It’s 6 p.m. after a long day’s work—where do you want to be? For many US adults, the answer is at happy hour! Happy hour has become one of adults’ most popular pastimes. It’s where coworkers can unwind after a grueling day, or where friends can reconnect during the week.
Fueled by the rise of the cocktail culture—and the irresistibility of discounted drinks and appetizers—happy hour is now one of the most lucrative opportunities for restaurants and bars. According to the National Restaurant Association, happy hour and late-night drink specials account for one-third of alcoholic beverage sales.
3 Reasons Why You Should Offer Happy Hour at Your Restaurant or Bar
If you have a liquor license or beer and wine license, there should be nothing stopping you from hosting happy hour. Here’s why:
1. You can turn off-peak hours—such as the hours after lunch and before dinner—into strong selling periods.
2. Happy hour offers budget-conscious diners a chance to enjoy your restaurant.
3. You can bridge happy hour to dinner hours. (Consumers are bar hopping less in post-recession years, opting to remain at one location for a full night out instead.)5 Ways to Host the Best Restaurant or Bar Happy Hour in Your City
Below you will find a failproof checklist for hosting the most popular happy hour in town. Not only will your restaurant or bar become known for being a great spot to hang out at, but by implementing these five points, you will get repeat business week after week.
1. Offer Killer Food and Drink Specials
To host a buzzing happy hour, never resist the power of a discounted menu. Not only do customers love discounted food and drinks, but they’re expecting cheap prices, and they choose their happy hour locations based on how much bang they will get for their buck. It’s important to give customers what they want in this regard for your happy hour to be successful. Guests should feel as though they can order unlimited drinks and food without burning holes through their pockets.
A great marketing tool is building a special signature drink. Create one that only your restaurant or bar serves, and give it an unusual name. Guests will be more likely to choose your happy hour over competitors’.
2. Offer Happy Hours During Good Hours
The perfect happy hour time is between 5 p.m. and 7 p.m., which are, not coincidentally, also the hours that professionals typically get out of work. Unless it’s the weekend, there is zero benefit in offering a happy hour between 3 p.m. and 5 p.m. You want to catch the adults in your neighborhood as they get out of work, before they head home for dinner.
Traditionally, the hours after lunch and before dinner have been some of the slowest for a restaurant, and some restaurants have even lost money by staying open during that time. Happy hour changes this, turning off-peak hours into hot-selling hours.
3. Train Your Staff to Be Attentive
It’s important to stress to your team that every guest should be serviced and every drink order taken down. You might have the most talented bartenders, but if your guests can’t place an order, then who will notice? No one.
A good happy hour means people are drinking and eating as much as they want to for a great price. If a guest waits too long to order another, that’s not a good happy hour. Happy hours can be busy and demanding for staff, but attention must be paid to customers at all times.XERA Tip: Depending on your seating arrangements and the size of your happy hour crowd, you might want to consider unusual ways of arranging your servers. Having two or three servers work a station and dividing the tips after could eliminate long wait times for guests. The same goes for guests waiting at the bar. If the wait time gets too long, arrange for one or two servers to deliver their drinks standing, so the bartender can focus on making drinks.
4. Attract a Fun and Lively Happy Hour Crowd
A great happy hour has a fun-loving crowd. You want people who are mingling, networking, and kicking off their work shoes to dance. Play great music, make ordering easy, and the party will get started naturally.
To keep it going, though, requires effort and patience. You will need:
- The right menu that fits your guests’ budgets and preferences
- Consistent marketing and publicity efforts, like flyers and events hosted with local organizations
- Infectious word of mouth, such as posting on social media or training servers to tell guests about your great happy hour specials
Your staff is responsible for maintaining an upbeat energy. Encourage everyone from the hosts to the food runners to banter with guests and have fun.
5. Be Consistent
For guests to come back to your happy hour, every week needs to be the same:
- The hours need to be the same—no closing up early.
- The drink specials always need to have the same specialty prices—no raising prices.
- The music needs to have the same genre—no unexpected playlist switches.
- The customer care always needs to be good—someone can always have a bad day, but it should be just one bad day.
- The food always needs to taste and look the same—avoid decreasing portion sizes or changing the recipes without telling guests.
With these five criteria in place, your happy hour will start adding to your profit margin. If you connect to diners in the right way, you’ll have the most hopping spot in town