchen while flipping food in a pan over a flame

Labor Day is one of eleven federal holidays recognized by the United States Government and one of the most common paid holidays, according to research from the Society of Human Resources Management.

Although technically no current labor law actually requires companies to give their employees off on Labor Day, many employees choose to in order to improve the mood of their team.

According to a past study from Bloomberg BNA, 97% of employers let at least a chunk, if not all, of their employees have off on Labor Day (with the caveat that 41% of those businesses do still retain some staff to work).

In the hospitality industry, work weeks can oftentimes stretch to more than forty hours, so giving your team a day of rest to spend with their families will most likely be greatly appreciated.

In that same vein, as a restaurant or brewery you need to consider overtime requirements. Sometimes staying open on a holiday costs more than the average weekday.

An Important Note on Labor Laws

Technically, the government considers federal holidays like any other regular business day; it does not immediately qualify an employee for overtime. However, both federal and state laws do require that most employers (although not all) pay overtime to employees whose hours qualify.

Why is that important here? Well, for many businesses hourly employees may decide to take time off during holiday hours. For those of your staff left over, it may be required for them to work longer than normal hours.

With that in mind, you need to check your local state laws to figure out when overtime hours kick in. For example, in California and a few other states, if an employee works over eight hours on a given day, you as a business owner are required to pay them “time-and-a-half” for every hour worked over that threshold.

Additionally, it is pretty common for business owners to offer “double-time” to employees working holidays as an incentive to keep your team fully staffed. Again, federal law offers no requirements for “double-time” pay, but state laws do.

Our best piece of advice here is to consult your lawyer or accountant. These laws often vary by state and, in some cases, by county and city, so your best course of action here is to check with someone knowledgeable on the subject.

For more general information about overtime, time-and-a-half, and double-time requirements, you can also visit the U.S. Department of Labor website.

The important takeaway here is that welcoming guests on Labor Day will only be profitable if you have higher-than-average traffic coming through the door.

Look at your sales numbers from previous Labor Days: Did you see a bump in traffic? Did you have a better-than-average number of sales?

If so, it might be worth keeping your doors open. If not, consider boosting your team spirit by giving your crew a day off.

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What Are the Pros of Staying Open on Labor Day?

This one is pretty simple: Staying open on Labor Day allows you to take advantage of a top-selling beer weekend.

According to data from the National Beer Wholesalers Association (NBWA), on summer holiday weekends such as July Fourth and Labor day beer deliveries to retailers are 50% above the annualized weekly average.

In total, beer sales from May through August represent 40% of total annual beer sales, according to the NBWA.

And for Labor Day specifically, Nielsen reported that, in the week leading up to the fall holiday, spirit sales rose 33.4% and wine sales rose 17.9% in 2022 (compared to the year before).

Labor Day is one of the last major weekends to capitalize on during the busiest selling season of the year.

For many consumers, this three-day weekend is like the last hurrah. According to travel data company Arrivalist, 42.9 million Americans traveled over Labor Day weekend in 2021.

Staying open on this federal holiday could be a huge opportunity to cash in on a potential influx of customers and tourists.

Ultimately, as a business owner, you need to weigh the pros of both and decide which is best for your business. But if you decide to stay open on Labor Day, keep reading below for a few great ideas on how to maximize your profit and customer satisfaction.

5 Simple Promotion Ideas for Labor Day

A long shot of a bar from a dining table
Photo by Luca Bravo on Unsplash

Many restaurants use Labor Day as an opportunity to offer specials or discounts to encourage customers to show up on this busy weekend. If you decide to open on Labor Day, here are a few promotion ideas that will best serve you and your customers.

Meal Deals

If you decide to stay open on Labor Day, consider offering a special “meal deal” to entice people to visit. This could mean a buy-one-get-one offer or even a three-course meal for a certain price.

For a bar or brewery, you could promote $1 off American craft beer pints or even offer buy one, get one half off to encourage drinking in groups.

Anytime you can make your customers feel like they’re getting a deal, they’re more likely to spend the money they save on something extra. For example, dessert or even a round for the bar.

Introduce a New Beer, Drink, or Dish

A new menu is an amazing promotional opportunity for your restaurant, bar, or brewery.

Not only is it a chance to showcase the talents of your staff, it’s also an opportunity to keep regular customers engaged and attract new ones.

Consider a tease on your social channels letting your followers know that a new item is on the way with an attractive image, description, and release date.

Pro Tip: If you’re looking for some helpful tips on food photography, check out our guide on How to Take The Best High-Quality Food Photos for Your Restaurant's Instagram, Using Only Your Smartphone.

Free Dessert With Purchase

Nothing reels in customers quite like the F word. A day off is always a chance for folks to celebrate. Offering a free dessert could be just the incentive people need to sit down at your restaurant or bar.

Just remember: Giving away a sweet treat, like cake or pie, needs to make sense for your bottom line. You’ll probably want to make sure your guests spend a certain amount before that free dessert promotion kicks in.

A good way to determine at what price to give away something for free would be to find your average check sweet spot and set that spend as the promotional trigger. That way you know this goal is attainable and profitable.

Pro Tip: As an Untappd for Business customer, you can shout out any event (such as a free dessert promotion) right on the app and push any announcements across Facebook and Twitter. Interested in learning more? Start your free trial today.

Happy Hour Prices All Day

Group of friends sitting at dining table at a bar or brewery toasing and raising beer glasses during happy hour

Happy hour is an opportunity for guests to receive a discount on their favorite menu items. Guests love to get their hands on anything that saves them even more money.

Consider leveraging Labor Day to offer happy hour prices all day long. Make your business stand out and give guests an extra reason to visit.

Pro Tip: We highly recommend offering this promotion towards food items. Alcohol is your biggest money maker, so most restaurants, bars, and breweries do not offer extra discounts on alcohol.

Kids Eat Free

If families are traveling over the holiday weekend, they’ll be looking for kid-friendly options. Offering a “kids eat free” promotion will be great for attracting parents and their kids into your establishment.

A few things to keep in mind if you go this route:

  • A reasonable portion size (since most children do not always finish their meals)
  • An age limit—we recommend 12 and under
  • An added incentive such as offering the free meal only with an adult purchase of an entree

Hungry for even more promotion ideas like these? We have 16 fresh takes on increasing foot traffic to your bar in 2022.

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Sarah Buckholtz
Post by Sarah Buckholtz
August 3, 2022
Sarah Buckholtz is a Content Writer and Editor for Untappd, Oznr, and Hop Culture. For more than a decade she has interviewed everyone from artisan makers to Grammy nominated musicians to Jefferson Award winning preservationists. She is a former blog writer and marketing manager for American Pickers creator and host, Mike Wolfe, covering stories about heritage tourism and preservation coast-to-coast. Sarah grew up on the shores of Lake Erie in Pennsylvania and is currently drinking a Jackalope Thunder Ann in Nashville, Tennessee.