SEATTLE - Local restaurants tell KING 5, especially in the last month, happy hours are busier than ever.
"We're selling three to four plates more of each item a night now than we were at the end of 2008," said Dave Kearns, general manager of Hi Life, a restaurant in Seattle's Ballard neighborhood.
Customers echo the trend.
"We definitely eat earlier and happy hour has definitely become dinner," said Jennifer Petersen, who was eating at Zayda Buddy's in Ballard. "I think for me, happy hour's become dinner because of the economy."
In this economy, restaurant patrons are bargain-hunting.
"Before, kind of not really thinking about it. Now, definitely watching the wallet," said patron Devon Manier.
"A lot of people come in [and say] 'Hey we're looking for this place' or 'Do you know who has food specials,' or 'What do you have to offer?' compared to what they've seen," said Zayda Buddy's manager Jocelyn Weigand.
The National Restaurant Association says in February its Restaurant Performance Index stood below 100 for the 16th consecutive month. The monthly composite tracks the health of the industry; a number lower than 100 indicates contraction.
That's why restaurants are looking for any way to attract customers - hence longer happy hours, lower prices, and a few economy-related gimmicks, such as the Hi Life's Bell Ringer.
"We base the price of the Bell Ringer on whatever the Dow closes that day," Kearns said, adding that on Thursday night, a Bell Ringer plate of lasagna and salad would cost $7.98.
Kearns says the special is extremely popular, and similarly, they're selling several more happy-hour entrees every night.
"Instead of $15 to $20 on an entree, they're spending $6 on two happy-hour items," he said.
Because it seems right now, it's all about catering to the spend-thrifty eater.