Over the years the term “happy hour” has been used to catch early customers in bars and encourage drinking before dinner. At the time of the prohibition era, the passing of the Volstead act forced people to speakeasy bars where they would host “cocktail hours” before eating at restaurants where alcohol was prohibited. The tradition has continued in cocktail lounges to this day, with a resurgence in the “speakeasy” style bar, which is often hidden and not advertised, and only for those in the know, to know about.

Happy hour evolved over the years to include a variety of different discounts on drinks, two for one offers and free finger food in order to entice the customers off the streets and onto bar stools in competitive markets.

The happy hour has become extended from just one hour, usually from 5pm until 6pm, to start in some bars as early as 3pm running to 7pm or even 8pm. For some desperate venues, the running of a “late-night” happy hour is a sure sign of hard times ahead.

One of the biggest jokes in recent times within the Vietnam F&B industry is to throw a premature Grand Opening and immediately offer happy hour discounts.

Why bother opening if you are not ready for business and straight away de-value the investment? I’m often gob smacked at the inexperience of business owners who rain on their own parade. We all know you can’t pay the bills with an overpriced 2000m2 rooftop bar with no rain cover, so why make the price so high in the first place?

After opening dozens of bars and restaurants around the world for the last 2 decades I know exactly what the term grand opening means. It means nobody wins.

As a result of this carry on I have developed the fail-safe 3-step programme to open anything from a fish and chip shop to a 5-star hotel and everything in between. First is the Soft-Soft opening…a period of approximately four weeks to get all the loose ends sorted.

This will create a whisper campaign and hone the staff and systems, then is the Grand-Soft opening at the end of this period with a one-off invite only, warm up event, no press.

Then enter the Soft Grand opening, friends, family and freeloaders, still fine-tuning systems and getting the ice tea mix at the right balance etc…then with 3 weeks to go, the Uber-Grand-Grand opening- invites are sent out to the press, celebrities and suppliers – the general hoi polloi. When at which time all the toilets work, the electricity does not get cut off anymore and the security and receptionists are actually awake on the job.

Create something for the people to enjoy, educate the market and improve the standard, that’s my only advice to would-be owners dreaming to call themselves restaurateurs or bar owners, oh, and that bit of advice is free, you just have to pay someone to think of the idea, and don’t steal someone else’s, that’s just plain rude.