Tried & True Food & Beverage Happy Hour Ideas
Ian Robinson

Tried & True Food & Beverage Happy Hour Ideas

Happy hour specials are common-place at most food & beverage establishments. The concept is simple, find a period of time during the day in which you want to increase traffic. With the time set, offer patrons a discount on anything ranging from alcoholic drinks or appetizers to an entire three course meal. When done right, you can generate a significant amount of buzz about your establishment. For instance, do a quick Google search of "happy hour blog", you'll find an assortment of blogs discussing the best happy hour locations in places around the world. If you've been thinking about starting up your own happy hour, or want to improve an existing strategy, below we've outlined some keys to organizing a successful happy hour promotion. Without further ado, let's get started...


What Kind of Promotion Sells?

It's well established that lower prices will attract customers. A study by the National Restaurant Association found that 46% of consumers said they were drawn by good prices on drinks, and 41% said value-priced food was an attraction (restaurant.org). Despite the positive impact of a lower price, deep discounts will hurt your bottom line and even convince some customers to hold out until your next promo.


A more unique special can help drive traffic while still generating significant profit. A creative promotion will make it less important that you have a discount. Offer a special drink or shareable dishes that aren't available on your standard menu. Another great idea is to partner with a charity, offer patrons a slight discount in combination with a portion of the sale price going to the charity. Partnering with a charity has two key benefits: (1) it's a great source of positive marketing, and (2) it's a tax write-off for your business. Dairy Queen has a fantastic promotion called Miracle Treat Day. While Miracle Treat Day isn't a happy hour per se, the concept is the same - give a dollar on each sale to a charity during that day only. The concept clearly works, line-ups are out the door when the promotion is running.


When Should I Run My Promotion?

Focus on the shoulder periods, such as between lunch and dinner or late-night specials. You should already be generating traffic and profit during your key meal periods, so ensure your happy hour specials avoid these times so you don’t damage your bottom line. Focus your happy hour promotion on slow-periods alone and you can fill more seats when you need it.


What Are The Common Mistakes to Avoid?

  1. Mistake #1: Marketing around the idea of your happy hour being a discount program alone - Marketing is naturally going to carry some costs and the customers it brings in will provide lower than normal profit margins. A discount may also insinuate that you are struggling or desperate. You should promote the uniqueness of the happy hour rather than the lower prices alone.
  2. Mistake #2: Increasing prices of other items to cover the costs - Your customers will catch on to this, it will create a negative buzz around something that should be seen as a positive.
  3. Mistake #3: Offering food that is time-consuming to prepare - The food needs to be quick and easy to prepare. If the items are time-consuming your staff will be prepping for longer and generating lower profit margins - it's a lose-lose. If your restaurant inventory software has recipe build tools, you can easily determine which menu items are both cost effective and quick to prepare.


How to Track the Success of Your Program?

Your hospitality software ought to provide built-in happy hour setup and reporting tools. An integrated solution will allow you to setup pricing schedules that designate discounts on specific items during specific times of day and specific days of the week. With the pricing schedule created, the restaurant POS software should automatically adjust pricing and menu items during designated timeslots to help automate the promotion for easy staff ordering.  


With automation in place to alleviate any additional workload for staff, you can also utilize your hospitality software to track the success of your program. Review profit margins and number of chits during your happy hour quickly and easily. It's important that you pay attention to how your promotion is trending over time and modify as needed.



With the above strategies and proper monitoring in place, you can maximize the benefits of your happy hour and ensure that it doesn't get stale with your customers. As you try out these tactics on your own, be sure to let us know how it goes in the comments below.


For the National Restaurant Association’s Statistics visit: http://www.restaurant.org/Manage-My-Restaurant/Marketing-Sales/Food/Happy-Hour-and-Late-Night-Success


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