Drawing the Perfect New Year’s Eve Crowd to Your Bar

By Andrew Turnwall


Andrew Turnwall

December 30, 2016

Posted in Restaurant Management, Industry & Culture

Distinct challenges and opportunities await on the final and potentially biggest party night of the year.

And so it comes to this. New Year’s Eve. The year winds down and there is but one night left to make an impact. To truly shine. To do something unique. It may prove to be just as much or more work than any other night of the year. Here’s a few tips on how to make it shine.

The Staying Power of a New Year

When it comes to nights like Black Wednesday, the main goal is to manage chaos, keep everything flowing well, and making sure everyone is having a good time. People come in and enjoy themselves and leave relatively quickly, and managing flow is a key component. New Year’s, however, is different. Just ask Hamburg Brewing Company Manager Matt Piazza, “It’s the same amount of work [during] but it’s a lot more preparation [before]. We have two big events a year, the last one being our Anniversary party where we had 2200 people…this one we’re gonna be right around 100 so we get to fine tune a little bit more and make sure people really enjoy it.”

Black Wednesday, St. Patrick’s Day, and other big drinking days of the year have a nebulous party feeling. There is no certain time or schedule beyond what works for every individual or group that patronizes a place of business. On New Year’s, there is a concrete, defining, singular moment. For this reason, the crowd on New Year’s Eve is not likely to change over as often. It’s this slower moving yet just as excited crowd that allows prepared and ambitious bars to shine and kick off the new year with a bang.

Boosting Your New Year’s Numbers

Everyone from patrons to bar and restaurant owners are looking to have a good night on New Year’s Eve. As with Black Wednesday, there are a few common things every manager should do to make the night a success. Prepare the staff for a busy night. Lay in enough inventory. If they’ve run a party before, then compare notes to previous years. How much inventory do you need to stock? How was the staffing? Were there any complaints or parts of the night people particularly enjoyed? Studying from the past can prepare any establishment for the present.

Advertising is key for a successful New Year’s party as well. Let customers know what to expect, both in terms of costs and offerings. Let them know what the charge is, if any, to get in the door or reserve a table or if it goes by person or party. Let potential patrons know that  reservation is required, or that walk-ins are welcome. Talk up the menu as well, especially any house specialties or new items. Take to social media, print ads, or local news and get out the word about everything from party highlights to requirements for entry and dress code if applicable.


A prepared restaurant can also take advantages of the many different opportunities presented by New Year’s Eve. It’s a terrific chance to not only impress regular patrons but cement new ones as well. There is, of course, the tried and true method of impressing by running special promotions, from discounts on drinks and food to coupons good for a percentage off on a customer’s next visit. With patrons potentially leaving early in the night after the midnight countdown, timed discounts can be both another thing to look forward to as the countdown ticks toward midnight and a clever and easy way to keep patrons at any establishment later into the night to celebrate. Offering to work with a cab or ride-sharing service to get people home is yet another gesture not only sure to impress but sure to build good will with the crowd in making certain that New Year’s is both fun and safe.

It also helps to distinguish an owner’s establishment with events of their own. Giveaways, games, entertainment, all can bring in additional patrons and make the night a memorable experience, and should be advertised along with everything discussed above. Having said that, bringing out surprises the night of the event provides one more bang in a night filled with fireworks. Extra discounts, free commemorative goods, and lotteries for hourly prizes until the countdown at midnight liven up the festival atmosphere and keep people enjoying themselves throughout the night.

Seeing a Plan in Action

One such establishment taking full advantage of the night is the Hamburg Brewing Company in Western New York. Located out in the suburbs rather than in the city, they’ve seen a need and decided to fill it with aplomb.  From Matt Piazza again, “I think the biggest thing for that night is there’s gonna be a lot of downtown stuff but not a lot for the Southtown people, we wanted it to be a little bit nicer of an event.” And so they’re hosting a party. With limited tickets, live music, contests, an open bar, and specialty house dishes HBC has taken the initiative and created what should be a singular night. With a building filled with fliers, a website with a detailed outline and ticket purchase lines, and an active social media presence, HBC is ready and prepared for their sell-out night.

New Year’s Eve is an event, and proper preparation can make the night a huge success. Local media will be looking for places to report the holiday from. Patrons will talk about the night they had. They’ll bring friends back for future visits. A well prepared bar can pull off both an incredible night to ring in the move from one year to another and garner wonderful publicity to start the new year off with a boost in traffic, free advertising, and prospects for new growth to start the year.

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