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Happy Hour Ideas And Themes

By
Scott Schulfer
Table of Contents
Bar inventory software

Happy Hour is one of the most profitable times for many businesses. In fact, A 2017 study shows that, over the course of a month, bars with happy hours had 33% more transactions than bars without happy hours. They also saw made 26% more in revenue from their most popular cocktails during happy hour. It doesn’t matter if your bar is big or small, having a happy hour can make your bar more profitable.

That's why we came up with these happy hour ideas and themes. Some are happy hour drink ideas, some are happy hour event ideas, and some are happy hour marketing ideas. But they'll all turn your happy hour into a profitable one.

And that's just what a good bar manager does: grow popular, profitable happy hours. Using these ideas is one of the best ways to increase restaurant sales.

Happy Hour Ideas

Happy hour ideas can be as specific or generic as you want, but they need to offer a unique and entertaining experience. While they are intended to increase sales, they must also be enjoyable enough that they can improve customer satisfaction in restaurants on their own. 

With that in mind, here are some happy hour ideas:

Host a Bob Ross Painting Night

This one’s weirdly specific, but hear us out. It’s a great happy hour event idea. Turn on a TV and queue up a Bob Ross episode. Set up an easel and canvas. Walk around the bar and have everyone who wants to participate write their name on a slip of paper. Put the slips of paper in a hat. Or a jar. A hat has a better vibe, is all.

Pull a name and have that person paint along with the Bob Ross episode. The canvas can face the crowd in the bar so they can watch the hilarity in real time. Or the canvas can be obscured so, at the end of the episode, there’s a reveal. Either way, it’ll be a riot.

Host a Paint-and-Sip aka Wine & Painting Night

For a happy hour event idea that’s more than just one hat- or jar-chosen participant, try your hand at a full-on paint-and-sip night. Buy a pack of cotton paper for watercolor painting. Hand everyone a few brushes, a glass of water (to clean the brushes in), and a small palette of watercolor paint. Using watercolors on cotton paper alleviates the higher overhead expenses of canvas and acrylic or oil paint. Then put on a watercolor painting tutorial on youtube and let everyone go nuts.

Let’s do the math on this if you do it once a week, assuming 30 people participate. 30 sheets of cotton paper is about $3/week. You’ll also need a one-time investment of brushes, of which a cheap pack can cost about $4.30. Given 30 participants, that’s $120 on brushes. A palette of 8 watercolor paints is about $2, so that’s another $60 and will last months. All told, you’ll need around $180 to get up and running, and about $5/week to sustain it.

But that paint night brings in 10 people who would have otherwise not come to your bar. If they buy 2 drinks at $5 each, that’s $100 more in sales your first night. And that’s a conservative estimate. You can even push a lot of your wine from bottles you've opened for your wine by the glass program. The next paint-and-sip night, you’ll have recouped your up-front costs and will make money. Sky’s the limit from there. This is a great way to boost your wine profits.

Video Game Challenge

This one hinges on having a TV. Set up a video game, something simple like Mario. If someone beats a level without dying, they get a free drink. This is not only fun for the gamer, but for the crowd who cheers on the gamer. People love paying attention to the same thing and reacting to it as a group. Just look at sports!

A video game challenge is especially fun thing to witness when the video gamer is bad at video games. And if they’re especially bad, they should probably get a free drink anyway. For trying.

Team Up with a Local Brewery

Both a happy hour drink and marketing idea, you can host a “Meet the Brewmaster” event. Invite a local brewer to come in and talk about their beer, and offer the brewery’s beer at a discount. Associating a face with the beer will personalize the brew. Coupled with lower drink pricing, people will be compelled to buy. Also, how can someone not buy a beer if the person who made it is standing right in front of them? They’d have to have ice in their veins!

Host a Pop-Up Restaurant

Similar to the above idea, but you’ll team up with a local restaurant. Invite them to come in and set up a mobile kitchen or catering table. Then let them serve happy hour bites for a few hours while your bar runs a few reasonable discounts.

ebook to boost bar profit margin

Happy Hour Themes

Happy hours can also be offered on the basis of a theme. A themed happy hour is cool because it encourages active participation from guests. Wear an eye-patch and get an extra discounts at the pirate-themed happy hour. Wear a Hawaiian shirt and get extra discounts at the tropical-themed happy hour. And so on!

You can also make use of your sitting inventory, or dead stock, and theme a happy hour around a type of alcohol. If you have a bunch of gin sitting around not selling, have a gin night.

Flip a Coin Night

Imagine this happy hour idea for a bar: guests may or may not get a discount. Set the eligible items, like domestic drafts, house wine, well drinks, etc. When someone orders one, they flip a coin. Heads it’s half off, tails it’s not. It’s fun for people to low-stakes gamble, and you’re only discounting half your stuff.

If you serve food, you can take this to another level. At the end of the night, if a guest or table has ordered happy hour food, they can flip a coin to get it all for free. They'll be ordering food thinking there's a chance they get it for free, so they'll likely order more. And if they're ordering more food, they're sticking around longer, and they're drinking more.

Music-Based Theme

Offer this for happy hour: $3 domestic drafts, $4 house wines, and bad vibes.

Wait, bad vibes?

Ah, you see, it’s all a part of your Angry Happy Hour. You play punk or metal music for 2 hours while selling discounted alcohol.

Try it for other kinds of music, too. Like a sad happy hours for blues.

Decade Nights

One of the most popular happy hour themes, especially among millennials, is a 90s or 80s night. You can pull this one together pretty easily by creating a playlist from the decade and offer discounts to customers who come in decade-appropriate clothing.

You can also go the extra mile and create themed happy hour drinks (for a premium of course). Maybe using tang instead of orange juice or unique serveware. Just make sure to keep everyone in a good mood and the profits will roll in.

Beverage inventory management software

April Showers Bring Happy Hours

Some people wonder, "are bars profitable?" They sure are if you lean into creative happy hour ideas. Right there, you got 15 happy hour ideas to increase your bar’s profitability and offset your cost of goods sold and prime cost. We even cooked up a list of clever bar promotion ideas and restaurant SEO tips if you need even more inspiration.

Happy hour isn’t necessarily meant to make money, it’s meant to make return customers. If you find that your pour cost is a little high during happy hour because of pricing (see pour cost calculator), increase the price of non-happy hour best-sellers and increase your profit margin.

But wait, there’s a secret 16th profit-boosting tip.

It's using bar inventory software like BinWise Pro. Book a demo and let us walk you through exactly how BinWise turns liquor and bar inventory from a chore into a blessing.