Are You Happy?
Most hotel bars I know are indeed happy, having offerings at a specified period described by them as “happy hour.” The occasions that drive it are:
- Before dinner
- After work
- After a day of meetings
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 a hotel bar, develop strategy and promote more effectively. The pre-dinner customer is likely to be a hotel guest, and pre-dinner usually means the dinner will be 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 number one, Tuesday number two) and mitigated 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.
Let’s be strategic for a moment and lay it out. This chart demonstrates that the offering itself as well as the means of marketing should differ for your different occasion targets.
Of course, there’s one more marketing issue to address: If you succeed in attracting bar customers, what about collateral in the lounge itself? Think like your customer and consider what might persuade a happy hour patron to try the restaurant. The after-work customer might be swayed by a nicely packaged to-go offering. The pre-dinner guest might want convenience or excitement.
And what of the happy hour offer details? I don’t recommend discounting with dollars-off or percentage-off offers. If your value message is “we’re inexpensive,” it may be inferred, albeit incorrectly, that you are overpriced at other times, and/or you are not a “quality” establishment. And this could rub off on the hotel’s image, so think twice about it.
Consider a unique offering with special prices. Special menus mean a little more work. But a happy hour menu with authentic values not offered at other times can really help you target. An example of a non-discount happy hour offering might be premium brand beers and cocktails at house brand prices. It’s nice to get your customers used to the premium labels as well. The food portion of the menu might be geared to the after-work or after-meetings crowd, as suggested above, while the beverage specials might have the hotel guest in mind. Of course, all of your other offerings remain available at regular price.
So, get happy and get strategic. Plan your happy hour with the occasions in mind, and develop offers and marketing that work for those occasions.
Ned Barker is a hotel industry veteran and principal of Grill Ventures Consulting, Inc. (www.grillvc.com). Specializing in F&B, GVC’s work with hotel and restaurant companies ranges from concept development to operations/marketing review and analysis to special project assignments. He blogs at www.hotelfandb.com and at effandbee.wordpress.com.