One by one, restaurants are giving in.
Despite a strong resistance to give in to the lure of coming up with a happy hour in their restaurants, many operators saw the need to do so.
The Clarmont in Columbus, OH, is one. After 64 years of operations, the steakhouse now has a happy hour. The restaurant’s owner, Thoff Coffman, said that he tried to resist the bait for a long time, but upon realizing that most of his competition are already doing it, he saw that this is the direction that the industry is going—and yielded.
“It was well-received by our regulars. We hope that through this step, we would be able to connect to diners who have never tried us before, those who usually drive by our place but just never had any incentive to come in,” said Coffman. He also hopes to draw the younger crowd.
Their restaurant chefs in quality chef apparel created five new sumptuous dishes especially made to design a happy-hour-only menu, available from 5 to 7pm on weekdays. Each specialty dish costs as low as $5, with drink specials that also have attractive prices–$2.50 local beers, $4.25 wines by the glass and $5 martinis.
“I have been adamant for years, thinking that we don’t really need to do a happy hour—we have created great drinks here, and our cocktails are much less expensive than other restaurants in our area. For a long while I felt that has enough value in itself,” said Coffman. But times have indeed changed. They needed to maximize their opportunities to increase revenue and started doing their happy hour two months ago.
Restaurant operators in both chain and independent concepts now realize that there are many ways to make use of the slow late afternoons as an opportunity to improve the bottom line. They have done traditional, late-night happy hours promoting low-priced small plates and beverage specials as a means to entice budget-conscious consumers. Others have it during their slowest hours.
Consumer researchers of the Service Management Group, a research and consulting firm in Kansan City, MO., recently made a study and found out that 13% of patrons who are younger than 34 are likely to visit a dining place during its off-peak hours. The same results came out when the Boston Consulting Group conducted their own study.
“There are so much that restaurants can do in filling their nonpeak hours, especially those between lunch time and dinner time” said Darren Tristano, Technomic’s executive vice president. “The objective is to drive more traffic and maximize their footprint without cannibalizing the regulars who visit the restaurant during the peak hours.”
Applebee’s started having late-night happy hours a year ago, and the move accounts for 13% of the chain’s total sales. PF Chang’s reported to their investors that their happy hour, which features $6 food and drink offerings concocted by their able chefs in elegant chef apparels, was the only growing component of their business in the past quarter. Such reports are proof that anything that restaurants do to get their customers to stay and eat, or buy more drinks, will eventually pay off.