Slow days aren’t a problem for quick-thinking operators. Real-time specials posted via social media sites are a great way to drive daily traffic to bars, offering quick boosts to the bottom line. The e-mail Mike McCauley’s sent to snow-bound Philadelphia office-workers the morning of February 28th asked, “What’s better than milk and cookies on a snow-day?” His answer: “Beer and cookies—and/or cookies with Mother’s Milk Shiraz!” The response boosted traffic 25 percent that day.
The clever one-day-only feature of Mother’s Milk Shiraz from Australia’s First Drop Winery for $7 a glass (a $2.50 discount) or Brooklyn Cookie Jar Porter for $4.50 a glass (a 50 cent discount), with a Le Bus Oatmeal Raisin cookie for $1.50, got a lot of great feedback. “People loved the idea—and the special products we featured,” says McCauley, who sold a whole keg of the beer at both locations and an extra case of the wine at both units, too. What he didn’t expect? Not only did adults come in for the beer and cookies—they brought their kids in for regular milk and cookies, with them. McCauley’s has been doing one-day promos publicized primarily via the concept’s 14,000-member e-mail list. McCauley uses the events to feature some “this-just-in” limited time offers. His experience with discounting shows that checks go up an average of $2 a person during events, despite the discount. He limits the discounted drinks to one per person. “So, even though it’s costly for us to offer those drinks, it seems to balance out because most of the guests end up buying another glass of something at full price,” says McCauley.
Also in Philadelphia, chef Jose Garces is getting more happy-hour business to his Chifa Peruvian and Cantonese restaurant with a “Buns and Beers” promotion. Knowing that Chifa’s pork belly Bao steamed buns were popular, Garces created eight more bun varieties and paired them with craft beers. During happy hour guests can get one beer and one bun for $10; two and two for $15; three and three for $20; and four and four for $25. “Our crowd loves it!” says general manager Marc Grika. The promotion has increased traffic at the bar more than 10 percent.
“Comparing wine and beer, we used to see about 70 percent wine sales and 30 percent beer, but now it’s more a 50/50 split,” says Grika. While the pork belly bun is still most popular, the other varieties, four of which are available each day—like Thai sausage and Peking duck—are selling well during happy hour and are being ordered for dinner and bun-themed private parties.