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The Happy Bar and Grill Story: the birth of a Bulgarian fast food legend
08.05.2008   bulgarien.dk
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The story of Bulgaria’s most successful restaurant chain “Happy” is an interesting one. The idea of a powerful brand of fast food restaurants was born in Bulgaria’s sea capital Varna on Christmas Day in 1994. The birth of the Happy Bar was initiated by an American family whilst they were on holiday in Bulgaria, where they purchased a restaurant, which they decided to run as a kind of family adventure; ‘not in a million years did we expect it to be so successful so quickly.’ Ten years after its inception, the "Happy" brand started to expand into Europe and today, Happy is the biggest restaurant chain in Bulgaria with 21 outlets all over the country.

Over the years Happy has worked hard to generate a reputation for providing its customers with good food and a professional service.

The menu
Happy Bar's fixed menu gives its customers the opportunity to eat a wide variety of tasty, healthy meals. It combines traditional Bulgarian food with a blend of international dishes and includes a wide range of wholesome, low-calorie and vegetarian food with good sized portions made from high- quality products. Salads, along with grilled and barbequed meat are most commonplace on the Happy menu, which is changed every six months. Menus are provided in English and Bulgarian and provide pictures of each dish along with the portion size and a detailed description of its ingredients. Each Happy kitchen uses high-quality products and each one observes strict hygiene rules. The meals are also excellent value for money and each restaurant offers a take-away food service for added convenience.

Accessibility
The Happy restaurants are located in high traffic areas usually within city centres or on main roads. They are easily recognized by their distinctive white logo on a bright red background. The restaurant interior combines stylish yet cozy furnishings characteristic of American fast food diners. Each restaurant has convenient opening times from 11 am to 11 pm.

Service with a smile
“Happy” service is one of the most talked about things in Bulgaria. Each Happy Bar employs a fast, efficient, young and enthusiastic team, who can speak a variety of foreign languages including English, but the real pull is the attractive mini-skirted waitresses, which is part of the "Happy" trademark. Happy aims to make each visitor feel like a guest dining at a close friend’s home and to this end plasma screen TVs adorn all corners of each restaurant showing a diverse range of programmes from sport to music. Another Happy trait untypical of Bulgaria is that all of the food arrives together, which has resulted in the Happy Bar winning the award for the fastest full-service restaurant every year since 1998.

The prices
Happy have invested heavily in their comfortable surroundings, sound systems, air-conditioning and modern kitchen equipment, yet their strategy to maintain reasonable prices continues. Salads are priced at around 5.60 lv, chicken dishes at around 7.60 lv, other meat dishes at around 8.00 lv and deserts at 4 lv. A lunchtime snack for two with alcoholic drinks costs around 15 lv and a full three course meal with drinks for a family of four will cost around 50.00 lv.

Happy abroad
On February 24th 2004; Happy opened its first restaurant abroad in Barcelona, Spain. One of the main legends of Spanish and Bulgarian football of the last decade Hristo Stoichkov officially opened the restaurant. The opening attracted many famous personalities including other football stars such as Carlos Valderama, Eusebio and Lyubo Penev.

Happy Bar Barcelona is situated in the heart of the city centre and the company has repeated its success story here as it did ten years prior to this in Varna. Happy Bar owners have more plans to expand their successful brand into other countries including Britain, France and America and if their success in Bulgaria is anything to go by we could be looking at the next big thing on the international, fast-food scene.

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