Happy Hour or No Happy Hour?

With a view of Puget Sound and the Olympic Mountains through its picture windows, Seattle's Maximilien restaurant provides a romantic setting with its atmosphere and menu. Using French cooking techniques, the menu changes seasonally, with entrées priced mostly between $25 and $35. The happy hour menu began six years ago, says Axel Mace, one of the owners who acquired the 47-year-old bistro in 1997.
Martino's International Café
Located in the small town of Vermilion, Ohio, an hour west of Cleveland along Lake Erie, Martino's caters to families with a varied, international menu, ranging from Hungarian chicken paprikash to German bratwurst and pad thai. The most expensive dish is the popular Lake Erie Perch dinner, at $15. Owner Jim Trinter started the business 15 years ago as a quick-service operation, but he switched to full-service due to customer demand.
What's your view about happy hour?
There weren't many people in Seattle doing happy hour. We saw it as the best way to have exposure. It's from 5 to 7 (p.m.) Monday through Friday and 8 to 10 (p.m.) on Saturday. We use it more as a marketing tool. We thought it would be a way to expose people to our menu, and our restaurant. They might visit with friends and then return at a later date for dinner. These are guests we might not ever see otherwise.
I don't think it's right for this restaurant. I bartended my whole life, but when I opened here I didn't have a liquor license. When I added the bar later, I had an established clientele, and I didn't want to ruin it. We have wines and beer from all around the world, including five drafts. Sure, I want people to have a drink with their dinner, and the bar opens up to the restaurant, but I just didn't want to run a bar. I want to run a restaurant.
What's the impact of your decision?

Overall, it's been a good thing. We break even, maybe make a little profit. But it is bringing new guests, and it serves a time of day when the restaurant would be quiet, so that's good for the staff. The most popular items are the mussels (in butter and wine for $4) and Belgian frites (with two dipping sauces, also $4).

Not having a happy hour has been good for us. We're a family restaurant, and I don't want to have to worry about dealing with drunks or the noise being too loud from the bar when families are dining. We're packed at 5 (p.m.) and we generally close fairly early, 8:30 or 9, perhaps a little later during the summer. We really don't have the time or the need for a happy hour.

Do you think you'll change your happy hour view?

We recently made one significant change. We used to have everything priced at $2.95. We changed to have different price tiers, $4, $6, $8 and $12 for food and $3, $4 and $5 for the drinks. You can get the mussels or frites for $4, but you also can have our wonderful foie gras (for $12).

I really don 't think so. Right now, we do about five percent of our business from the bar, and I'm really not eager to increase that percentage at this point.