Restaurants target shrinking wallets with new offerings

Kansas City StarJune 21, 2011 

Happy days may or may not be here again, but happy hours and other promotions are.

As a result, a Northland restaurant is bustling with late-night customers. And they aren’t coming in just to chow down on discounted drinks and eats.

Depending on what night you drop into the Gladstone Applebee’s Neighborhood Grill and Bar in Kansas City, you might find customers trying to empty a tissue box with one hand in one minute — the restaurant’s version of the TV show “Minute to Win It.” Or they might be playing extreme bingo, family feud, water pong or even bar trivia.

It’s all part of the restaurant’s new late-night happy hour offerings.

“It’s doing quite well as more customers hear about it,” said Steven Swift, general manager of the restaurant. “We’re nestled in a neighborhood, and they come in to see, ‘What are they doing tonight?’ We’ve had swim teams, football teams, softball teams, lots of couples and — should I say this? — church groups.”

As the restaurant industry slowly recovers from two years of traffic declines, operators are rolling out more and more options to keep the momentum going. There’s more emphasis on nontraditional “day-parts,” such as late-night happy hours or midafternoon snack times; an increase in daily deal offerings such as Groupon; new menu items such as chicken at breakfast or eggs at lunch and dinner; branded products; and even smaller, more cost-efficient formats.

We’re seeing a lot of downsizing, a casualization of fine dining, more entertainment and promotions on the weekdays. Along with that there’s been a lot of focus put on bar food,” said Bonnie Riggs, restaurant industry analyst for The NPD Group, a market research firm. “Which serves a lot of purposes in terms of giving consumers more choices — smaller portions, small prices and also an opportunity for the operator to move a lot of high-profit-margin alcoholic beverages.”

Read the complete story at kansascity.com

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