February 02, 2024
By Kim Campbell

Happy hour is an incredible driver for restaurants and bars. The most recent pre-pandemic reporting from Nielson in 2018 found that 60.5% of the weekly sales from average restaurants and bars could be attributed to happy hour events, just a few hours each week. Thanks to meal specials, games, live entertainment, and other promotions, happy hour ideas stood out as a primary revenue driver for most food-focused businesses.  

However, post-work food and drink specials aren’t for the benefit of restaurants and bars alone. An array of hospitality businesses can drive business by incorporating happy hour into their sales strategy.  

Find happy hour ideas that fit your business 

Whether you work in restaurants, hotels, venue sales, or events, incorporating happy hour ideas into your calendar can help drive business and attract new customers. Harness the sense of urgency happy hour events create to promote your venue and bring new patrons through the door. If you’re looking for unique, memorable, and entertaining happy hour events that people actually want to attend, you’ve come to the right place.  

Three women sitting at happy hour drinking and laughing

Happy hour ideas that attract professionals  

Is your hotel or restaurant in a bustling downtown area or retail district? Capitalize on your location to attract office workers, commuters, and shoppers running errands during after-work hours with happy hour specials like— 

1. Wine and whiskey tastings 

Host tastings during happy hour to create enticing discount opportunities for consumers. Offer tasters further discounts on additional glasses or bottles—during happy hour only. Create a loyalty program to encourage repeat tastings, rotating offerings with the season and guest requests. 

2. Gigantic game night  

Darts, billiards, and arcade games are staple happy hour activities. Appeal to the professionals in your market by offering something different—something bigger—by hosting jumbo-sized game competitions to drive business during happy hour. Include giant Jenga, inflatable lawn bowling, life-size Connect Four, and other super-sized favorites.  

3. Trivia night  

BartenderPlanet reports that most adults in the U.S. spend about 2.5 hours at happy events, with 38% of American adults stating they think the event should last three hours. Appeal to consumers seeking an extended after-work event with trivia nights.  

Hosting trivia nights is a fantastic way to encourage team-building, promote socialization, and build a base of loyal, repeat customers. Find an engaging host who knows how to work a crowd and experiment with unique, niche themes to discover what gets people in the door.  

4. Yappy Hour  

So many professionals rush home after work to care for their four-legged friends. Many are too tuckered to consider going out again after feeding, walking, and playing with their beloved pets. But what if they could bring your furry friend along? Host “Yappy Hour,” a dog-friendly happy hour, once a month or a few times a year. Watch as animal-loving interest in your establishment grows.  

Health and wellness happy hour ideas 

Consumers’ desire to reduce their alcohol intake has created an interesting hurdle for bars, restaurants, hotels, and other venues relying on happy hour to attract much-needed revenue. In 2023, 38% of Americans reported wanting to drink less alcohol, and the trend continues. Although happy hour traditionally revolves around low-priced drinks and affordable, high-calorie appetizers, consider offering customers healthier happy hour options.  

5. Active Hour  

Create happy hour events that appeal to the more active members of your community. Gather groups to go on a pub walk, enjoy an evening of spirited salsa dancing, or a community cycling trip that ends with a few brews. Include healthy snacks, like a hummus place, pita chips, or freshly pulled chicken. Provide high-carb beers to help participants refuel after more intense activity. 

Consider offering discounts to groups training to compete in a local marathon or similar competition. This can attract new patrons to your establishment while giving your venue a unique opportunity to show off its sponsorship potential.  

6. Eco-conscious drink specials  

One of the hottest health food trends to watch in 2024 is eco-conscious drinking, which has become more important to consumers. Eco-conscious drinks favor environmental conservation, sustainable water sourcing, and the use of often-discarded fruit byproducts. Serve sustainably farmed oysters with eco-friendly cocktails to impress guests while supporting local ecosystems.  

7. Highlight socially and environmentally responsible menu items 

Sustainability is no longer a desire for most travelers; it’s a necessity. As travel and tourism's environmental and local impacts become more well-known, travelers have explicitly started seeking eco-friendly destinations, products, and brands.  

Organize happy hour events that promote your green hotel or plant-based menu. Build themed tapas, such as dishes with more protein or less meat. Highlight responsibly and ethically sourced delectable dishes with high-quality, local ingredients.  

8. Functional food and drink specials 

How many modern professionals run from event to event after work? Appeal to even the busiest bees with “power-up” happy hour promotions, like espresso martini discounts, high-protein appetizer specials, or a low-cost but refreshing yoga class in the park. Market your event to those who need a post-work energy boost before attending another event. 

Community-building happy hour ideas  

Do you want to introduce your venue to more members of the community? Are you trying to create a stronger community at work? Are you looking for a way to build stronger bonds or gain more trust within your team? If so, consider mixing team-building fundamentals with a little bit of fun with these engaging, low-pressure happy hour ideas:  

9. Multi-departmental meet & greet 

At large venues, it’s too easy for employees to work together without getting to know one another. Host an after-work interdepartmental meet and greet. Offer an impressive spread of delicious snacks, provide alcohol if appropriate, and plan a few low-key icebreakers to ease the tension  

10. Co-op local coworking spaces  

Open your happy hour events up to more attendees by tapping into the availability of coworking space near you. Look for hip, connected coworking spaces that can accommodate businesses of all sizes. Spaces like Bond Collective, which have locations in several states, enable companies from various industries to open their events up to more attendees.  

11. Team game night  

Gather members of your office for an evening of friendly competition. Play engaging games like Pictionary and charades, or compete in team-building challenges, like a puzzle race or scavenger hunt. Encourage employees to form small teams to complete a local or business-based scavenger hunt. Advertise an enticing prize for the winner, such as tickets to a major attraction, dinner for two, or extra vacation days.  

12. Dinner out  

There are few better ways to show your staff appreciation, without making them feel obligated to attend an hours-long event, than by providing them with a free meal. Treat your employees to a fantastic dinner out. Choose a space with an open floor plan that promotes peer-to-peer connection and can accommodate all attendees. 

13. Holiday happy hours 

The holidays provide dozens of reasons to eat, drink, and be merry throughout the year. Host a series of holiday-themed happy hour events to drive more business all year long, with events for— 

  • Valentine’s Day  
  • St. Patrick’s Day 
  • Halloween  
  • 4th of July  
  • Christmas, Hanukkah, and Kwanza 

Take it further and create fun marketing campaigns for unorthodox holidays. Celebrate National Donut Day, International Fondue Day, and other festive events. Create packages for happy hour-style corporate holiday parties or offer catering packages to supercharge holiday sales.  

Attract foodies with these happy hour ideas 

Incorporate food-focused events into your venue’s happy hour schedule to appeal to various clientele. Whether you offer made-to-order meals or pre-wrapped bakery items, you can use happy hour events to promote your establishment’s most incredible eats. 

14. Build-your-own (BYO) food bar specials 

Use happy hour to show off a few of your best dishes at a discount. Be it tacos, burgers, or breakfast, highlight your specialties with a build-your-own food bar. Treat happy hour guests to sundaes, omelets, loaded fries, or whatever dishes you do best. Patrons are more likely to be pleased with their food because they choose the ingredients.  

15. Feature local fare 

Encourage vendors to sell merchandise and promote their products during happy hour events at your venue. Feature local farms, wineries, chefs, and other culinary creators to appeal to broad audiences. Host a local cheese monger or farm-to-table restaurant, and use cross-promotional marketing campaigns to spread the word.  

16. Seasonal samplers 

Whether you manage a partial-service chain hotel, a large full-service vacation resort, or a rustic event venue, your menu probably shifts with the seasons. As the weather changes, tease your exciting new dishes with seasonal samplers during happy hour. Drum up excitement by advertising the opportunity to “be the first to try” the latest scrumptious samples.  

17. Chef’s Special happy hour  

On occasion, host specialty happy hours featuring cocktails and dishes designed by your head chef. In addition to providing an exclusive opportunity to taste limited menu items, chef events appeal to customers by allowing them to meet the star of the show up close. However, don’t overextend your chefs, as their schedules are likely full already. Instead, provide financial and promotional incentives to network with high-profile customers once or twice a quarter. 

A man and a woman at happy hour laughing and viewing images on their phones

Teach a new skill at happy hour  

Incorporate fun and engaging activities into your happy hour ideas. Ask your guests what they wish they knew how to do, and organize classes or workshops that appeal to current and prospective customers, like:  

18. Cooking classes 

Do you have excess kitchen, patio, or dining space? Look for unique opportunities to turn unused space into exciting happy hour event locations. Organize an affordable cooking class hosted by the chef or promote BYO cooking events. Invite patrons to build their own skewers and watch them grilled or learn how to whip up homemade versions of your best appetizers at home.  

19. “Mix & Mingle” mixology workshops 

Host an after-work mixology with members of your office or organization, or organize a “Mix & Mingle” networking event for the public. Invite folks to join a short workshop with a cocktail expert, learn some moves, and enjoy a few low-cost, high-end drinks while they pick up new party tricks.  

20. Paint Night 

Invite patrons to purchase a ticket to Paint Night, which includes a couple of glasses of wine or craft beers. Offer additional beverages available at happy hour prices while the event lasts. Encourage members of your community to come out, try a local drink, and have fun learning to paint a stunning scene.  

Put these happy hour ideas to good use 

Whether you operate an inn, restaurant, or large wedding venue, you have a list of happy hour events you can use to attract new customers. Start scheduling happy hour events with your team to shake things up in the months ahead.   

Now that you know how to handle happy hour, let’s look at 54 ideas to inspire your next corporate event. 

Headshot of Cvent writer Kimberly Campbell

Kim Campbell

Kim is a full-time copy and content writer with many years of experience in the hospitality industry. She entered the hotel world in 2013 as a housekeeping team member and worked her way through various departments before being appointed to Director of Sales. Kim has championed numerous successful sales efforts, revenue strategies, and marketing campaigns — all of which landed her a spot on Hotel Management Magazine’s “Thirty Under 30” list.

Don’t be fooled though; she’s not all business! An avid forest forager, post-apocalyptic fiction fan, and free-sample-fiend, Kim prides herself on being well-rounded.

Meeting and event trends
Meeting and event trends
Meeting and Event Trends 2024
Learn about meeting & event trends and how you can be successful in 2024

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