Eating out on Mother’s Day is popular everywhere in the country — except in parts of Utah. Blame it on the Sabbath.
(Trent Nelson | Tribune file photo) Stanza Italian restaurant in Salt Lake City will serve a four-course dinner for Mother's Day on Sunday, May 13.
Mother’s Day is one of the top dining days of the year nationally, with most locally owned restaurants collecting top sales dollars.
The second Sunday in May is only the 298th best sales day of the year in the Beehive State, according to Womply, a national software company that tracks small-business sales.
‘We are upside down here,” Brad Plothow, Womply’s vice president of marketing and communications, said — borrowing a line from the Netflix show “Stranger Things.”
Even in states where Mother’s Day doesn’t hold the No. 1 spot, it is at least in the top 100 sales days each year, he said. “Utah is the only outlier.”
The numbers have nothing to do with how much we love and admire Mom, but rather the timing of the holiday, said Plothow. “Mother’s Day falls on a Sunday, which is a buzzkill for most local restaurants here.”
While Womply just crunches the numbers and doesn’t look into causes, Plothow did point to the strong Mormon culture and the fact that church members often limit activities on their Sabbath.
“It’s a safe bet that there is a religious component at play,” he said.
To identify customer spending patterns, Womply, which has its largest office in Lehi, analyzed millions of restaurant transactions for all 365 days of 2017. The data come from small businesses with fewer than 10 employees, and do not include bars or chain restaurants with multiple locations.
Nationally, Plothow said, small, locally owned restaurants get 15 percent of their weekly sales revenue on Sunday. In Utah, restaurants collect only 6 percent of total sales on the Sabbath.
The Sunday sales numbers are especially stark on Mother’s Day, where nationally sales are up 64 percent for most restaurants and 2 of every 5 local eateries report their very best day of the year, Plothow said.
In Utah, sales are down an average of 46 percent on Mother’s Day.
Even Cinco de Mayo — which was on a Friday last year — fared better than Mother’s Day. It was the 61st best sales day at Utah restaurants, with sales up 41 percent, the data showed.
Saturday is the best day for Utah restaurants with 24 percent of the week’s sales coming on that day, the data show. And the Saturday before Mother’s Day is the 27th best sales day of the year.
Nationally, Saturday sales are 20 percent.
Plothow said the Mother’s Day data don’t take into consideration whether a restaurant is in an urban or tourist setting — like Salt Lake City or Park City — which has a larger percentage of non-Mormons, or a rural area, where most residents are predominantly members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
“But a more progressive neighborhood, that is known for its eclectic weekend brunch, will do much better on the weekends than a cafe in Utah County,” he said.
For example, Jonathan LeBlanc, the chef at Stanza Italian Bistro in Salt Lake City says he is “pulling out on all the stops” on Mother’s Day offering a four-course dinner for $65 for mom and her family.
The Charleston Draper, 1229 E. Pioneer Road, doesn’t normally open on Sunday, but after a full house on Easter, new chef Marco Silva will offer a special menu on Mother’s Day, May 13.
“We definitely see a need for it and there was enough of a crowd on Easter that it makes sense for us,” said Elizabeth Semler, the front-end restaurant’s manager and hostess.
The restaurant operates differently for the holiday, though, with seatings at 10 a.m. and noon. Customers order from a set entrée menu, with access to salads and desserts from buffet tables, Semler said.
A full-service liquor license from the state allows the restaurant to serve cocktails — including Bloody Marys and Mimosas — which also seems to be a draw.
“I know Utah is not known for that,” she said, “but we’ve found there is a community here for it.”
The Womply data suggests that things are changing as well.
When Utah’s large families do eat out, “they like to eat local,” said Plothow.
When looking at daily sales receipts among all 50 states and the District of Columbia, Utah ranks sixth, “pretty high” for eating at local restaurants. Only D.C., Hawaii, Florida, California and Illinois are ahead of the Beehive State.
“We may be a peculiar state,” he concluded, “but in all the right ways.”