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The happy hour is a hospitality institution. Dating back to US prohibition, it was originally the serving of illegal drinks in speakeasies to patrons who were about to head out to dinner. But when prohibition ended, so did the happy hour.
It wasn’t until the 1950s that the phrase again reared its beautiful head, this time in the way we know and love today. The term is now synonymous with a period of discounted drinks and often free nibbles, used the world over.
The problem with it being a worldwide trend is that for pub owners, bar managers and restaurateurs, standing out from the crowd can seem nigh-on impossible. Your traditional happy hour will just be another drop in the 2 for 1 ocean. $5 pints are great, but you can get them at every pub on the street between 4pm and 6pm.
So how do you create the best happy hour around? And how do you ensure that everyone hears about it?
Formulating Your Happy Hour
Many – if not most – hospitality managers believe that the secret to a successful happy hour is the discount. The cheaper the drinks, they reason, the more customers will come through the door. The reality, however, is quite different.
Anyone can discount. It’s lazy, it’s overdone, and it costs your business money. The best happy hour promotions are those that get more creative than a 2 for 1 deal. The introduction of a new cocktail. A focus on bold, offbeat or farm fresh flavours. A fun theme. Live entertainment. These are the happy hour ideas that will have your establishment standing out from the crowd. Rather than being one of the 10 pubs in your area that are offering $5 tap beers, you’ll be that one pub who’s introducing a new cocktail with a live band playing in the corner.
While an innovative happy hour is a key to its success, it’s also important to get the timing right. There’s a reason that most happy hours are set between the end of a work day and dinner time. This part of the day serves as a “shoulder” period – the time between low sales and peak sales.
Growing and extending this period with a happy hour can help to seriously boost your sales, and to create more diners out of those that hang around. At the same time, the post-dinner shoulder period is also worth looking at, particularly if your establishment tends to stay open late into the evening.
Marketing Your Happy Hour with a Social Media Post
Once you’ve settled on a suitably innovative happy hour idea, it’s time to get the word out. And no marketing avenue provides quite the same value, penetration, and hyper-targeting that social media does.
The great thing about social media is that it can cost as much or as little as you want. If you’ve got the patience, you can go about building a following without spending a cent. Alternatively, you can spend as little as $7 to target thousands of specific individuals who fit with the identity of your bar, pub or restaurant.
The main thing you want to keep in mind with your happy hour social media post is its shareability. You want something that will get people talking. The more likes and comments on a post, the greater its reach. To get your post to spread, ensure that it includes a commanding photo (e.g. a beautiful shot of your bar’s signature cocktail), impactful text (use emotive, expressive words), and a call to action (be here from 5pm…) Other worthwhile additions are a brand-specific hashtag and a link to your website for more info.
As a minimum, your establishment should have a Facebook, Twitter and Instagram account on which to market your happy hour. But others, like LinkedIn, Pinterest and Snapchat, can be equally worthwhile.
The great thing about hospitality is that you’re selling a good time. Unlike the challenges faced by life insurance providers or funeral parlours, your product essentially sells itself. It’s just a matter of standing out from the crowd; of offering a point of difference and marketing it effectively.
If you get all that right, it won’t just be a happy hour for your customers, but it’ll be a very happy hour for your business too.