Oktoberfest is the 16-18 day festival in Munich, Germany that celebrates the beauty and everlasting pleasure that is German beer. This festival begins in September every year and ends the first Sunday in October. It began in 1810 and today carries the distinction of being the largest festival in the world, with more than 5 million guests holding up their beer steins and giving a hearty “Prost” every year. Though Munich is ground zero for Oktoberfest celebrations, there are numerous co-conspirators around the globe that like to slip on the lederhosen and get down with some lager, with notable celebrations in Ontario, Brazil and Cincinnati.
However, a bar need not reside in one of these Oktoberfest hot zones in order to take advantage of this festive time of year. Bar operators can tap into the spirit, the Zeitgeist if you will, of Oktoberfest by offering promotions that feature German beer, food, music and dress.
Oktoberfest is first and foremost about the beer. Oktoberfest in Munich has very specific rules about which beers can be served, as all beer must meet the standards of Reinheitsgebot, or Purity Law. This law states that Oktoberfest Beer, which is a registered trademark, must contain nothing more than water, hops and barley and must be brewed within Munich city limits. There are technically only six breweries that have achieved this distinction:Augustiner-Bräu, Hacker-Pschorr-Bräu, Löwenbräu, Paulaner-Bräu, Spatenbräu and Staatliches Hofbräu-München.
Don’t carry those beers? Don’t despair! Outside of Munich’s city limits, beer enthusiasts aren’t necessarily beer purists when it comes to the official definition of Oktoberfest and any old German beer is likely to satisfy. Here are a few beer promotional ideas to hold at this time of year that are not dependent upon the relative purity of your beer:
- Free German Beer Tastings: If you’re carrying a selection of German beers for the occasion, why not let guests try them all? Advertising a free sampler flight of German beers will not only draw guests in, but entice them to stay and order their favorites for hours to come. Just be sure to keep your sample pour to one ounce, remember it’s just a taste, not a giveaway.
- German Beer Specials: Offer happy hour prices on German beers all day. This is an easy and affordable way to entice customers in to celebrate Oktoberfest. Tie in some fun German or German-inspired appetizers as part of the happy hour promo.
Speaking of food, after beer, the next most important Oktoberfest ingredient is German food. By offering some specials on tasty German treats, you are sure to draw some extra customers that wish to get the full Oktober-effect (I made that up). Offering free or $1 to $2 items such as Bavarian-style pretzels or a sausage plate with the purchase of beer is one great way to appeal to celebrants that are on the lookout for a good deal. Another way to promote your bar is to charge a small entrance fee and offer a sample plate of a number of German foods. Here is a list of popular German foods that you could offer for all day or limited time happy hour specials during Oktoberfest:
- Kasseler Rippchen (German smoked pork chops)
- Pork knuckles
- Potato dumplings
- Potato pancakes
- Apple strudel
- Bavarian pretzels
If it can be worked into your budget, consider hiring an “oompah” band to play at your Oktoberfest celebration. These bands play traditional German volkstumliche music and can draw a festive crowd that is willing to pay an entrance fee. However, these bands are often heavily booked during Oktoberfest season and can therefore be quite pricey. Be sure to assess whether they would draw enough of a crowd to be cost-effective.
Traditional Oktoberfest gear includes lederhosen for the boys and dirndls for the ladies. If you think having staff dress in traditional German costumes would appeal to your demographic, consider adding these items to your inventory. However, if this does not seem appealing you can have staff wear the Bavarian flag colors: white and cobalt blue, to add to the festive feel. Offering a small discount to customers who dress in these colors can increase the feeling of solidarity and community, making guests feel like sticking around and drinking a few more tasty German beers.
Oktoberfest is all about drinking good beer, eating good food, and overall having a good old fashioned Bavarian good time. With some German-themed promotions you can be sure to draw a crowd of enthusiastic guests looking to join in the celebration, no matter where you are.