The concept of short-term discounts, usually falling in those slower after-work hours, is so prevalent, everyone from Sonic Drive-Ins to upscale steakhouses uses the term “Happy Hour” to advertise off-peak prices.
And it’s no wonder: according to the National Restaurant Association’s 2015 Restaurant Industry Forecast, 77 percent of adults, including a whopping 85 percent of millennials, surveyed said they would visit a bar or restaurant during off-peak hours if they received a discount.
Despite their popularity, many states — including Massachusetts, Maine, Delaware, and Alaska — ban some variation on alcohol specials. But even if you live in a state where drink deals are banned, it doesn’t mean you have to miss out on the profits these off-peak prices can bring in.
Check out our tips for getting the best ROI for your Happy Hour, no matter where you do business:
If you’re in a state that allows drink specials during Happy Hour:
This one may seem as easy as just making the specials and running with it. But many restaurateurs find that in order to compete in their area, they must lower prices to an unprofitable level. However, offering additional deals, upselling, and using your ingredients wisely can help ensure that even these low-cost specials bring in their fair share of dough:
1. Choose your specials wisely.
Happy Hour patrons are accustomed to having a limited menu of deals — so don’t hesitate to carefully curate a list of items that already have high profit margins and can withstand a price decrease without losing too much of their profitability, or items using overstock materials you’re looking to unload.
In this case, house-made cocktails — including upscale ingredients leftover from your menu — often fit this need perfectly. Instead of costly mixers, you’re using only materials you already have — and, in many cases, leftover ingredients you may otherwise toss. Not to mention, a truly well crafted house-made cocktail carries a special appeal for guests — and will seem like an even better deal than the more costly beer or soda and liquor cocktails Happy Hour patrons most commonly see.
2. Upsell, upsell, upsell.
Nearly every Happy Hour patron comes specifically for the special deal you’re offering on your cocktails, beer, or wine. But that doesn’t mean that they won’t pay slightly more for better ingredients.
Instead of just offering a well special, also offer your guests the choice of using premium liquor, or selecting a more expensive wine or beer, for only $1 or $2 more, depending on your current pricing structure. It may seem like small change — in fact, you’re counting on your guests agreeing that it’s a small price to pay — but each additional dollar will definitely add up.
3. Pile on the additional specials.
In many cases, just offering drink specials may be enough. But to really make your Happy Hour its most profitable, adding a short list of special, snackable items is key.
Explore your appetizer menu and identify which items could be offered in servings of two or three instead of the typical amount, or that could be scaled down for parties of one or two. You can then offer these items with standalone special prices, or with drinks as a two-for-one special.
If the guest is already having the cocktail, it will seem only natural to get the special food item for just a fraction more — not to mention, snacking on your tasty appetizers might just encourage them to stay for the dinner rush.
If you’re in a state that doesn’t allow drink specials during Happy Hour:
Just because your state doesn’t allow low-cost, high-volume drink specials doesn’t mean you have to miss out on all the potential profits that can be made during Happy Hour Just be creative in the specials you do offer — and give your guests some fun incentives to keep returning after work.
1. Layer on the urgency.
Just because you can only offer specials on food doesn’t mean you can’t layer on other limited time offers to up those feelings of urgency in your guests. Experiment with special Happy Hour dishes that can only be purchased during that time period — or that are only available on certain days.
These specials can be variations on your current offerings using ingredients you already have on hand, or can be entirely new concoctions developed by your chef. Either way, train your staff to consistently remind guests that these food items are only available during Happy Hour, encouraging them to consistently return during those off-peak hours.
2. Provide more than food.
If you find food isn’t enough to drive your Happy Hour profits, try offering another entertainment option. Some, such as karaoke, require additional equipment. Many other offerings, however, can be offered cheaply, and still drive engagement during these slower periods.
Try collecting a few board or card games that guests can play while they’re unwinding after work, or invest in a tabletop system that they can use to access the internet or play other games. Or offer trivia — a popular bar staple — developed with the questions from an old copy of Trivial Pursuit or sourced from the Internet. You may just find that many guests will start coming for the activity rather than the specials — and, if they’re engaged in a game, will stay even longer than you anticipated.
3. Offer cocktail alternatives that are sure to please.
Not being able to offer specials on liquor doesn’t necessarily have to prevent you from offering your guests an extra-special drink at an extra-special price during Happy Hour. “Mocktails” and other refreshing non-alcoholic beverages are increasing in popularity, and can provide your guests the same experience as a cocktail at a fraction of the price.
Try mixing up an herbal lemonade, fruity agua fresca, or another special concoction using leftover ingredients from your menu. Not only will nondrinkers rejoice at the opportunity to have a special drink outside the water and soda realm, you’ll also use up those extra materials that would otherwise be thrown away.
Offering specials isn’t the only way to make your menu more profitable. Check out how changing your menu design can improve your bottom line.
Remember that you must be at least 21 years old to drink in the USA and to always drink responsibly. This information is intended for informational purposes only, and not to promote the consumption of alcohol.