The “Happy” Occasion, Part I

The Happy OccasionF&B Directors: if you’re promoting the same specials and menus to all of your Happy Hour guests, you’re missing revenue opportunities. “One size doesn’t fit all” in 2016.  Most hotel bars, the ones I know, are indeed Happy, having offerings at a specified period described by them as “happy hour”. What is “happy hour” anyway?

Well, the phrase is a marketing term that refers to a high value offering at a drinking establishment during the late afternoon to early evening hours. There are several stories about its origin. The one that resonates best with me is centered around Prohibition.

Restaurants could no longer serve beverage alcohol, as you know. So, customers would visit their favorite speakeasy first, then go off to their spirits/beer/wine-free restaurant, sufficiently lubricated. But a euphemism was needed to describe a newly-illegal activity. Apparently it wasn’t cool to announce that you were “going to an illegal bar”. “Happy hour”, possibly borrowed from the Navy, became that euphemism.

Whether true or not, the term as we use it today gained widespread popularity in the early sixties.  Why does the term remain popular, even in the face of legal obstacles in several states? Because the occasions that drive it are as commonplace today as ever. In other words, customer demand is strong.

Those occasions are:

  • Before dinner
  • After work
  • After a day of meetings in a hotel

These occasions may seem like different ways to say the same thing, but in fact they are not. Recognizing the difference can help a bar, especially hotel bar, develop strategy and promote more effectively.

  • The pre-dinner customer is likely to be a hotel guest, and pre-dinner usually means dinner outside the hotel.
  • The after-meetings guest may be a hotel guest as well, or may be a local who attended a meeting.
  • And the after-work customer will be a local.

How else are the occasions different? For one thing, pre-dinner is a seven-nights-a-week occasion, the others are four to five nights. Pre-dinner potential at a hotel bar is driven by occupancy and mitigated by the number of in-house receptions.

After-work potential is driven by the day of the week – Friday is the highest traffic Happy Hour, and Tuesday is the second-highest traffic Happy Hour. This potential will be moderated by numerous hard-to-predict local variables such as weather and traffic conditions.

After-meetings should be easy to project if a hotel has good communications with its meeting planners. Planned functions, or their absence, will be primary indicators here, as will the nature of booking: local group or in-house group.

Next week’s blog will illustrate a very specific strategic approach, based on the Happy Occasion, and it’s easy to implement.

Those are my thoughts, let me know yours.