Happy hour is an after-work godsend. After a long, hard day at the office, too many people wait until dinner to begin drinking. But if there’s a better way to get to know your co-workers away from the copier without breaking the bank, we certainly haven’t found it.
There’s also something about a chain restaurant that makes sense for happy hour. Maybe that cheerful chain nestled into a strip mall isn’t your first choice for dinner, but when the late afternoon sun is still lingering overhead and you’re searching for a place to enjoy a cheap margarita with the folks from accounting, a chain restaurant does quite nicely. After all, chains serve a variety of beverages to suit a wide range of tastes and generally offer snacks everyone can agree upon.
So how did we pick the best chain restaurants for happy hour? Well, of course we looked at the price first. The best thing about happy hour is the discount. Next we looked at the length of the happy hour. A restaurant that has a happy hour from 3 to 6 will be lower on the list than one that goes from 4 to 7, because honestly, who actually leaves the office in time for more than one drink at a happy hour that wraps up at 6 p.m.?
Location was a factor as well. We found some local chains that had excellent happy hours, but if the restaurants were confined to one state, they were just too remote to count.
And finally, we looked at the happy hours’ je-ne-sais-quoi. Some restaurants on this list offer deep discounts on very expensive food at happy hour and some just have a pretty spectacular menu that perfectly complements strong drinks with hearty snacks.
Remember, happy hour isn’t legal in all states (here's looking at you, Massachusetts), and many have regulations about how long they can last, so check with your local franchise before you gear up to take advantage of the following happy hours. And a reminder: Don't linger at a happy hour if you have to drive home.
#10 Romano’s Macaroni Grill
The Italian chain’s first happy hour goes from 4 to 7 p.m. and is followed by a late-night happy hour from 9 to 11 p.m. They’ve got $3 beer and wine along with $5 cocktails, but they’ve also got something the others don’t: pizza. While they’re ideally made for sharing, any pizza is a personal pizza if you eat it by yourself.
#9 P.F. Chang’s
Monday through Friday from 3 to 6 p.m., P.F. Chang’s serves up $3.25 dim sum and $3 sake and beer. Wine will only set you back $5 and cocktails are only $6. The only drawback is that 3 p.m. is a little early for an after-work get-together.