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How To Create A Compelling Happy Hour Experience

Bar Management, Restaurant Marketing, Stocking a Bar, Restaurant Operations - March 22, 2018 Written By: Sculpture Hospitality

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Happy hour can be both a fun time for customers to let loose after work and take advantage of some drink deals and a lucrative window for your bar or restaurant to make some extra money and build a reputation. It doesn't take a lot of effort to transform what can be a quiet time of the day into one of your busiest. With a little planning, your location can become an after-work destination that helps people relax after a long day. Here are just a few things you can do to create a more compelling happy hour experience:

1. Start with a Plan 

Haphazardly discounting a handful of drinks and sitting back to see what happens doesn't exactly constitute a plan. Take some educated guesses about which drinks and dishes will bring in the most volume of business and then track the results through your bar inventory system. With a certain amount of data, you'll have a strong grasp on what works and what doesn't. Being armed with information can help you make smart changes and implement a plan that works. Take this data a step further and plan your happy hour menu based on slower selling stock to improve sales on these different brand items.

2. Offer Up New Dishes and Drinks

Happy hour is the perfect time to help people experiment with drinks and foods that they might not normally order when they are paying full price. A discount makes them more likely to go outside their comfort zone. This can be a great way to promote under-performing (as mentioned above) or pricier options on the menu. Once people have had the chance to try something new, they will be more apt to order it in the future, even if they have to pay full price.

3. Put Some Thought into the Menu

Again, it comes down to planning. Think about which foods pair best with the drinks you want to discount. Use the menu to suggest which options go best together so that customers don't have to put as much thought into their order. You will be surprised how many more impulse orders customers make when you give them a little guidance.

This is also an ideal time to offer up smaller plates of entrees. Patrons might just be looking for something to snack on while they drink, so provide them with options that allow them to try larger dishes without committing to a full meal.

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4. Change it Up

Happy hour is a great time to attract new customers, but you also want to make sure that you are catering to regulars and encouraging return visits. Be sure to change up the drink and food specials at least every few weeks. You should also consider doing daily themes. For example, Tuesdays can be taco and tequila specials, and Wednesday can offer up deals on wine. This will help you cater to a broader audience and give visitors a different experience that won't get old. 

5. Offer Some Entertainment

Discounted food and drinks will be enough to draw in some customers, but some added incentive never hurt. Karaoke, trivia and even live music can add energy and help people recharge after a day at the office. You don't have to spend a lot of money to liven up the atmosphere and provide guests with a welcomed distraction.

There is no doubt that happy hour can be a cash cow for bars and restaurants. On average, bars that offer happy hour earn 26% more revenue during those hours. This increase even extends to smaller bars which are typically trying to compete with larger establishments. All it takes is a little effort and planning to capitalize on this prime time and increase happy hour sales while also winning over new customers. 

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