Oyster happy hours supplied by farming efforts
The rising popularity of oyster happy hours is contributing to a boom in the small-scale oyster farming industry. After the near extinction of wild oyster populations, small-scale oyster farming operations have become the go-to source for live oysters. These oyster happy hours offer patrons the opportunity to get the raw delicacies on the half shell for a reduced price. While restaurants report taking a loss from the discounted bivalves, the idea is to leverage the popularity of oysters to get guests in the door.
The rise of the oyster happy hour
The increased popularity of oyster happy hours has been helped along thanks to advances in their cultivation that allow for them to be enjoyed in the summer without fear of food sickness. More and more restaurants and bars are offering heavily discounted oyster dozens and half dozens to attract business. While the discounts tend to be a loss on the restaurants’ ledgers, what is lost on oysters is more than made up for in alcohol and small plates, since the oysters themselves are not very filling.
The low prices that allow for oyster happy hours are the result of small-scale oyster farms that sell their product directly to the restaurants. It is common for restaurants that sell raw oysters to skip the wholesaler and develop business relationships directly with farmers. This allows the product to be as fresh and affordable as possible, while at the same time minimizing the financial burden of offering happy hour discounts.
The oyster farming industry has replaced the depleted natural stocks in American bays and oceans. It is the nature of oysters to reflect the kind of water they are grown in. As a result, oyster farmers are developing their own specific terroirs when it comes to growing different species. The nuanced variety in oyster flavors is another attractive quality of the shellfish that brings young people out to restaurants to discuss the brininess of a Moon Shoal against the sweetness of a Rocky Nook.
According to a profile in the New York Times, farm-raised oysters account for 90 percent of raw bar oyster sales. The process of growing oysters can range anywhere from 15 months to two years, leading many producers to favor buying and growing young oysters rather than cultivating them from a brood stock.
As oyster populations continue to be supplemented by farming initiatives and driven by consumer demand, we can expect the oyster happy hour is here to stay.