Happy hour strategies in restaurants and bars have been one of the most tried and tested tactics to attract customers and to increase bar sales. While it boosted the sales, it also ensured in uplifting the business during the slow hours.
“Even when the situation was stabilised before the second wave, we could not find happy hour menu in most of our loved restaurants and bars,” an office going Delhi girl stated raising the fact that restaurants are re-thinking and analysing their discounts offerings.
Taking cues from the My Bar Headquater at Connaught Place, New Delhi, the happy hour became so popular that management reconfigured the restaurant’s layout to accommodate the demand, adding more lounge seating to welcome the students as well as the business guests.
Before the second wave, when onsite dining was allowed inside the restaurants again, dozens of restaurants and bars in the country were bringing happy hour menus back. But it’s unclear whether the discounted drinks and food scene, once so ubiquitous in the country, will ever look the same again.
Akshay Chauhan who runs Boombox Brewstreet in Gurgaon doesn’t see much room for happy hours within a struggling restaurant industry constantly in flux. “There is no advantage of having a happy hour menu because of the pandemic. Our club starts after 9 pm and this curfew has almost stopped our sales. No happy hours and offers will work because there is no footfall,” he said.
Budget-friendly menus were a key strategy to get people in the door ahead of prime meal times, but restaurant budgets are strained to the brink. And with many offices around town lying vacant indefinitely, it’s unclear how much restaurants and bars can rely on the post-work crowd moving forward.
Restaurateurs see an opportunity in wiping the slate clean post-pandemic and rebuilding certain practices in the industry more sustainably across the board, as opposed to racing to the bottom to attract guests looking for the best deal.
For diners, however, the appeal of happy hours won’t go away so easily. Those discounts afford an opportunity to sample the fare at a hot new restaurant without necessarily committing to a full meal.
Vanita Bajoria, Director at Hard Rock Cafe in Kolkata has a similar opinion. “Happy hours are a proven and tested format for drink offers for many years. The offers will survive but we need to be more fluid and flexible to be able to adapt as per market needs. We would definitely rely on in-house offers that provide value to guests rather than depend much on third-party platforms,” she said.
Heavy discounts provided by the food aggregators are already digging holes in the restaurant’s pockets. Other restaurateurs are more optimistic about the immediate outlook, at least, and are eager to welcome happy hour specials back. A lot of people are on budgets due to Covid, and discounted food and drinks will be appealing to just about everyone.
"Happy hour will always survive! Majorly to attract a crowd in non-business hours, especially in a place like Pune,” Eshita Deoskar who runs Kynd Cafe and Bar commented. For Deoskar, her target clientele is students, therefore the price cap for a happy hour does bring in more customers.
“Always remember, your target mix should be your priority. The pie should be divided into your student crowd, corporate crowd and your luxury clientele,” she further added.
After more than a year of economic devastation, people within the restaurant and bar industry are no doubt looking forward to a time in the future when dining rooms will be packed without ever-looming mortal anxiety. Though restaurants in India may never fully go back to the days when social gathering never knew socially distancing, there does seem to be room for happy hours at a smaller scale.