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! It’s one of the most popular pastimes in the United States of America 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 irresistible 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.
Why You Should Offer Happy Hour at Your Restaurant or Bar
If you have an alcohol liquor license or beer and wine license, it is only natural to have a happy hour. Here are the most lucrative reasons:
- You can turn slow business hours—such as the hours after lunch and before dinner—into strong selling periods.
- Happy hour offers budget-conscious diners a chance to enjoy your restaurant.
- You can bridge happy hour to dinner hours. This works particularly well now as customers are bar hopping less in post-recession years, opting to remain at one location for a full night out instead.
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.
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 more affordable 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.
Offer Happy Hours During Good Hours
The perfect happy hour time is between 5 p.m. and 7 p.m., which is, not coincidentally, also the time 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 hours into hot-selling hours.
Train Your Staff to Be Attentive
It’s important to stress to your team that every guest should be served, 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?
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.
Guests can be more mercurial during happy hours, something you must prepare your staff for if you’re just starting out. Guests are expecting fast service, and they’re less patient than during lunch or dinner hours. More restaurants and bars are offering happy hours now than ever before; guests know they can leave for another place if yours doesn’t meet their standards.
Drinking can make guests celebratory or unpredictable. Encourage staff to talk to their parties, to help them apprehend their tables’ needs and be ready on the fly for whatever orders come their way.
Get creative with how you manage your scheduling and emphasize to your staff the importance of being attentive. If poor customer service becomes part of your reputation, you will have a difficult time ever starting a profitable happy hour.
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.
Really popular 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.
Ongoing Happy Hour Considerations
To keep it happy hour buzzing after the initial efforts requires additional 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. Also, consider adding happy hour items and benefits to your restaurant app.
- 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.
- Be Consistent. Customers will expect things to be the same each week, including:
- 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 be in the same genre—no unexpected playlist switches.
- The customer care always needs to be good—someone can have a bad day, but it should be just one bad day.
- The food needs to taste and look the same—avoid decreasing portion sizes or changing the recipes without telling guests.
After considering the information above and incorporating, your happy hour is sure to be popular and 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.