Teddy Tsang is vice president of product marketing at Toast.
Taylor Swift’s “Eras Tour,” which began in March and is still going strong, has been so popular that her management team added another 15 shows in North America for 2024 last week. And the 33-year-old pop singer is such a cultural force, she not only moves fans with her music, but also moves local markets.
To see how Swift’s record-breaking tour could positively impact the restaurant industry in the cities where she performs, we looked at her hometown show in Nashville, Tennessee, where Swift performed three sold-out shows back-to-back in May. The great thing about Nissan Stadium, where Swift played to roughly 71,000 Swifties each night, is that it’s just a short walk from a fantastic food scene. To gauge how the concerts affected restaurants, we analyzed transactions at a number of Nashville restaurants on the Toast platform.
The Eras Tour impact
In the zip code around Nissan Stadium, restaurants’ average transaction count was up approximately 35% year-over-year for the three days that Swift played. And compared to the three weeks prior and three weeks after that three-day period in 2023, the area’s average transaction count was up 18%. Zooming out to include all restaurants in Nashville on the Toast platform, the Eras tour appears to have significantly impacted the city’s restaurants, with average transactions up 25% in all Nashville zip codes year over year and up 15% compared to the three weeks prior and three weeks after.
While Billy Joel and Stevie Nicks also played Nissan Stadium in the following weeks, Swift’s blockbuster event was unmatched in terms of apparent impact at many local restaurants. Toast also checked in with Hattie Jane’s Creamery, which is a short walk from Nissan Stadium, to get first-hand feedback about the concerts’ impact on eateries.
“It was a record-breaking weekend for us,” said Rhonda Schmitz, COO of the local chain of ice cream shops. Claire Crowell, founder and CEO, added that “these shows will bring you business, so be ready and make the most of it."
When there is a large concert nearby, restaurants can take advantage of the increased foot traffic and celebratory energy in the area to attract more guests and enhance their business. Here are some tips for restaurants looking to capitalize on all of the concerts this summer, from Taylor Swift to Beyoncé and even Guns ‘n’ Roses.
Have fun with theme-based promotions
Restaurants can create concert-themed offers and promotions to entice concertgoers to dine at their establishment. This can include discounted pre-concert meals, Happy Hour specials, or exclusive menu items inspired by the event.
Devoted Swifties may already know Swift’s favorite food and drinks, but busy restaurant owners may not: the singer’s favorite drink is coffee, her favorite cocktail is a vodka Diet Coke, her favorite food is chicken tenders, and her go-to fast food order is a cheeseburger, fries and a chocolate shake. From coffee shops and cocktail bars to bistros and quick-service restaurants, there’s something in there for any eatery to create fun promotions around her favorites. The same goes for any act coming to town.
And of course, the naming opportunities abound with links to her song names and lyrics. Hypothetically, with Swift, a “Chocolate Shake It Off Special” or a “Blank Space Special—Any Two Appetizers & Cocktails for $30” could be spirited promotions playing off two of her most popular songs. Or for bars in the vicinity of Guns ‘n’ Roses’ highly anticipated North American tour this fall, establishments could run a “Sweet Chill ‘O Mine Special: BOGO Frozen Margaritas!” Or a Japanese restaurant could offer “Slash(ed) Rock Shrimp: Half-Price All Day!”
In other words, restaurants and bars should embrace the verve of the event. As Crowell said: "Go ahead and jump on the bandwagon.”
Leverage reservations, pre-orders and digital payments
The groundswell of foot traffic due to concerts or other large events can weigh on the minds of attendees in the days leading up. So restaurants should let it be known across their digital ordering platforms, social media accounts, and on-premise marketing such as signage and sandwich boards that reservations can be made online ahead of time.
Offering the option to make reservations or pre-order meals can help restaurants manage the influx of guests more efficiently. This ensures that concertgoers can secure a table or have their meals ready upon arrival, saving time and allowing for a smoother dining experience.
Restaurants should also take a page out of Hattie Jane’s book by leveraging digital tools such as scan-to-pay, which helped the Nashville creamery service droves of guests without hassle. “We had zero complaints from any [Swift] fan,” Schmitz told me.
Extend operating hours
Since concerts often result in late-night crowds, it’s almost a no-brainer for restaurants to extend operating hours to accommodate those looking for a post-concert dinner, drink, or snack. By staying open later than usual, they can drive revenue and expose the restaurant brand to new guests.
The first-time patrons could be a boon for the restaurant’s first-party data. So restaurants should give them multiple opportunities to sign up for email marketing lists for future specials and other offers. These diners can become lifelong customers and advocates, spreading the word about their appetizing meal on social media and with friends in real life.
Embrace the festivities
All told, Taylor Swift’s epic tour shows that big concerts and other events attracting tens of thousands are opportunities to strategically drive revenue, gain new guests and provide customers with a dining experience worthy of their loyalty. But perhaps most of all, concerts and events represent a chance for your restaurant to provide a festive atmosphere along with great meals and drinks.
Going the extra mile can make for an even more memorable experience for your guests. It’s become a ritual on this tour for Swifties to trade friendship bracelets with each other at shows, and one thing that Schmitz would do differently given the opportunity.
"We had so many given to us and customers wanting to exchange them. It was super fun to see the customers excited by it and the pictures that were taken," Schmitz said.
So load up the friendship bracelets, extend your hours, and make the most out of this summer’s blockbuster events. You don’t have to be a “Mastermind” to create some good “Karma” when the Swifties and other music fans assemble near your restaurant.
Methodology: Toast analyzed the number of total transactions in Nashville zip codes from a cohort of restaurants on the Toast platform between April 15, 2022 to May 29, 2022, and April 14, 2023 to May 31, 2023, to determine the average number of transactions per restaurant location on the Toast platform. Toast used a cohort of same-store customers on the platform since January 2022. Other factors such as weather and events like college graduations were not taken into consideration.