As restaurants continue to search for ways to increase traffic during the recession, they are trying a variety of strategies. In the past couple of months I have highlighted reports that noted the growing healthy menu trends as well as improved offerings on the kids’ menus. Now it seems that restaurants are trying to lure customers with extended ‘happy hours’.812039_cocktails_of_the_deep_south

A recent Wall Street Journal report indicates that same store sales at full-service restaurants have been down as much as 5% in the 2nd quarter of 2009. (Technomic data)  And restaurants have noted a drop of as much as 10% in liquor sales in the past year.

These trends have prompted restaurants to market affordable drinks. For example, the Haru Sushi chain is offering a punch drink for $7 that can be shared by 4 people. Chili’s has dropped the price of margaritas by 20% and consumers can order wine or mixed drinks for $5 at Bonefish Grill.

While the beverage service is typically the most profitable for restaurants, managers believe that discounted drinks may be enough to bring people through the door. After that perhaps the ambiance and excellent service will convince patrons to stay and order dinner. This new strategy also means competitors will be trying something similar so restaurants will need to promote the offerings to inform consumers of new opportunities when dining out.

[Source: Kesmodel, David and Jargon, Julie. Restaurants Dangle Cheaper Drinks, Wall Street Journal, 9.29.09]