How To Make Happy Hour Work For Any Restaurant

Sunny Stree

In every restaurant, there is always that slow hour or two between rushes. The wait staff is rolling silverware, the cooks are prepping for the next onslaught of orders coming in. While this reset time can be crucial to a successful busy period, it also means you as the owner or manager are waiting anxiously, hoping that next rush will ever come at all. Restaurants that serve alcohol already have a leg up when it comes to tactics on filling up tables during the slow times: happy hour. It's that magical time between 4-7pm when select drink prices are slashed. But what does a dry restaurant do? How can they make happy hour work for them? In this article we’ll explore how to twist happy hour to make it what you need it to be.

No booze? No problem

Happy hour doesn’t have to be about the alcohol. There are so many other ways to make your guests happy! If you run a breakfast joint and find yourself gazing at an almost empty restaurant between 10am-11am, consider a coffee happy hour. Slash the price of your coffee for one to two hours to get people in the door.  If you run a lunch and dinner restaurant that doesn’t serve alcohol, do a run on your soft drinks or offer free kids drinks to get families in the door.

Beyond the drinks

If you run a restaurant that doesn’t have many speciality drink options, think beyond the beverage. A happy hour can be lower prices on your best sellers. Pancakes for half price, appetizers or small dishes, a menu combo special that’s only available during happy hour time. Consider even creating a special dish that is only offered during happy hour. Make it so jaw droppingly delicious people will want to come in just to try it.

Consistency is key

The first couple weeks of your happy hour you might not see much difference. That’s ok, don’t stop the program. Make sure you emailed your list a couple times. Be sure to read our article 4 Tips to Develop Strong Restaurant Email Marketing for tips and tricks on emails. Post to your social media channels. Have posters up in your restaurant and make sure your wait staff is talking about it to your guests. Happy hour can take a moment to pick up steam and get noticed. You are introducing a new habit to your guests, and habits take awhile to form.

Don’t be afraid of the offers

Too often restaurant owners are worried about discounting and couponing, thinking that guests will come to expect a percentage off at every meal. Don’t think of happy hour as yet another to make your margins even tighter, think of it as a way to get new people in the door. More likely than not your happy hour customers will come back during full priced hours, and with more people.
Happy hour is all about bringing some joy to your guests and filling those tables. But it also could be your best word-of-mouth marketing campaign yet to date. If a few of your regulars love your happy hour, they’ll tell their friends (or better yet- bring them in). That’s introducing more people to your excellent food, atmosphere, and service. And you get to have that moment of looking out at your restaurant during what used to be a dead hour and see full tables and smiling happy guests.


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