How big is Mardi Gras for New Orleans restaurants, bars, and lounges?

In this 7 minute read, learn:

  • What are the top 5 days of the year for local restaurants, bars and lounges?
  • Is Mardi Gras the biggest week of the year?
  • Which days are busiest during Mardi Gras week?
  • Which days show the biggest increases over average?
  • Do local restaurants and bars still see the benefits after Ash Wednesday?

The days leading up to Ash Wednesday and the beginning of Lent have special significance for Christians around the globe, but there’s a unique charm about this period in New Orleans, thanks to the famous (or infamous) Carnival season. 

Revelers and adherents alike prepare for the lean days of Lent by feasting and indulging during the final week before Ash Wednesday, a period colloquially known as Mardi Gras (though the term technically refers only to “Fat Tuesday,” the day before Lent begins).

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Since the local festivities bring huge crowds and are decidedly more bacchanalian than ascetic, you might imagine Mardi Gras would be huge for restaurants, lounges, and bars around New Orleans, and you would be right.

We examined transaction and revenue data for local New Orleans area bars, lounges, and restaurants for each day of the past calendar year, and we’ll break down the key points for you below. Let’s get the party started!

Mardi Gras: the busiest week of the year for New Orleans restaurants, bars, and lounges

To find out just how big Mardi Gras week and the Carnival season is for local restaurants, bars, and lounges in the New Orleans area, we first examined weekly transaction numbers for bars and restaurants throughout the entire previous calendar year.

As you can see in the chart below, there is a steady rush of business for New Orleans restaurants and bars through the last half of February, culminating in the busiest period of the year the week of Mardi Gras.

Mardi Gras bars and restaurant revenue by week

So we can see that Mardi Gras week is indeed huge for local restaurants, lounges, and bars, but exactly how much bigger is it compared to a typical week?

To find out, first we looked at how the average day during Mardi Gras week compared to the typical day throughout the rest of the year.

Restaurants: average Mardi Gras day versus typical day

New Orleans restaurants in our sample averaged $1,422 in revenue and 51 transactions on an average day throughout the year. However, Mardi Gras week is far from average, coming in as the top week of the year for local restaurants, who brought in 70% more daily revenue than usual, and processed 77% more daily transactions. 

As you can see in the far-right column, despite the crush of customers, average ticket price (per transaction) actually fell slightly, likely due to promotions or special deals during the carnival season.

Bars and lounges: average Mardi Gras day versus typical day

Bars and lounges saw an even larger (82%) percentage increase in average daily revenue and nearly doubled their transactions, though ticket prices dropped even further than for restaurants. Bars have to stand out to attract the most business, and drink specials attract more thirsty revelers.

What are the top 5 days of the year for New Orleans restaurants, bars, and lounges?

Next we examined total daily revenue, average daily transactions, and average ticket price for each day of the year to find out how many of the top 5 days correlated with Mardi Gras week.

Top 5 days for total revenue: restaurants

If we look at total revenue across all restaurants in our sample, Mardi Gras accounts for 3 of the 5 biggest days of the year overall, with Saturday (3/2) and Sunday (3/3) coming in first and second. Friday came in fourth place for the year.

As we’ve noted previously in our national and state-by-state examinations of restaurant revenue, weekend days are prime money-makers for restaurants, and this fact is supported by the numbers above.

In fact, only two of the top 100 days for revenue were non-weekend days… and those days were Monday, March 4, and Fat Tuesday, March 5—both during Mardi Gras week.

Top 5 days for transactions and ticket size: restaurants

While restaurants in the New Orleans area serve record numbers of patrons during the week of Mardi Gras, the average ticket price is not among the top 5 days. 

Let’s look at the top 5 days for transactions and ticket prices for the year.

The Sunday before Mardi Gras (3/3) was the busiest day of the year, with open restaurants processing an average of 130 transactions, which is a tasty 156% increase compared to a typical day, and 100% more than a typical Sunday in the area.

Saturday was not far behind at 127 transactions, 85% more than is usual for a Saturday at New Orleans restaurants.

As you can see, each of the top 5 days ranked by number of transactions fell during Mardi Gras, making this week far and away the busiest all year.

However, if we look at ticket size, none of the top 5 days fell during the Carnival season, and Mardi Gras week (as noted in the first chart above) brought in a below-average daily ticket size of $27.

Incidentally, while it didn’t bring a windfall of total revenue for restaurants, Fat Tuesday holds the number one spot for days that “overperformed” compared to their respective day of the week, with area restaurants processing 155% more transactions than on a typical Tuesday throughout the year. 

Top 5 days for total revenue: bars and lounges

For total revenue at local bars and lounges, Saturday and Sunday during Mardi Gras week were huge, claiming the top 2 spots of the year. February 23 (#4 day overall) is also firmly within the Carnival season and undoubtedly benefited from the crowds.

Again, please note that all of the top 5 days of the year fell on weekends.

Though it didn’t make it into the top 5 days, Fat Tuesday (#10 day of the year) was still massive for bars and lounges in New Orleans, who raked in 94% more revenue than an average day throughout the year, and a whopping 202% more than their average Tuesday.

Top 5 days for transactions and ticket size: bars and lounges

The busiest day of the Mardi Gras season for bars and lounges was Sunday 3/3, with 215% more tickets than an average day, and 146% more than a typical Sunday.

The day before (Saturday) was also huge, with 177% more transactions than a typical day, 99% busier than the usual Saturday throughout the year.

Many New Orleans bars and lounges hold promotional specials during this week, which brings the average ticket price per patron down by roughly 8% as noted earlier. 

However, as you can see above, the Carnival season is the king of transaction days, so the greater number of visitors more than makes up for the smaller average ticket price.

We were somewhat surprised to find that the other days during Mardi Gras week didn’t place among the top 5 transaction days for the year, though Fat Tuesday came in at #7, and of course February 23 and 24th (#3 and #4 days for the year) certainly fall in the Carnival season.

Out of curiosity, we looked at what days brought the absolute biggest increase in transactions compared to the typical day of the week for bars and lounges, and Monday 3/4 and Fat Tuesday (3/5) claimed the top 2 spots, earning 182% and 172% more transactions than the average Monday and Tuesday throughout the year, respectively.

However, since Mondays and Tuesdays are typically the slowest days of the week for bars and lounges, the overall transaction numbers for these days during Mardi Gras week were still not ranked in the highest for the year.

As you might expect for bars and lounges, each of the top 5 days for transactions all year fall on weekends.

How much do Mardi Gras days “overperform” compared to similar days of the week?

Next we took a deeper dive into the daily revenue data for Mardi Gras week, and examined how much bigger each day was for bars/lounges and restaurants compared to their typical days of the week.

As you can see in the chart above, each day during Mardi Gras week “overperformed” relative to their concomitant average days of the week throughout the year, with Monday and Tuesday showing the greatest increase for both bars and restaurants compared to a typical Monday and Tuesday.

It may appear as though Monday and Tuesday are the biggest moneymakers during Mardi Gras week, but remember that this chart displays the largest increase compared to the usual day of the week, not total revenue.

Since Mondays and Tuesdays are typically the slowest days of the week for New Orleans restaurants, bars, and lounges (as well as across the country), it makes sense that these two Mardi Gras days would show the biggest jump in revenue compared to a typical day of the week.

However, note the precipitous drop in revenue starting on Ash Wednesday, the start of Lent. Bars and lounges experience an immediate drop-off in revenue, falling far below typical numbers. 

Restaurants’ revenue falls off sharply from the huge Mardi-Gras-fueled performance earlier in the week, but compared to the typical days of the week, average revenue doesn’t suffer as much as that of bars and lounges. 

We might speculate that this may be due to people being “done partying” after Fat Tuesday, but are still in town and needing a place to eat, or perhaps the huge hangovers earned by Mardi Gras’ overindulgence warn people away from local bars and lounges when the big day is over.

By the following weekend, restaurant revenue is back to above average numbers.

How to get the most out of the busiest days of the year if you own or manage a local restaurant, bar, or lounge

If you own or manage your own local bar, lounge, or restaurant, how do you take advantage of busy times of the year and holidays? 

Even if you aren’t located in New Orleans, consider spreading the Carnival/Mardi Gras love by starting your own local celebrations and promotions.

Restaurants can try creole-themed dishes (crawfish étouffée pizza, anyone?). Bars and lounges can try Mardi Gras drink specials, parties, and other events to drive business and keep customers excited.

Examine your revenue trends carefully (may we suggest Womply’s business insights solution?) to learn when you get the most business and what periods need a little work.

Think about how you can use the boost in foot traffic during busy times and holidays to pay off during the slower times of year (which are always just around the corner). 

Make a hard push to remind customers that you value their online feedback, and put together a strategy to collect email addresses so you can send your customers special deals and keep them posted on future events.

Check out a few of our helpful guides:

Finally, check out how Womply’s reputation management software helps make all this easier while saving you time and money. Sign up for a free demo below to see how Womply has helped businesses like yours increase revenue by 20%, see 22% more repeat customers, and save 10 hours of time per week.

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