Happy Hour How-To

happy hour how to

As a bar owner, filling in the down times of your establishment can be challenging. According to a survey by Restaurant.org, 46% of people stated they were attracted to happy hour by the low prices of drinks, and 41% for the food.

Given that happy hour is legal in your state, it’s a great program to roll out for a variety of reasons.

  • It increases the sale of food, wine, and beer.
  • Draws in not only your current guests more often, but it invites new faces.
  • Happy hour builds your brand.
  • It keeps your establishment full of customers during a period of less attendance.

How to Roll Out Happy Hour
Once you’ve decided you want to initiate a happy hour in your bar, you need a plan to get the ball rolling.  The first step is knowing your guests.  Pay attention to the demographics and your target market.  If you are serving mostly wine to business clientele, then you know which drink to discount first.  If your establishment is geared more toward college students, consider offering an array of craft beers.

The same goes for your happy hour food menu.  Pay attention to what plates people are noshing on the most, and offer downsized versions, at a fraction of the price.  It is also a great idea, to offer items on the happy hour menu that cannot be purchased at any other time.  This is a superb way to test out new dishes and flavors, for your main menu.

Promote! Then Promote Some More!
The next step, of course, is letting everyone know you are hosting happy hour.  Explore all of your marketing avenues.  Put a sign up so anyone passing by will know.  In addition, cover all of your bases on social media.  Tweet, Facebook, and keep your business’ website up to date.

TapHunter is a wonderful program when rolling out a new venture like happy hour, because it simplifies all the promotion you will need to do, into one easy spot.  Through TapHunter, you can add a header and footer to your regular printed menu/s to announce your happy hour time slots; and reprint them at anytime with ease.

They also offer digital drink menus, which are displayed on your bar’s T.V. and can cycle through promotions for your happy hour.  Lastly, a free downloadable app is available to all your customers, which you can use to promote the hours it is available, right in the palm of their hand.

Depending on when you choose to offer happy hour, can determine the amount of marketing you do behind it.  If you are holding it on the weekend, most businesses have found little promotion is needed, as guests are generally not working, and are already coming in.  If you are located in a business district, you may want to consider a lunch happy hour, with an emphasis on quick and easy dishes.

What Has Worked for Others?
The following are examples of what some craft beer bars have done during their happy hours:

  • $1 – $3 off select craft beers
  • Discount all beers across the board so customers can sample new items
  • A food menu specific to happy hour
  • Smaller plates, with easy items like fries and chips, to save on food costs and keep the prices down
  • Discount a percentage, like 25%, so more expensive beers are more accessible
  • Try holding happy hour during different times, like early afternoon, or late night
  • Hold more than one happy hour a day
  • Specials that differ by day, i.e. “Two Tacos and a Beer Tuesday, Friday night $1 drafts)

One way to determine your game approach, is to see what others have done to create a successful and profitable happy hour.  The following are some popular craft beer bar’s approaches to conducting a happy-hour.

Naja’s Place
This beach beer bar, located in Manhattan Beach, CA, carries one of the biggest and oldest collections of craft beer bar in Los Angeles.  With more than 70 taps, there are only 2 lines devotes to domestic, and the rest are seasonal, flavorful, differing, craft beer adventures.  From 5 to 7 p.m. M-F are their happy hours, and about 40 of their beers are discounted, in a color coded price board above the bar.  They even offer discounts on pitchers, which sets them apart from any other business in town.

The Hay Merchant
With an impressive 76 taps, this craft beer bar breaks up it’s beers into convenient categories like: Sociable & Refreshing, and Sour & Fruity.  Happy hour is held on the patio on Mon-Sat 3 pm – 6:30 pm, and again late-night from 10 pm – midnight.  They offer many deeply discounted $3 pints of their craft beers, and even dishes like their Peche’s Smoked Gulf Fish Dip, served with Saltines for only $8.

Most of the taps in this bar are common brews like Green Flash IPA, or Moose Drool, but every location has at least 100 of these on draft.  During happy hour, every single beer in the bar is discounted, with nothing costing more than $5.75 a pint.  Their food menu during happy hour is extensive, offering pizzas and apps at a portion of their normal cost.  Their happy hour is M-F from 3 pm – 6 pm and Sun-Wed from 10 pm – midnight.

Overall, your location, menu, and promotions, will dictate your sales margins for running happy hour.  It’s important to spend some time observing your guest’s behavior and demographics, before setting plans and pricing, and ultimately promoting the menu.  With due diligence, it can vastly increase your overall revenue, and attendance.