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10 Tips for Great Happy Hour Buffets

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Whatís your bar business without a happy hour buffet? It may be pretty slow, for one thing. Happy hour buffets have become a staple for many lounges and if your idea of a buffet is a bowl of mixed nuts on a card table with some napkins, you could benefit from a happy hour makeover. Here are 10 tips from restaurant and bar industry pros on how to liven up your buffets:

1. Quality is Job #1. Just because youíre giving it away, donít think it has to be the cheapest products you can find. If the food you serve is good, customers will stick around and probably make a return visit. If itís not good, donít expect to see them again.

2. Theme It. Some of the best buffets are specially themed. Chili Dog Buffets for Monday Night Football, Mexican Food and Margaritas on Friday nights, etc. Put together some fun themes to go with local events and run with them.

3. Spice It Up. The classic happy hour buffet food, the Buffalo chicken wing, has been successful, in part, because itís a great spicy product. Consumers expect happy hour buffets to have plenty of fried, spicy and salty foods, itís part of the ambiance and itís what helps your drink sales.

4. Variety Clubbing. Salads, pastas, sandwiches--keeping them guessing is the key. If customers start thinking about your place as that same old,chips and salsa from Samís Club bar, your buffet is done.

5. Sit Down and Eat. When you can get a customer to actually sit down, theyíre inclined to stay awhile (and order more drinks). Keep that in mind when planning the layout and tables for the room.

6. Thatís Entertainment. Donít forget the ambiance, howís your big-screen TV system? Your sound system? Karaoke? etc.

7. Display Your Wares. The mistake many make is to hide buffets in a dark, out of the way corner. Make sure your buffet area is well-lit and itís not a bad idea to have an employee stationed nearby to clean-up the inevitable spills and keep the food fresh on a regular basis.

8. Cheap Drinks. Just because youíre spending on a good quality buffet doesnít mean you can get away with no drink discounts. This is what consumers associate happy hour with in the first place. When presenting a first-class buffet though, consider offering a modest discount, or heavy discounts on certain products.

9. Ask What They Want. Looking to make your buffet stand out from the competitionís? Ask your customers what items theyíd like to see. Youíd be surprised by the ideas they can give you and if you get more than one person suggesting an item, you can be sure that others are thinking the same thing.

10. Get the Word Out. If your center is located in an area thatís near some hotels, youíre probably already aware of the benefits of getting to know the hotel staff so they can recommend your place. Also try advertising the buffet in your local entertainment papers to see what kind of reaction it gets.

Article by: John Morell
International Bowling Industry Magazine
August 2004