If you are like me, you appreciate a good happy hour. The availability of good food and drink at reasonable prices and smaller portions can be a great way to spend time with friends or a loved one. A late afternoon, early evening, or a late evening snack or libation can be just what the doctor ordered on some days.
The thing that I run into from time to time, however, is what I call the unhappy hour. A staff that does not want to be offering a happy hour. They are doing it just because it is what their owner wants. The end result is often contempt for those customers who have the misfortune of daring to come in during that time. The complete inconvenience of it all is written all over their faces.
I recently went to celebrate a friend’s birthday at a local eatery here in town. After a little online research by them, decided on one place not far from our house. Although I did think the service was pretty good, not one of the four people who helped us actually said hello!
Starting with the manager-maître ‘d-host, who came up to us and looked at us with the unspoken ‘hmm?’. I took charge for my friends, said hello to the young man, and asked if we could possibly have a spot for four for happy hour. He then found us a spot at the chef’s counter. Almost right away, a young woman came over to give us all some water, and without a hello, an excuse me, or a pardon me, she proceeded to reach in and pour away.
While we sat there pondering the menu, I noticed the pantry cook on the other side of the counter—two to three feet away from us. He never looked up at us, acknowledged us, or said hello. In a couple of minutes, our server, who by all accounts was very pleasant and capable, came up to us and stood there ready to take our order, again without a hello, or any other kind of greeting for that matter.
Good Food, But…
We all had a perfectly fine time, the food was good, and the service was attentive. However, the lack of a hello from anyone, and the feeling of contempt in the air from all involved is the overwhelming take away here. I can easily look past all of the other shortcomings—the drinks for four coming out in three different trips, the food coming out all scattered as well, the clear fact that they were trying to give us the bum’s rush out of there—if it was just accompanied by some mere friendly attitude.
Make it a Happy Hour
If you are going to offer a happy hour, you should have an obligation to make it so, instead of the unhappy hour that is so often the case. Yes, the host came up to us right away and found us a spot to sit. Yes, the busgirl was right on top of getting us some water. Yes, the server was helpful and pleasant. BUT, without the actual hello, we all felt like a big inconvenience to them all.
The Last Impression
The unfortunate part of it all is that despite everything being pretty good, this is what we walk away with and tell all of our friends about. Again, I say if you are offering a happy hour, make it work for all involved. Train the staff to be mentally prepared for it. I understand why owners offer these happy hours. They are offered at times when they are having difficulty getting customers in the door. So, they offer these special meal periods as a way to get people in and talking about their place. This usually leads to better customer traffic during the other, ‘normal’, business hours. Not if your staff is practicing unhappy hour, however.