Should Your Business Stay Open on Thanksgiving and Black Friday?

Grace Weitz
Post by Grace Weitz
November 2, 2022
Should Your Business Stay Open on Thanksgiving and Black Friday?

As consumers, Thanksgiving usually means two extra days off of work to spend time with family and friends celebrating an American holiday. For brewery, bar, and restaurant owners, however, the prospect of a federal holiday like Thanksgiving poses an interesting question: Should you stay open?

Traditionally, Thanksgiving and the subsequent day dubbed Black Friday have been the days when Americans spend…and spend big.

According to the National Retail Federation (NRF), the world's largest retail trade association, during the 2021 holiday season, Black Friday brought in a whopping 66.5 million people shopping at stores with the average adult spending $430 dollars (Deloitte).

And while these have traditionally meant big and small retailers, Goose Island is probably the brewery most well known for getting beer businesses in on the Black Friday action. Since 2010, the brewery has released its incredibly popular barrel-aged Bourbon County Brand Stout and its yearly variants the morning of Black Friday. It’s a special event that has become a bit of tradition with folks lining up around the block to get their hands on a limited number of that year’s bottles.

And other breweries have since followed suit with everyone from Weldworks to Lakefront Brewery to 3 Sons getting in on the action.

But increasingly on a wider scale, more retailers have actually closed their doors on Turkey Day and subsequent Black Friday. In 2020, major chains such as Walmart, Best Buy, and Dick’s Sporting Goods closed on Thanksgiving for the first time and continued that trend in 2021. Similarly, last year, Target took things a step further, announcing that it will close all of its stores on Thanksgiving every year for the foreseeable future.

It’s a bit of a quandary: stay open and potentially tap into one of the largest sales days in America, or close and give yourself and your staff time off to spend with their families?

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 Thanksgiving and/or Black Friday? Alternatively, 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 offered a few tips and tricks on how to navigate that question during this holiday season. 

Three Reasons to Stay Open on Thanksgiving and/or Black Friday

People standing in line to buy bottles of Goose Island Bourbon County Brand Stout
People standing in line to buy bottles of Goose Island Bourbon County Brand Stout | Photography courtesy of Barry Brecheisen | Eater Chicago

Editor's Note: Before we get into why you should stay open on Thanksgiving, we need to mention that you legally need to check if you even can.

Some states or counties actually forbid the sale of alcohol on Thanksgiving, meaning this decision might be out of your hands. VinePair put together a really handy guide on which states allow liquor sales on Thanksgiving, which don’t, and which are somewhere in between. But our best advice here is to consult your lawyer or check with your local liquor or alcohol commissions board to get the most up-to-date information pertinent to your area.

1. Increased Sales

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, Thanksgiving ranks as the fifth highest holiday for beer sales on off-premise locations and seventh highest for on-premise locations.

According to marketing and CRM firm Womply, which collected data from more than 2,900 local beer, wine, and liquor stores across the U.S., alcohol sales in 2020 leapt 130% higher on Thanksgiving Eve than a normal day.

All this data points to the fact that Americans like to drink on and around this winter holiday. Staying open on this four-day weekend provides new opportunities for your business to maximize its bottom line.

2. Increased Foot Traffic

Here’s a stat for you: According to the NRF, 66.5 million Americans shopped in-store during Black Friday in 2021; and overall during the 2021 holiday season, retail sales grew 14.1% from 2020 with $886.7 billion in sales.

If this trend continues, we can expect to see Americans again turn out in droves to shop during the Black Friday weekend this year. Those are potential customers you can capture, whether it’s by offering your own Black Friday sale or simply keeping your doors open for thirsty, weary shopgoers to plop down and take a beer break.

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.

3. Increased Awareness

This may seem like a small win, but if you’re one of the only breweries, bars, or restaurants in your neighborhood open during the Thanksgiving weekend, 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 Turkey Day event or Black Friday deal throughout the weekend; those are all opportunities to attract new customers.

Staying open on this federal holiday helps your business standout in an already-crowded marketplace.

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Two Big Reasons to Close on Thanksgiving and/or Black Friday

A family toasing wine glasses over a holiday or Thanksgiving dinner
Photography courtesy of Kraken Images | Unsplash

Not all establishments choose to stay open on these three- or four-day long weekends. Some close their doors. And there can be one big advantage to this decision too.

1. 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 goodwill 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.

2. Don’t Forget that Black Friday is Also an Online Shopping Holiday

Even if you do decide to stay closed on Thanksgiving and/or Black Friday, you can still take advantage of the holiday.

Why?

Well, according to NRF more folks actually shopped online during Black Friday in 2021, with 88 million Americans buying online last year and spending an estimated $8.9 billion. Now, we should temper these numbers a little bit considering the pandemic probably still affected a lot of people’s shopping habits in 2021, but ecommerce buying is here to stay.

This means that you could try for a bit of a win-win on Thanksgiving by closing your doors and offering your fans a Black Friday online sale. Consider releasing an exclusive limited-edition bottle or 4-pack online that folks can only purchase on Black Friday, but pick up in your taproom on Monday. This way you let your team enjoy their holiday weekend while ensuring you’re still bringing in some cash for your bottom line.

How to Prepare for a Busy Thanksgiving/Black Friday Weekend

Busy bartender and staff at an afternoon at Raíces Brewing in Denver, Colorado
Photography courtesy of Grace Weitz, Hop Culture

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.

Interested in a POS system purpose-built for the brewing industry? Streamline your operations from grain to glass with Ollie Ops. Get started with a Free Demo today!

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 Thanksgiving/Black Friday, 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.

A smiling trio of bartenders from Other Half, a D.C. taproom
Bartenders at the busy Other Half D.C. taproom | Photography courtesy of Other Half D.C.

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.

A Black Friday promotional image showcasing a Broward Country Brand Stouts variety from 3 Sons Brewing Co.
3 Sons hosts a special Black Friday sale for its Broward County Brand Stouts | Photography courtesy of 3 Sons Brewing Co.

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 Thanksgiving and Black Friday 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 Your Hours Into Account

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. 

You just made an important decision. Consider another...

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Ready to streamline your operations from grain to glass? Request a Free Ollie Demo Today!

Grace Weitz
Post by Grace Weitz
November 2, 2022
Grace is the Managing Editor for Hop Culture and Untappd. She also organizes and produces the largest weeklong women in craft beer festival in the country, Beers With(out) Beards and the first-ever festival celebrating the colorful, vibrant voices in the queer community in craft beer, Queer Beer. An avid craft beer nerd Grace always found a way to work with beer. After graduating with a journalism degree from Northwestern University, she attended culinary school before working in restaurant management. She moonlighted as a brand ambassador at 3 Sheeps Brewing Co on the weekends before moving into the beer industry full time as an account coordinator at 5 Rabbit Cerveceria. Grace holds her Masters degree in the Food Studies program at NYU.