A 'not so happy' Happy Hour

I had a restaurant experience recently that I just need to vent about. What’s funny is, that I didn’t end up eating in said restaurant. You will soon find out why. 

Why is it that some restaurants refuse to serve their happy hour menu in any other place than the bar? I recognize that establishments want to create activity in their bar to ultimately attract more patrons. Equally, I kind of understand (I’m stretching here) their desire to leave dining room seats open for patrons ordering off of their full menu, and thus spending more money. 

I, however, contend that a truly “happy” happy hour customer is likely to spend more than the average guest. Not to mention the fact that, if people have a good time at a restaurant’s happy hour, they are more likely to become loyal guests. Happy hour is a great opportunity to lure in new customers and convince them to come back to enjoy more of your menu. Instead of trying to corral these patrons into one area of your restaurant, what’s the harm in extending your happy hour menu to everyone in your venue?

In this case, my girlfriend and I tried to follow the rules and sit in the bar area. Unfortunately, the bar was packed and there weren’t any seats available. I returned to the hostess stand and explained the situation. We just wanted to order a few small plates off of the happy hour menu, as we were looking for a spot to grab a snack before returning home for dinner. I had tried in earnest to sit in the bar, but the area was completely full. I looked at the hostess hoping to see some recognition of understanding. But, this was for naught. 

The three hostesses standing at the host stand, sounding like programmed robots, reiterated that the restaurant only served the happy hour menu in the bar. 

At this point in our exchange, I pointed to the now overflowing bar area. “We tried to sit in the bar,” I said. The hostesses merely smiled back at me and offered a disingenuous apology

 I'm sorry, David. I'm afraid I can't do that.

I'm sorry, David. I'm afraid I can't do that.

It’s important to note that I was interested in ordering off of the happy hour menu by principle and not just to save a few bucks. If your restaurant has a happy hour, then it should be available to all of your guests. It’s just good customer service. If someone really wants to order off of the happy hour menu, don’t act like he or she is asking to break the law. In most cases, a guest sitting in the dining room could be less than 10 yards from the bar.

Instead of challenging the hostess and asking to speak to a manager, we left. With so many other places to eat at on the same block, it wasn’t worth the time or energy to make a point. We could get an appetizer elsewhere.

When a customer is in your venue, don’t give him a reason to leave. There are too many other options out there to choose from. Do everything in your power to make that experience great so he comes back. Don’t risk losing a customer for life over something that you could easily accommodate.


Beer and nuts image by Brian Yap.

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