Happy Hour Ideas
Happy hour is the cornerstone of large and small bars everywhere, attracting everyone from coworkers relaxing after work to friends catching up after time apart. Hosting a fun, attractive happy hour with engaging events, unique themes, and great deals can make your bar even more profitable. If you’re unsure how to start planning the perfect event, check out our list of happy hour ideas for themes, menus, events, and promotions to boost sales, increase customer loyalty, and attract new guests to your establishment.Shop All Bartending Supplies
Happy Hour Themes
For the creative, fun-loving bar operators, having happy hour theme nights offers the chance to switch things up and bring in a unique crowd. Check out some of our favorite happy hour themes below!
For a unique happy hour theme, dive headfirst into the world of music genres and center your night around one. Country, classic rock, jazz, hip hop, or blues are all fun choices that provide a range of options for creative drinks and menu items. Of course, be sure to blast your favorite songs from your chosen genre through the speakers to emphasize the mood. While your dedication to the theme can be subtle, you can also go all out and include trivia and “name that song” games for customers to win extra discounts.
A tried-and-true happy hour theme, a night celebrating the 70s, 80s, 90s, or another chosen decade can be a huge success. Create a signature cocktail menu featuring popular drinks from the era or classic twists on customer favorites. For even more fun, you can hold a trivia night with this theme that features questions about your chosen decade. Include a playlist of oldies hits, and you’re ready to go!
Designed for fans of all sports, a sports jersey night happy hour theme encourages fans to wear their favorite team’s jersey to your bar. This can coincide with an important game for your local sports team or a championship game day for a specific sport. Fans wearing jerseys can either receive an additional discount on specified drinks, appetizers, or spin a wheel for additional prizes. Customizing your menu to include popular gameday appetizers or renaming menu items after sports terms and anecdotes is another way to emphasize the theme. For added atmosphere, show the big game on your TVs so fans can root along with their chosen team.
Casual fans and hardcore nerds alike can unite with a happy hour dedicated to their favorite movie or series. Fandom Fridays offer fantastic opportunities for creative menus based on films, such as a Hobbit-themed supper. This theme idea also provides the chance to hold fun events, such as a trivia night, costume competition, or showing the movie on various TVs throughout the bar. With many great options for inspiration, Fandom Fridays might become a fan-favorite happy hour among your customers.
Happy Hour Menu Ideas
Every happy hour needs delicious food and refreshing drinks for customers to enjoy. Whether you want to offer unique cocktails or delightful finger foods, check out these happy hour menu ideas that keep customers coming back for more.
Food Theme Nights
Making food the focal point of your happy hour is a great way to draw in customers looking to enjoy delicious food at discounted prices. Below are some of our favorite food theme ideas for your happy hour.
- Sake and sushi - For restaurants looking to branch out beyond typical appetizers for their happy hour, a sake and sushi night will appeal to a wider variety of customers than an appetizer-focused happy hour.
- Taco Tuesday - This food theme became so popular that it’s now a social media staple. You can’t go wrong with delicious, discounted tacos.
- Seasonal and holiday menus - Offer seasonal food and drinks during certain happy hour events to showcase some of your limited-time menu items. Feature unique fall flavors or Christmas drink recipes so guests can celebrate the season properly.
- Food and drink pairings - A wine and cheese night appeals to high-end crowds, while sports fans might prefer beer and wings. Check out these popular food and drink pairings to craft your menu for maximum appeal.
At its core, happy hour is a social event involving groups of at least two or three patrons. Therefore, shareable dishes like tapas are ideal for a happy hour menu. Guests might feel inclined to choose between a full dinner or solely drinks, but you can make the decision easy by providing several easy share plates like boneless chicken wings and pretzel bites. Plus, this allows customers to sample various dishes and order more of what they like.
Drink Buckets and Flights
Offering drink buckets and flights to customers is a great way to allow customers to try small samples of multiple different beers or mixed drinks. Customers might order a drink bucket or flights to start the night before ordering more of their favorite beer or cocktails as the night progresses. This option also appeals to large groups who all have different preferences.
Discount and Exclusive Menus
Regardless of the theme of your happy hour, the one staple is excellent discounts on food and drinks. Check out some popular menu promotions for your happy hour.
- Value-priced items - According to Statista, 46% of happy hour goers come for low prices on drinks, and 41% of guests reported that value-priced food was also an attraction. Offer food specials to promote additional sales and to attract a larger crowd during happy hour.
- $2 oysters - Customers can order as many oysters as they want for $2 each rather than offering a specific quantity at a preset price. For example, 10 oysters would be $20.
- BOGO - Whether you limit the promotion to specific menu items or include all the menu, BOGO or buy-one-get-one-half-off promotions encourage customers to order more food and stay longer.
- Mini menu - Offering miniaturized versions of your entrees will entice guests to come back later for the full meal if they’re not hungry, and it is a fun way to serve small plates.
- Exclusive menu - To create an aura of exclusivity and urgency, offer specialty cocktails or food items only available during happy hour.
Happy Hour Events
Hosting happy hour events draws in more patrons looking for a fun activity to go with their food and drinks. These events are typically low-cost for establishments and keep customers in their seats ordering food and cocktails for longer. Here are a few happy hour event ideas sure to please new guests and loyal customers.
Perhaps the most popular of all happy hour events, a trivia night draws in crowds looking to test their trivia knowledge. Customers often stay until the end of the game, ordering more food and drinks as the night goes on. You can pair a trivia game with almost any theme, such as sports knowledge, movies, and history. As you plan for a trivia night, check that your establishment has all the necessary equipment for maximum participation. High-speed Wi-Fi and a way for customers to play wherever they’re sitting are musts.
Open Mic Night
An open mic night presents many options and opportunities for your bar during happy hour. You can invite a local band or comedian in for live entertainment, which allows you to support local artists and bring in more customers with the promise of free entertainment. A karaoke night is another fun take on this event that engages customers more than just listening to music. Having prizes and extra discounts for karaoke participants ensures a fun night for your most enthusiastic guests. Either way, check that you have the proper sound equipment to accommodate local artists and karaoke lovers.
Late Night Menu and Brunch Happy Hour
In addition to your regular happy hour in the early evening, you can host a second happy hour for people who work during your first one. A second happy hour provides extra opportunities to capitalize on higher revenue during low-volume times of the day, and the event allows you to try some unique menus. Brunch happy hour is ideal for mimosas and Bloody Mary cocktails served alongside breakfast-themed appetizers, while a midnight happy hour lets you break out a late night menu for customers.
Team Up with a Local Brewery
Partnering with a local brewery for your happy hour is a great way to promote and support local businesses, allowing both establishments to bring in new customers. Feature drink samples and specialty brews from your partner’s menu. Additionally, introduce customers to the head brewer or hold a Q&A event for even more engagement.
Happy Hour Marketing Ideas
Half the battle of hosting a successful happy hour is ensuring potential customers know about your happy hour events and offerings. Great marketing covers this crucial step for you and lets you rake in more revenue from the night. Check out some of our favorite happy hour marketing ideas and tips to make your bar a popular happy hour location.
- Use social media - Social media is the best way to showcase your happy hour, especially if you have a unique theme or event. Customers can also share your posts and stories with their friends on their profiles for more free advertising.
- Offer complementary items - Nothing draws a crowd like free food. Free samples of food and drinks give people the opportunity to see what they like, making them more likely to order more from the menu. Plus, it gives you great chance to use up those open bottles of liquor that are no longer at peak freshness.
- Flip a coin night - A fun way to promote discounts is to have customers flip a coin when they order something or at the end of the night to see if they get the largest happy hour discount on that item. If they lose the coin toss, they pay full price.
- Pay attention to trends - Whether you’re looking for ideas for new menu items or events, look at current trends to understand customers’ interests. Adding options like butter boards that became popular on social media is a great way to make your bar stand out.
Tips for a Successful Happy Hour
Whether you’re hosting an event or crafting the perfect happy hour menu, use these tips for a successful happy hour to create a crowd-pleasing night.
- First come, first served seating - Establishing a specific seating section for happy hour customers with a first come, first served policy ensures your regular dining customers enjoy their night as well. We recommend extending your happy hour if you use this policy so more happy hour guests can take advantage of your deals.
- Be generous - It might feel like losing profit, but offering complementary side dishes, small desserts, or drink samples draws in customers. This mindset will create loyalty from guests who had an enjoyable experience at your restaurant, making them likely to come back for your next event.
- Consider weekend happy hours - Customers have the most free time during the weekend, so capitalize on their desire to get out and have fun by hosting weekend happy hours.
- Pay attention to the behavior of your guests - Customers want to go where everybody knows their name. An attentive host that pays attention to the needs of guests creates a warm, welcoming environment that keeps customers engaged for longer.
- Understand your target market - College students have different tastes and interests than business managers or sports enthusiasts, so adjust your happy hour events and menu deals accordingly. If large groups frequent your bar, provide shareable dishes and pitcher specials. If your restaurant attracts a high-end crowd that prefers upscale dishes, create a discounted cheese plate with a wine pairing.
Offering specialty food and drink, hosting fun events, and using supreme marketing are all ideas that extend beyond happy hour. Bring in more new guests and keep your regulars coming back for more by providing consistent, high-quality service and keeping your strategies creative.