I have spilled many words on Chowhound extolling the virtues of Elliott’s Oyster House for its huge selection of impeccably fresh Pacific Northwest oysters. Along with many other Chowhounds, I have also spread the word about the great bargain to be had at Elliott’s progressive oyster happy hour, where a house selected oyster can be purchased starting at 3:00 pm for 50 cents, with the price increasing every half hour by 25 cents until, at 6:00 pm, the price returns to the normal price of $13 per half-dozen or $23 per dozen for Washington oysters. (Canadian oysters and varieties other than Pacific oysters are more expensive.) The problem is that the happy-hour specials are served only at the oyster bar, the cocktail bar, and a handful of tables in the bar area. So, in high demand times, like the Christmas and New Year holiday season, it is almost impossible to take advantage of the happy hour specials unless you get there early, say 2:00 or 2:30 pm, snag a seat at the bar or a table in the bar area, and order some food off the full-priced menu – say a salad – to hold the spot until 3:00 pm when the happy hour begins. Interestingly, although it is almost impossible to get a happy hour spot after 3:00 pm in these high-demand times, there are many tables in the “dining areas” that are vacant and unused. Yesterday, for example, the dining area east of the oyster bar was totally empty. So what is the business strategy behind a long line of people waiting for a happy-hour seat, and many more people turning around and leaving because they correctly perceive that the odds of getting a seat anytime before 6:00 pm are minimal and not worth the long wait, despite an abundance of empty tables elsewhere in the restaurant? If the restaurant makes money on its happy hour, why not fill the empty tables, at least between 3:00 and 4:00 pm since the happy hour folks seated outside the bar area will most likely be on their way by 6:00 pm, thereby opening up the tables for the full-price dinner patrons? If, on the other hand, the happy hour is a loss leader, why have it at all, at least without raising prices enough to make a profit? I’m not much of a happy hour person, but the policy at Elliott’s has aroused my curiosity about the happy hour polices at other restaurants. Is limiting the happy hour specials to those sitting at the bar or in the lounge area (as opposed to the dining area) common practice? If so, do other popular happy hours, like the one at Brasa for example, suffer from the same kind of competition for a seat as Elliott’s?
Elliott's Oyster House
1201 Alaskan Way, Seattle, WA 98101