Sports fans: untapped revenue for your lounge?

5/15/19 7:00 AM Lindsay Gillanders

pexels-photo-1267295We’re in the middle of sports mania; the NHL is still going strong (though team Ameego is still  mourning the fate of our dear Winnipeg Jets), the NBA is in full playoff swing (go Raptors!), and football season is right around the corner (in Canada anyway). So what are you doing to attract sports fans?

All restaurant lounges can benefit from a good knowledge of what sports fans want. That’s a bold statement, but it’s true! Even fine dining establishments with a lounge area can up their revenues by catering slightly to sports fans. A TV in your lounge with the game on in a discreet corner may mean the difference between a busy night and a slow night (it’s true!).

So how exactly do you go about making sure your establishment is attracting the sports obsessed? Read on dear sports fans!

Pay for the games and get them on your TVs.

If you’re a fine dining establishment this will obviously be on a much smaller scale, but a TV in the lounge is a great way to attract new clientele. There’s nothing worse than traveling for work or pleasure solo and sitting at a table or bar top with nothing to entertain you. The big game is ALWAYS something to watch even if you’re not a fan!

But if you have a lounge, put your TVs to work. Ordering a special program — like a boxing match or an out-of-market game — can be a tiny cost to you, but a big driver of interest for lots and lots of sports fans. Customers that can’t afford, or choose not to subscribe to a particular pay-per-view event will come out and spend money on drinks and food with you. Your sports bar becomes their home-away-from-home for a night.

Pro tip: make sure you’re advertising that you’re playing the game on your social media channels and website!

Be a fan!

If you can get local sports fans excited about what you’re doing, they’ll flock in to spend game nights with you. Offer game night giveaways based on the performance of particular players or the game itself (free pizza if the team scores six or more goals!), name drinks or dishes after teams or players, or even just chat with your tables about the game!

People want to feel welcome and that they connect with the world around them. Lean into what you know about your customers and use it to make those connections.

Drink specials, and limited time offers.

It’s a cliche but when you think about sports you often think about beer, wings, and pizza. It’s all part of the experience! Offering game day only specials that you know that your customers will want will help draw sports fans into your establishment. Why would they pay more for beer and wings down the street when you’re offering them during the game at a reduced price?

If you don’t want to reduce the price, offering a bonus with purchase is another way to increase sales (enter to win two game tickets with every purchase of a pound of wings!).

Make sure you’re marketing to the fans.

Buying ad space with sports teams can be expensive but it’s a great way to get in front of the exact audience that you’re looking to attract. Seeing your logo on the boards around the ice can help hockey fans subliminally connect your brand with the game they love. That means that the next away game is spent drinking your beer and eating your food.

If that’s not in the budget running TV or radio advertising during local broadcasts may be a bit more cost effective. Remember, effectively advertising that you’re playing the game and offering specials for fans on social media can also go a far way to getting people through the door as well!

Another strategy could be through sponsorships of local teams. People who watch sports generally play them too. Sponsoring an old timers league, or a local team will help the players and their fans connect your establishment with the sport they love and draw them into your restaurant or lounge.

Good food and good drinks go a long way.

Beer, wings, and pizza aren't exactly gourmet food, but that doesn't mean they have to be simple or run of the mill. More and more restaurant patrons are looking for ‘foodie’ options. The days of pepperoni and cheese aren’t gone, but they’re alive and well with their gorgonzola and pancetta cousin. Offering gluten free, vegan, and more experimental options will help your patrons find options to blow their minds on your menu.

Fifty wing flavours on game night and local craft beer? Yes please (count team Ameego in on game day for sure!).

Make sure your staff are wowing!

Remember that while meal counts in house can surge on game days, food delivery service could also see a spike for all the fans who prefer to watch the game in their own palace. If that’s a trend you’re thinking about tackling, check out our post How food delivery impacts restaurant guests.

Also, know that your increased promotion around game day is going to bring in new clients that you want your servers to wow at every step. Don't be understaffed for the big game!  We can help you create better schedules for sporting events that ensure your guests will be well taken care of. Contact us to learn more about how we can help.