Creative Happy Hours for Bars and Restaurants

creative happy hours for bars and restaurants

Happy hour is arguably the most common bar and restaurant promotion. Chances are good that you–and your competitors–offer some sort of discount from 3-7pm on weekdays. Because they are so widespread, your happy hour needs a little creative “spice” to stand out and get noticed. Whether it’s a clever appetizer, a bargain-basement special or adorable puppies (!), here are our top happy hour ideas to make your bar the top destination for after-work libations.

Why Have Happy Hours?

If you’re a GM or owner, you’re likely looking for ways to boost your location sales. Many successful bars and restaurants have used happy hours and special pricing as a way to accomplish revenue goals. So, before we head into some creative happy hours ideas, here are a few reasons why experimenting with happy hours could be good for your bottom line!

Speed up the Slow Shifts

All locations (especially when starting out) have naturally slower days or weeks when cover counts aren’t as high as they would like. Offering happy hour pricing is an excellent way to bring in guests on your slower shifts.

Low Acquisition Cost for New Guests

An important piece about happy hours is that once a guest has come in for your happy hour and is satisfied with their experience, they’re much more likely to continue returning and bring friends along. You can consider happy hour pricing the hook gets them in the door initially, then it’s up to your business to provide a quality product and service so they’ll keep returning!

Rotate Inventory

Offering products at a discounted price is a great way to get through slow-moving inventory. It’s also an excellent way to highlight something on your menu that you really want your guests to pay attention to. Say there’s an excellent Syrah that you carry but have found that your guests don’t typically order it because it’s from an unfamiliar winery. By temporarily offering that wine at a discounted price, you can guide your regulars to try things outside of their comfort zones! (Make sure to train your staff on the item before trying this approach.)

Event Promotion

Lastly, happy hour is something to promote – it’s another way to get your business’ name out to the community and give them a reason to come in. Happy hours are a fun subject for content on social media and can be added to local directories like  King Of Happy Hour or event listing apps like Facebook Local.

We’ve covered some reasons why bars and restaurants may consider having happy hours as part of their business. Here are some creative happy hour ideas to introduce in order to stand out from your competitors.


Unique Happy Hour Ideas

Flash Happy Hours

Have quick 2-hour happy hour pricing times that you only promote on social media right before the special starts. This is a great way to encourage guests to follow and engage with you on social media. You can provide a special password to followers to receive a discount or enter a certain area (where a discount or special offering is provided)

Example: Gourmet Latte uses Instagram to let their community know when special pricing starts! 

Themed Happy Hours

Themed happy hours build community at your bar and are usually a ton of fun! The most important thing for themed days is to tap into what you know about your existing customer base. What shows do they watch? What teams do they cheer for? If you don’t already know, consider taking a look at your Instagram followers‘ profiles. Pick a theme that makes it easy for guests to participate with items they already own. You can ask guests to wear superhero clothing to access an exclusive cocktail list or consider a “twinning” event where two people dress alike for special BOGO items. These events are great for encouraging your guests to take more pictures at your business so don’t forget a fun hash tag!

Example: Yappy Hour at Gossip Grill – During this dog-centric event, the bar extended pricing discounts and provided specialty items for their patrons’ four-legged friends.


Special Event Pricing

While hosting events at your location you can offer special pricing as part of the fun! (ie ‘Meet the Brewer’ night with discounted pours from that brewery). Or for sports bars, consider signups during sports games to have guests participate in something like a ‘hockey club’ where discounts during games are offered exclusively to club members.(Club sign ups are great for building an email list too! You can require an email address for club members and send invites for other events and offerings right to their inbox.)

Example: Bingo night & happy hour pricing for participants at True North Tavern!



Guest vs Bartender Pricing

Why not leave discount pricing to chance? You can experiment with different kinds (pick a card or flip a coin). You could also do a weekly trivia question where any guest who answers it right (without any help) gets a discounted first round!

Example: Encontro North Park’s coin flip Mondays, you win then your beer is $1


Victory Happy Hours

Want to encourage sports fans to come in but don’t want to discount a lot of items? Make it a competition! Encourage fans to wear their teams’ gear and host fun fan vs fan games during intermissions! Then at the end, the fans wearing the winning team’s gear also win! Reward those fans with a house shot or a special discount!

Example: Wear team gear & watch the game there… the winning team’s fans get 10% off

We hope you enjoyed this list of happy hours and that they help you to hit your bar’s revenue goals this year! Cheers!