Don’t Worry, Be Happy: Keys to a Profitable Happy Hour


Bar patrons everywhere look forward to sipping a cold one in a lively atmosphere as a wrap-up to their hectic work day. Everyone loves a good happy hour — except, usually, the bar or restaurant operator.

Competition has gotten fierce in the industry as operators have been forced to compete for those happy hour patrons, continually trying to offer a better deal than the operator next door. Of course you want your place to be “the place to be” after work. But as you lower prices to offer unbeatable deals, you have to wonder if the extra traffic makes up for the low margins.

Don’t worry. Your happy hour promotions can be as profitable as you want them to be. You’ll just need to train your staff to maximize their sales during that happy hour while providing a great experience so guests will want to stick around — or come back during regular hours. The key is to set realistic goals for your happy hour promotions. Don’t just arbitrarily lower prices to beat the competition. Offer specials that provide a server with an easy upsell opportunity. A lot of bar patrons have come to expect two-for-one drink specials. Train servers to attach an appetizer sale to the deal. For example, “You folks want the two-for-one draft deal? Great! Tonight we’re also offering a heaping plate of our Macho Nachos with our two-for-one drafts for just $6.95 more.”

Or offer regular drafts at “happy hour” price, but offer an upgrade to a large draft for just a dollar more. The same goes for well drinks: “Would you like to try Bombay in that Gin and Tonic? During happy hour it’s just an extra buck!”

Run server incentives to provide extra motivation. For example, reward a lotto ticket to the server who’s able to upgrade the most well-drink orders to premium brands or regular drafts to larges. Another effective way to maximize happy hour profits is to convince those guests to stick around for dinner, a game of pool or a big football game. Just train servers to engage customers in casual conversation and invite them to stick around.

Then reinforce your training by offering a five dollar bill to the server who’s able to convince the most happy hour patrons to stay for dinner. Just have bar servers count the cocktail-order tabs that they turn over to servers in the dining room.

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