Yes, you should announce last call for happy hour

Happy hour
You should tell guests before happy hour is about to end, Advice Guy says. | Photo: Shutterstock


We have a generous happy hour from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. and the times are prominently posted with signage on the walls and on the menus. At 6, the happy hour pricing goes away in the POS. I recently had a couple stiff me because they said I didn’t do a “last call” for happy hour, and my tip went to their “inflated bill.” Do you think I should be announcing the end of happy hour?

– Bartender


Yes. Rules are important in any organization but it’s important to remember the purpose for those rules and the overall strategic objective of the promotion. The point of a happy hour promotion is not to “trick” the guest into staying later and paying full price, but rather to fill the restaurant during the slower early hours and encourage folks to stay later. Gently reminding them individually or as a group, depending on the atmosphere of the operation, that happy hour is ending soon will accomplish a few things:

  • Providing good hospitality to guests who want to enjoy your offerings and promotions.
  • Being transparent about when the promotion ends to eliminate guests’ confusion or disappointment when getting the check.
  • Building rapport (and tips) by advocating for the guests.
  • Being sure all guests have an opportunity to participate in the promotion.

My wife and I recently had a drink during a happy hour and would have happily had another. But we couldn’t get a bartender’s attention to get our order in before it ended and it became time for us to move on. It’s a great example of a how a happy hour last call would have brought in additional revenue to the operation, increased tips for the staff and provided better hospitality for the guests.

Be sure, also, that the hospitality philosophy also extends to the system: If a guest orders promptly at the end of happy hour but it takes a few minutes to key everything into the POS system, do you require a cumbersome manager override process to honor the promotional pricing? A simple delay in the changeover or separate menu screen may make things smoother.

Finally, be sure that your happy hour pricing is a win-win. Sometimes, the strictly enforced happy hour is a symptom of deals that are too generous to be profitable.

More on last calls here.