What Is A Happy Hour? (7 Strategies To Make Your Happy Hour Successful)

A waiter serving customers during happy hour

Happy hours are among the most effective marketing strategies for boosting sales in bars and restaurants. A report found that one-third of all sales of alcoholic beverages occur during happy hour and late-night drink specials. And for good reason — everyone enjoys happy hour, to unwind after a long day, and socialize with friends all while taking advantage of discounts.

Happy hours are a great way for restaurant owners to increase foot traffic, increase orders at the bar Point-Of-Sale (POS) system, and boost profits. How? In this article, we’ll discuss happy hours in detail and their importance in a restaurant as seven ways to make it a success. 

So, what are you waiting for? Hop on!

What Is A Happy Hour?

Whatever name you give it — social hour, beer o’clock, afternoon drinks, cocktail hours — happy hour is that special time when many bars and restaurants offer discounts on drinks and small plates.

A happy hour is any occasion, promotion, or special offer held during slow times at bars and restaurants to entice customers to stop by and buy a drink. Slow hours for restaurants and bars are typically between 2 pm and 6 pm when people are still at work. Nevertheless, depending on the kind of restaurant you own, happy hour can happen whenever the day or night is.

Why Is Happy Hour Important In Restaurants?

Before we get into the different ways you can make happy hour a success in your restaurant, let’s understand the benefits of happy hour in your restaurant. 

1. Boost Sales

According to a study, happy hour accounts for 60.5% of weekly average revenue in bars and restaurants, even when major discounts are offered. The average bill during happy hour is $68.99, approximately $8 more than the normal bill during other time slots.

This startling statistic highlights how effective happy hours can be at increasing traffic. In addition to larger check sizes, it’s a great way to increase foot traffic during slow periods of the week.

2. Attract New Customers

There is no denying that happy hour can be a fantastic method to temporarily increase sales. However, it is also a formula for sustained success.

Consider happy hour a trial run for your restaurant rather than a one-time thing. Customers experience a small portion of what your restaurant offers during this time. They will definitely return if they like what they experience.

For example, offering a carefully curated selection of your regular food and beverage menu will ensure that your new visitors become devoted regulars. 

3. Upsell Orders

Happy hours present a wealth of opportunities for upselling – the skill of slightly raising the price of a customer’s order – making them so financially rewarding.

In other words, not everyone will end up paying extremely low prices just because the promise of a discounted drink menu gets them in the door. In this scenario, upselling can be incorporated into this promotion by offering customers the option to purchase a larger drink for just one dollar more or by adding a small fee for a side of dip.

4. Create Buzz For New Restaurants

Unless you own a speakeasy, happy hour is typically not a secretive event that needs to be kept under wraps. Instead, this time frame is viewed as a social occasion that can greatly increase your restaurant’s buzz.

You can increase brand recognition by advertising your happy hour drink and food specials on social networking sites, table signs, and grapevine marketing. A survey found that more than 75% of customers will try out a new restaurant when offered a discount.

In other words, don’t undervalue the marketing potential of a great happy hour offer.

7 Ways To Make Your Happy Hour Successful

1. Offer an Exclusive Menu

Creating a unique signature drink or dish is a fantastic marketing strategy. Create one with a unique name only available at your bar or restaurant. Due to the exclusivity and sense of urgency created by this, customers will be more likely to choose your restaurant over your competitors.

In addition to attracting a curious customer base, a chef can test new recipes and try them out on the exclusive menu before incorporating them into the regular menu. You may have a creative bartender who believes their new cocktails will be the next big thing. Give it a shot.

2. Have Appealing Discounts and Offers

Never underestimate the power of a discounted menu to create a lively happy hour. Visitors should feel free to order as much food and drink as they want without breaking the bank. According to a Statista report, 63% of US consumers attend happy hours at bars and restaurants for cheaper food. Another 60% say it’s because drinks are cheaper.

Customers not only enjoy cheap food and drinks but also expect lower prices, and they pick their happy hour venues based on how much value they will receive.

3. Entice Customers With Large Platters

Small plates are ideal for happy hour, but large shareable platters are also a good fit. According to the same Statista report, 39% of customers use happy hours to catch up with friends, and 45% use the opportunity to relax.

With so many customers using it to catch up with friends, restaurants cannot afford to turn them away by restricting their menu options. Hence, try to balance large platters and appetizers to draw in the big groups.

4. Leverage Social Media Platforms

Nowadays, a social media presence is essential, especially for those working in the hospitality or food and beverage industries.

Use social media platforms to promote your menu, speciality drinks, and happy hour offers. Or, make a creative hashtag for customers to use when posting about your happy hour on social media. Additionally, you can use your email database to send invites and promote your happy hour.

For example, ‘Taco Tuesday’ has gained immense popularity as a hashtag on social media, attracting customers to Mexican restaurants every Tuesday.

5. Include Non-Alcoholic Beverages

You might miss out on a sizable market if your promotional campaign only highlights alcoholic beverages.

Some 40% of consumers across the globe want to cut back on alcohol consumption for health reasons. This trend is primarily driven by consumers who wish to reduce alcohol consumption without sacrificing their social life.

To appeal to non-drinkers, you can include some innovative mocktails in your happy hour special menu. As an alternative, you can even design a happy hour menu that is entirely alcohol-free – a fantastic option for restaurants located in states where alcohol is prohibited.

6. Attract Customers With Entertainment Nights

It can be challenging to differentiate your happy hour promotions from the many other restaurants. Although entertainment is an extra cost, it can be crucial in bringing traffic and increasing check sizes.

Adding entertainment to your restaurant, such as trivia night or live music, can make it stand out. However, don’t restrict yourself by hiring only musicians or comedians. Instead, consider unconventional ideas.

For instance, you can host a ‘wine and paint’ night in your restaurant. Or team up with local groups and take advantage of cross-promotional opportunities. You could also host a singles-only night on Valentine’s Day so that customers can mingle while enjoying discounted drinks.

7. Train Your Staff

Your staff is an important part of pulling off a profitable happy hour. Although happy hours can be hectic and demanding for employees, customers must always come first.

Not only should they be familiar with the specials, but they should also understand the importance of being attentive to customers. In addition, you should schedule employee shifts most productively.

Furthermore, the most effective way to advertise your happy hours is through your front-of-house staff. Ensure your guests are aware of deals to keep them coming back, as 85% of customers say that special offers would encourage them to eat out rather than at home.


Happy hours are an excellent method for boosting traffic and sales during the slow hours of the day. And if you do it right, you’ll draw in an entirely new clientele that stays even when pitchers are charged at full price. 

Furthermore, if you have a cutting-edge POS system, you can easily monitor whether your happy hour strategies are assisting you in making a healthy profit.


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Daniel McCarthy is a seasoned restaurant consultant and serves as the Communication Manager at Restroworks, a prominent F&B SaaS company. Drawing from his vast knowledge of leveraging innovative technological solutions, Daniel excels at enhancing restaurant operations and revenue, thereby contributing to the ongoing transformation of the industry.


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