Happy Hour Marketing Promotions


Happy Hour is not just for bars, and it does not really have to be only an hour long, either. In fact, it can be as long as you need it to be to get customers in during lull periods. Furthermore, several restaurants have had success with Happy Hour promotions that do not involve alcoholic beverages at all.

Why Your Restaurant Needs a Happy Hour

  • To increase sales during slow hours.
  • To attract customers who might not otherwise try your restaurant.
  • To showcase your appetizers and/or drinks at a good value.
  • To encourage customers to associate your restaurant with “fun.”
  • To attract a specific market during a specific time. For example, you may use a Happy Hour to target Sunday football fans, businesspeople getting off work, the weekend brunch crowd, etc.

Happy Hour Specials

When developing your Happy Hour specials, be sure to choose promotions that will have a good perceived value, but which will still earn you a profit. Try implementing one of the following specials:

  • Discounts on Profitable Items

    Discount items that have a high profit margin or that you get a good deal on, such as a specific beer, wine or liquor, a certain brand of alcohol, or a category of alcohol, such as “well drinks,” “German beers” or “domestic bottles.” If the discounted items do not already have a high margin, you could end up losing money on Happy Hour.

  • BOGO.

    Buy One Get One Free (BOGO) offers always delight Happy Hour attendees, and it encourages them to bring their friends. You can offer BOGO specials on a specific item or group of items.

  • Special drink offers.

    You can have special mixed drinks or micro brews that you only offer at certain times. This is a good way to give people a reason to keep coming back.

  • Specials on food or non-alcoholic drinks.

    Happy Hour is not just for alcohol. Many restaurants, such as Sonic Drive-Thru, offer a “Happy Hour” solely to promote their non-alcoholic beverages and treats. Consider creating a special menu with an assortment of appetizers, beverages and desserts.

  • Vouchers.

    You can send customers home with a token or coupon for a free or low-priced item any time in the future. This is a great way to get customers to come back again, even when the promotion is over.

  • Designated driver specials.

    Offer a free or well-priced soft drink or dessert to designated drivers, or at the very least, have a Happy Hour food menu ready for them. This is a good way to encourage responsibility with alcohol at your establishment.

  • Events.

    Live music, films and live sports broadcasting can get people to come to your special, rather than the competitions. Events usually work well as a complement to other Happy Hour specials.
    Learn More about Restaurant Event Marketing »

  • Contests.

    Karaoke, trivia, games and eating contests are all great ways to attract people to your Happy Hour.
    Learn More about Restaurant Contests and Giveaways »

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Happy Hour Menu

By creating a separate promotional menu, you will make it easier to adjust the pricing and promotions of your Happy Hour without changing your regular menu. Display your Happy Hour menu on a special tabletop displayette or card holder. If you use paper menus or a write-on menu board to list your Happy Hour items, you can also add advertisements for other upcoming promotions, and you will be able to change them weekly.

Promoting Your Happy Hour

Happy Hour is about fun, so be sure that your marketing materials reflect that element of fun. Humor and graphics make great additions to Happy Hour advertisements. You can advertise your Happy Hour in any of the following ways:

  • Direct marketing.

    You can promote your Happy Hour with direct marketing postcards, emails or newsletters. In your email marketing, include a link to a coupon at your website, so you can measure your email marketing’s success. You could also include a trivia question in your direct marketing materials, and offer a discount or gift certificate to anyone who comes to Happy Hour with the correct answer. This is a great way to obtain high conversion rates on your direct marketing campaign.
    Learn More about Direct Marketing Campaigns for Restaurants »

  • Get listed in Happy Hour and bar directories.

    Send your Happy Hour information to any bar directories you can find. Each large city or region of the US is also likely to have either a print tavern and bar guide or a Happy Hour directory. It is usually free to get listed, and it never hurts to get your name out there in as many places as possible.

  • Paid advertising.

    Radio is an especially good avenue for advertising your Happy Hour, since many people listen to the radio on their way home from work. A radio advertisement may encourage people to stop in after their work day.
    Learn More about Paid Restaurant Advertising »

  • Website.

    Make sure to list the hours, menu and specials for your Happy Hour on your website. This will allow people to do a little research before they attend.
    Learn More about Restaurant Website Development »

  • Online social networking.

    Create an event in Facebook and/or other social networking sites so that people can send Happy Hour invitations to their friends and coworkers.

  • Bouncebacks.

    You can give customers who eat at your restaurant during regular hours a bounceback coupon for returning during Happy Hour. This is a good way to encourage them to come back, and if they had a good experience at your restaurant, they are likely to bring more people with them for Happy Hour.

  • Personal selling and viral marketing.

    Simply put, one of the best ways to advertise your Happy Hour is to tell people about it. Get in touch with any contacts you have at nearby businesses and organizations. Find people with good social networking potential to spread the word about your Happy Hour.
    Learn More about Personal Selling Tips for Restaurants »

By implementing a few of these marketing tactics, you can turn your Happy Hour into a successful promotion that produces profits and creates a new following of loyal customers. With a little marketing, your Happy Hour could help your restaurant become a local hot spot.


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