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.
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.
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.
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.