Happy Hour Can Add Value to Full-Service Occasions

Full-service restaurants are facing increasing competition from fast-casual and fast-food restaurants as Canadians cut back on spending when dining out. Adult beverage menus and bar dining can be a way for full-service restaurants to differentiate themselves and offer value in a more upscale ambiance.

A number of operators already offer food and adult beverage drink specials during certain hours of the day, but research indicates that bar dining will drive more occasions for consumers looking for a fun social experience at a price that won’t break the bank, according to Technomic’s recent Canadian Future of Family & Casual Dining Consumer Trend Report. We expect upscaled dive bars to emerge that offer specialized menus and low prices.

Consumers say one of the main deterrents to visiting a casual-dining restaurant is that they are too expensive. Operators can provide value through discounts like the ones offered during happy hour. Differentiation can come through offering specials on signature cocktails, local or regional craft beers, or starters unique to the operator.

Operators could also extend happy hour-type specials into late-night hours to increase cheque averages on these occasions. Consumers dropping in for a quick bite might be tempted with a cocktail on special, or patrons stopping in for a drink could be enticed to munch on a snack or share a plate with their party. For example, Romeo’s launched a Happy Hour food and drink menu last summer, with specials that run from 2–5 p.m. and again after 8 p.m. The menu includes $4 local craft beers and $5 glasses of wine. Patrons must order a beverage to receive the bar food discount.

Here are some other examples of operators who offer specials for happy hour.

hapa izakaya offers “Hapa” Happy Hour specials with $4 beers, $5 glasses of wine and 50% off tapas. Premium items such as seafood rolls, beef tataki, wings and grilled squid are available for a discount.

Flying Pig, with three locations in Vancouver, features “Appy Hour” from 4–6 p.m. daily. Every day brings different cocktails on special, but appetizers like short-rib croquettes and halibut poppers are always half price.

White Spot Restaurant offers select appetizers such as Shrimp Gyoza, Nat’s Crispy Dry Ribs, Arugula and Goat Cheese Flatbread, and The Spot’s Zoo Sticks for $6 from 3–6 p.m. daily.

Earl’s Kitchen + Bar offers discounts on wings, dry ribs and tuna toastadas, along with specials on wines, craft beer and signature cocktails, depending on the day of the week.

The Keg Steakhouse + Bar features a cocktail hour with beer, cocktails, wine, snacks and shareable options at special prices.

When it comes to happy hour, cocktails and snacks go hand-in-hand, and offering specials can provide value to customers who might shy away from the higher prices at full-service restaurants.

Note: Local regulations regarding happy hour and other drink promotions vary. Operators are encouraged to understand and be in compliance with local regulations and to serve adult beverages responsibly.

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Darren Tristano

Darren Tristano is President of Technomic Inc. Since 1993, he has led the development of Technomic’s Information Services division and directed multiple aspects of the firm’s operations.

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