thanksgiving eve drinking statistics

Drinksgiving. Drunksgiving. Blackout Wednesday. Thanksgiving Eve. Whatever you call it, the night before Thanksgiving has become a time for celebration before turkey, stuffing, and pumpkin pie. As college kids and hometown heroes return to their families’ homes in the days leading up to Thanksgiving, people of all ages flock to their local watering hole for a drink (or three) with friends to reminisce about the good ole days.

For bars and restaurants, this night has the potential to be as big as St. Patrick’s Day or Super Bowl Sunday. The informal holiday got its name from the uptick in bar patrons joining together after months—or years—to indulge in their drink of choice before celebrating Thanksgiving. With practically everyone having Thanksgiving Day off work and no reason to wake up before football, it’s clear why this night has become a cultural phenomenon.

To help you prepare for Thanksgiving Eve, restaurant POS and management platform Upserve tapped into data from over 10,000 bars and restaurants to see just how much these customers are drinking—and what they’re ordering—on the night before Thanksgiving. This data can help restaurants make the decision to increase inventory, plan promotions, assess staffing needs, and maybe hire some security in preparation for one of the biggest drinking nights of the year.

Thanksgiving Eve Drinking Statistics

The numbers don’t lie: Restaurants and bars saw a 23 percent increase in guest count on Drinksgiving when compared to the previous Wednesday in November 2018. When comparing 2018 to 2017, more people were drinking beer, wine, and liquor in restaurants on Thanksgiving Eve, suggesting that the night is only rising in popularity.

thanksgiving eve drinking statistics

More people = more money. Upserve customers also saw a 23 percent increase in sales and a 25 percent increase in tickets on Thanksgiving Eve when compared to the previous Wednesday. 

thanksgiving eve drinking statistics

Despite the dramatic increase in sales and guests, these bars didn’t slow down: Average table turn time went up 3 percent.

Across over 10,000 restaurants, beer, liquor, and wine stand out as the drinks of choice on Drinksgiving. Year over year, beer was the highest performing menu item for bars, with liquor and wine neck and neck for the second spot. Despite wine’s popularity on Thanksgiving Eve, it was lower-performing compared to the previous week.

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Although alcohol gets all of the attention on Thanksgiving Eve, there’s still an opportunity for restaurants and bars to capitalize on the day for those who don’t feel like cooking. With plenty of turkey, potatoes, veggies, and pie to cook (and eat) on Thanksgiving Day, it’s no surprise that more people opt for takeout on Drinksgiving. When compared to the previous Wednesday in 2018, restaurants saw a 20 percent increase in to-go orders.

thanksgiving eve drinking statistics

Regional Thanksgiving Eve Drinking Statistics

Across the country, Thanksgiving Eve means more to some regions compared to others. The Midwest and South love their Thanksgiving Eve reunions with 34 percent and 31 percent increases compared to the previous Wednesday in 2018, with the Northeast and West trailing behind at 26 and 22 percent increases. 

regional thanksgiving eve drinking statistics

Four Thanksgiving Eve Restaurant Marketing Ideas

Beyond stocking up on beer, rum, and tequila, there are a few more ways that you can make this year’s pre-Thanksgiving celebrations the best yet.

  • Run a social media giveaway: Step up your restaurant social media strategy and get a few extra customers in your bar on Drinksgiving with a contest on Instagram. Besides general advertising and brand awareness on the social media platform, running a giveaway can help customers engage with your brand. Offer a gift card that’s good for the night of Thanksgiving Eve or a BOGO drink ticket to customers that participate in the giveaway.
  • Target college alumni groups: Thanksgiving Eve is huge for reunions. Partnering with a local college’s alumni group has the potential to make your bar the go-to spot for those who attended their hometown college. Making this connection with local institutions and showing them that your bar is a good time will make them want to come back every year.
  • Offer discounts on appetizers: While your customers are enjoying your delicious cocktails, it’s important that they remember to eat. Soaking up the booze is key to a hangover-less Thanksgiving, so offering appetizer discounts with the purchase of an adult beverage is a great way to keep your customers happy while they’re sipping on their favorite brew.
  • Plan a take-out promotion: With a 20 percent increase in take-out orders on Thanksgiving Eve, show your customers just how thankful you are and offer a special promotion for patrons picking up their pre-Thanksgiving dinner at your restaurant. 

Five Ways to Prepare for Drinksgiving

Once you have your promotions planned for Thanksgiving Eve, it’s time to focus on how to make the night go as smoothly as possible. With the number of bodies in your bar and alcohol consumed, things could get out of hand before you realize it’s happening. Besides stocking up on inventory for the night and making sure your restaurant staff is ready for the crowds, our friends at Webstaurant Store shared five tips to help you prepare for the night and keep your thirsty customers safe.

  1. Trade in Your Good Beverageware for Plastic. To prevent shattered glass on the floor when a tipsy customer drops a glass, leave your nice beverageware behind the bar on Thanksgiving Eve.
  2. Hire Bouncers for the Night. Depending on how rowdy your typical crowd is on Thanksgiving Eve, hiring a bouncer or two could help your servers and bartenders stay focused on your customers, while the professionals can help break up fights or remove patrons that are too drunk or loud.
  3. Post Numbers for Taxi Companies. Although most people have rideshare apps like Uber or Lyft on their phones, it won’t hurt to have a backup plan for those who are too drunk to get behind the wheel.
  4. Cut off Patrons that Are Getting Too Drunk. If you have patrons that are getting too drunk and visibly intoxicated, don’t be afraid to cut them off.
  5. Stock Up on Cleaning Supplies Beforehand. Have staff members periodically check bathrooms throughout the night and stock up on spill absorbents to deal with them in a timely manner.

Find out how to get real-time insights into your bar's performance with Upserve POS!

Written by   |  
Holly Everett is a five-year restaurant industry veteran turned small business marketing specialist. After working at Seven Stars Bakery in Providence, Rhode Island throughout college, she entered the world of marketing where she led B2B marketing initiatives at companies focusing on growing small businesses. At Upserve, she integrates her passion for the restaurant industry and knowledge of the needs of small business owners to help make restaurants wildly successful.