June 29, 2016

Happy hour is a popular after-hours activity for workers across the country. It’s a chance for people to bond with their colleagues and enjoy discounts on tasty food and fancy cocktails. According to a 2008 survey from CareerBuilder.com, over 20 percent of workers nationwide regularly attend happy hour. This event is especially popular among workers between the ages of 25 and 34, as nearly 30 percent attend happy hour at least once a week.

“Over 20% of workers nationwide regularly attend happy hour.”

This technique isn’t just good for customers, either. If properly implemented, restaurants can benefit from the surge in traffic and potential long-term customers. Here are four tips for promoting happy hour in your restaurant:

1. Hit the web
As mentioned above, millennials are a huge part of the happy hour crowd with disposable income. As such, you’ll want to find ways to engage this unique group of people. Most millennials want an experience, and appealing design or presentation is essential. That could mean creating an open, breezy dining space that caters to their desire for conversation and interaction. A sense of novelty is also big with millennials, and they’re open to trying an experimental new appetizer or cocktail. Finally, millennials are especially tech savvy, and you should consider using social media to bring them through the door. That means posting deals on Twitter and developing a following on Instagram through bright, vibrant photos.

Drink specials are a great way to motivate people to come to your establishment.

2. Try late-night happy hour
Some workers skip happy hour not because they don’t want the chance to socialize, but because they have other priorities. That could be a meeting that runs late, picking up the kids from band practice or meeting family for dinner. If you want to bring these folks in, then try a late-night happy hour, like one that runs from 8 p.m. to 10 p.m. Not too many other restaurants run these second happy hours, so you may draw in more people than you expected. Plus, you may become a hotspot for employees who are assigned non-traditional shifts. Just keep in mind that two happy hours takes some planning and that you need to make sure you can do enough business to offset the deals and specials in place.

3. Offer a little variety
Happy hour is all about having fun and cutting loose a little. That doesn’t mean people want to enjoy the same tiny sandwiches or half-price margaritas every day of the week. It’s important to diversify when it comes to your happy hour lineup or menu. The easiest way to do that is to offer values unique to that day. Mondays, for instance, could be two-for-one margaritas, while Wednesdays could be all about special rates for shrimp cocktail. You may even offer special dishes on individual days. It’s also important to listen to customer feedback and see what crowd prefers which drinks or appetizers and on what days. No matter what you choose, variety is the spice of any worthwhile happy hour.

“Encourage and reward people to bring friends along.”

4. Plan ahead
As Nightclub & Bar magazine explained, restaurants must be careful with how they prepare for happy hour. Train your wait staff to look at happy hour as not just a singular event but ongoing preparation. If you want customers to stay for dinner, for instance, then servers need to discuss that evening’s specials. Part of the preparation should be in gearing everything toward groups. That means having jumbo margaritas at $6 per person or sampler platters at $4 per person. Happy hour is a group experience, and you want to reward and encourage people for bringing their friends and coworkers along for the festivities.