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The countless benefits of happy hour including boosting sales

Published June 17, 2022

Let’s be honest — happy hours are a win-win for customers and your business.

For guests, they serve as an affordable opportunity to unwind with friends and coworkers after a long day. For restaurant owners, happy hours are a profitable way to attract new patrons, test new recipes and fill empty seats during typically slower times.

A 2018 Nielsen study found that happy hour accounts for 60.5% of average weekly sales within the restaurant industry. What’s more, the average happy hour check comes out to $68.99. That’s $8 more than the average check during other parts of the day.

So what’s stopping you from increasing business and your bottom line by implementing a happy hour at your restaurant? Here are five reasons why hosting a happy hour will leave you and your customers saying “cheers!”

Happy hours offer a new experience at your restaurant

Whether your restaurant is best known for its bottomless brunch or its daily dinner specials, hosting a happy hour creates the perfect opportunity for you to test out new menu items, drink combos, ambiance and more.

By creating a new experience within a fixed window of time, you can surprise patrons and simultaneously attract new customers. Whether it’s a DJ from 4-7 p.m. on Thursdays, free passed apps on the patio or buy-one-try-one cocktails, happy hours create fertile ground for creativity, which naturally promotes growth from within and on a customer level.

They let you maximize your restaurant’s down time

Traditionally, happy hours run from 4-7 p.m., in between the end of the workday and dinner. While these hours are proven money-makers, thinking of other “down times” to try and fill empty chairs is key. This gives you even more opportunities to test new menu items, provide discounts on smaller versions of guest favorites and build rapport with existing and first-time customers.

Happy hours are meant to entice customers to come in when business is typically slower. Some restaurant owners have seen success with late-night happy hours and happy hour menus, for instance, catering to those who work late shifts and filling seats after the dinner crowd has called it a night. Other restaurants have found success hosting happy hours on weekends during brunch, late in the afternoon and in the early evening hours.

Happy hours drive profits by creating a sense of urgency

Another profitable aspect of hosting a happy hour at your restaurant is the sense of urgency it creates. Giving guests a specific window of time to purchase discounted drinks and bites or try new appetizers makes the entire experience feel exclusive. It also encourages customers to take advantage of your deals and actually spend more than they normally would. Furthermore, promoting the exclusivity of your happy hour to repeat customers builds brand loyalty while the sense of urgency can encourage guests to walk through the door in the first place.

They create opportunities to upsell

It may sound strange that cutting prices or offering specials actually leads to larger tickets, but it happens. When customers feel like they’re saving money or getting more value from their purchases, they tend to spend more. You can also incorporate upgrades, like the opportunity for guests to request top-shelf spirits in their discounted cocktail for a few dollars extra. Or the option to upgrade a side for a little over the happy hour price. If your happy hour specials revolve around drinks, remember that patrons are likely to order food as a supplement while they’re at the bar.

Related: Easy ideas to create and improve your restaurant menus

Happy hours promote customer loyalty

Regardless of your approach to happy hour, you need to be consistent. Making sure happy hour patrons know when your restaurant's drink deals and food specials are each week, along with what types of discounts or exclusive offerings they can expect, will incentivize them to keep coming back time and time again.  A good happy hour can quickly turn first-time visitors into long-time regulars, as long as they know the deals and quality of the offerings at your restaurant will remain consistent.

Happy hours are good business for everyone. They create buzz around your restaurant and entice new and returning customers to come in when they otherwise might not have. They also give owners and staff more opportunities to upsell items, additional time to gather direct feedback from patrons on what’s working and what’s not and a fun window to experiment with new items. A well-run, successful happy hour not only increases profitability for restaurateurs, but can also elevate the customer experience and lead to increased customer satisfaction.

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