Should Your Business Be Open on a Holiday Weekend?
As consumers, we love federal holidays because it means an extra day for relaxing, hanging with friends, and drinking. For brewery, bar, and restaurant owners, however, the prospect of a federal holiday poses an interesting question: Should you stay open?
More often than not, for those who work in the hospitality industry, restaurants, bars, and brewery owners often decide to swing the doors open on traditional federal holidays to maximize a potential increase in traffic and sales.
But keeping a restaurant or similar establishment open during a federal holiday means understanding a few considerations. For example, recognizing that overtime requirements can mean you might need to pay your employees more than the average weekday. Consequently, staying open might only be profitable if you can ensure that you’ll experience increased traffic that day.
Overall, what are the advantages of keeping your bar, brewery, or restaurant open on a holiday? Alternatively, should you even stay open on these days. What are the potential benefits of choosing to give your staff the day off? And if you do decide to light up that open sign, how can you prepare?
We weighed both sides of the equation and offer a few tips and tricks on how to navigate those three- or four-day weekends.
What We’ll Cover in This Piece:
What Is a Federal Holiday?
As a refresher, a federal holiday means one observed by the U.S. government. These days include:
- New Year’s Day
- Martin Luther King, Jr.’s Birthday
- President’s Day
- Memorial Day
- Juneteenth (Read: Three Black Brewery Owners Share How to Observe Juneteenth)
- Independence Day
- Labor Day
- Columbus Day
- Veterans Day
- Thanksgiving Day
- Christmas Day
Although in reality, most places of business really only recognize a handful of those holidays including: New Year’s Day, Memorial Day, Independence Day, Labor Day, Thanksgiving Day, and Christmas Day.
During these days, government buildings such as banks and the post office shut down and many other companies choose to close their offices as well.
On the other hand, places of hospitality often remain open, leveraging Americans’ extra day off to drum up potential business.
Three Reasons to Stay Open on Holiday Weekends
By far the top reason for your establishment to stay open on a holiday will be the potential to maximize revenue and generate increased sales. According to the NBWA and Fintech®, for brewers, distributors, and retailers, July Fourth ranks as the number one holiday for beer sales on off-premise locations while Memorial Day actually ranks as the highest “official” holiday for on-premise beer sales (St. Patrick’s Day, Super Bowl, Cinco de Mayo, and NCAA Basketball rank above it, but the federal government doesn’t officially recognize those “holidays”).
Last year, according to NielsenIQ, off-premise alcohol dollar sales increased eleven percent over Independence Day, compared to July 4th, 2019.
On Memorial Day in particular, Americans spent nearly $3 billion on alcohol (in retail stores) in the weeks before and after Memorial Day in 2019, according to data from Nielson.
And for Labor Day, 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).
All this data points to the fact that Americans like to drink in and around these federal holidays. Staying open on three-day weekends provides new opportunities for your business to maximize its bottom line.
Increased Foot Traffic
Here’s a stat for you: A new survey from The Vacationer found not only a yearly increase in Memorial Day travel in 2022, but that more than fifty-five percent of Americans also indicated they planned to travel for the Fourth of July, an eight percent increase from last year’s survey.
If this trend continues, we can expect to see Americans return to their normal travel plans around the holidays. More people traveling to your state or town, especially if you’re in a major city or vacation area, will mean more potential to increase your foot traffic.
Of course, more butts in the seats means more dollars in the bank. Closing your doors during some of the busiest buying times of the year could mean you’re closing the door on the potential to earn big bucks.
This may seem like a smaller win, but if you’re one of the only businesses in your neighborhood open during a federal holiday, that exposure will help increase awareness.
Perhaps someone who hasn’t tried your brewery, bar, or restaurant before will wander in if they’re unable to go to their local spot. Or say you host a special event or deal throughout the weekend; those are all opportunities to attract new customers.
Staying open on a federal holiday helps your business standout in an already-crowded marketplace.
One Big Reason to Close on Holiday Weekends
Encourage Goodwill Amongst Your Team
Your staff works long hours for you, sometimes performing very grueling work, whether that’s waiting tables for eight-hour shifts or canning beer on the packaging line all day. Perhaps your employees deserve a little R&R.
Closing on a holiday or long weekend is a gesture of good will to those who put in time and effort to help your business run. At the end of the day, you wouldn’t be able to produce great beer or serve delicious food without the help of your staff. Keeping their well-being top-of-mind is important to cultivating your own company culture.
Let your employees hang out with family and friends for the day. Give them a chance to refresh and recharge, and they’ll come back for their next shift hungry to work hard for you.
How to Prepare for a Busy Holiday Weekend
If you do decide to stay open for those major federal holidays such as July Fourth, Labor Day, Thanksgiving, Christmas Day, New Year’s Day, or Memorial Day, it’s important to take a few considerations into mind.
Understand the 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.
Check Your Analytics
Take a look at your point-of-sale system and analyze your sales stats from last year. This information will help you make crucial business decisions for the holiday weekend.
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If you’re a bar anticipating heavy traffic, do you need to order an extra keg or two?
Similarly, if you're a restaurant who sells more on average during federal holidays, you want to make sure you’ve ordered the necessary items to stay stocked.
If you’re a new business without trends yet, then take a look at the general sales in your city or neighborhood. You could even ask around with nearby shop owners to get a general idea of what you can expect for traffic on a holiday weekend.
Additionally, if you did see an increase in sales compared to a normal operating day, you may want to think about calling in a few extra hands to help.
Bulk Up Your Staff
Since most people will be enjoying a day off, you could see an increase in foot traffic to your bar, restaurant, or brewery, especially if that particular holiday falls on a weekend.
If so, you probably want to make sure you have enough staff on hand to carry the extra load.
Again, consulting your previous sales data here will be key. If you do notice an uptick in sales on federal holidays, make sure your team is fully equipped to handle the additional traffic.
Knock on Your Neighbors Doors
Do a little bit of investigative work and find out how your neighboring businesses plan to celebrate the occasion. At the very least, they could have some tips and tricks on how to handle a federal holiday in your area.
Plus, you’ll get a good sense of who will be open and who will be closed. If everyone on your street closes for the day, that could be an advantage to you to stay open. And knowing what the businesses around you plan to do could help you make a decision to plan something special to stand out.
Consider Creating a Special Deal or Event
What will make you different from your fellow businesses? Can you offer your customers a special deal? Or put together a unique event to drive more people to your establishment?
How about designing a special menu, dish, or beer that reflects the holiday?
Days like July Fourth, Labor Day, Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Years, and Memorial Day are the perfect time to implement something new, seasonal, and fun. Keep your fans excited about your brand and give them a reason to visit you on their special day off.
Take Into Account Your Hours
Do you need to stay open all day on a federal holiday? Maybe a shortened day can be like a happy compromise between you and your staff. You could still capture a good amount of profits, but also give your employees at least a partial day off.
For example, if you're a restaurant, consider staying open just for breakfast and lunch. If you’re a bar or taproom, this option might be harder, but perhaps you could open later in the day.
Let Your Customers Know
All this work won’t mean anything if you don’t spread the word to your customers that you’ll be open. Blast out your special hours, menus, beers, or events across all your social media platforms. Make sure you have updated hours on your Untappd Venue, Yelp, and Google pages. You could even send out a targeted email just to your fan base to let them know.
In fact, even if you decide to close on the holiday you should still send that information out over all your communication channels. This helps you keep your fans informed and engage with the community.