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Cheesecake Factory joins happy hour crowd

Recession brings out the deals in hopes of bringing out the diners.

By Teresa Mears Feb 24, 2010 3:54PM

Have you noticed more advertising for happy hours?

 

That could be because there are more happy hours, as restaurants seek new ways to compete for your dollars in the recession.

 

The latest casual-dining chain to roll out a happy hour is the Cheesecake Factory, which expects to have happy hour in all its restaurants by March 18. From 4 to 6 p.m. at the bar in most locations, drinks will be $5 and appetizers that normally cost $7.50 to $10.95 will be $5. The Orange County Register’s Fast Food Maven Nancy Luna has all the details.

 

"We've all been hit by the economy," Mark Mears (no relation), the Cheesecake Factory’s marketing chief, told USA Today. "We have to be sensitive to those with less discretionary income."

 

Same-store sales for casual-dining establishments fell 5.6% last year, industry consultant Malcolm Knapp told USA Today. But people are looking for a deal, restaurant consultant Howard Gordon told the newspaper.

Plus, restaurants are usually less busy during early evening hours, so they are happy for additional business -- though the risk is that people will come for happy hour, eat cheap appetizers and skip dinner.

 

We suggest you do just that. We would.

 

People haven’t given up drinking during the recession -- in fact, they are drinking more, but cheaper brands and less in restaurants, according to a new report by the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States. The council found that store sales rose 2.1%, while restaurant sales declined 3%, The Associated Press reported.

 

"People still want to entertain themselves, they still want to get together with family and friends, so a lot of people will move from a restaurant to their living room," council president Peter Cressy told the AP.

That means those happy hour deals have to be pretty good to get people and their wallets into the restaurants.

 

USA Today reports on three other new happy hour deals rolled out by national chains in the last year:

  • P.F. Chang's offers drinks and appetizers priced at $3 to $6 from 3 to 6 p.m., a promotion that began in January.
  • Ruby Tuesday is charging $5 all day for bar drinks and started discounting most happy hour appetizers by $2 in December.
  • Morton's Steak House, an upscale chain, started a Power Hour in the bar last year. Bar Bites are $5 and beer is $5.

Local restaurants also are launching happy hours. Some offer deals during the traditional late afternoon-early evening, but some start earlier or go back into effect late at night. At some establishments, the specials are for certain days. And, while they don’t call it the Early Bird special anymore, some restaurants also offer deals to early diners.

 

To find local happy hours, watch the ads in local newspapers, search online, check dining Web sites such as Yelp, and follow favorite local restaurants on Twitter and Facebook.

 

And, if you have an iPhone, yes, there is an app for that.

 

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