Successful restaurants and sports bars must offer great food, drinks and service, so customers feel they are getting good value. But their efforts don’t stop there. They know they must offer something different from what customers get at home: entertainment.
“What guests are really looking for is that energy and experience that we can provide as restaurant operators,” explained Dave Dittenber, President of Downtown Restaurant Investments and CEO of tech start-up BYOD (Bring Your Own Data).
That upbeat environment often comes by showing must-see sporting events, such as NFL Sunday Ticket from EverPass, NHL, MLS and other programs on DIRECTV FOR BUSINESS, Dittenber said.
Sporting events like the NFL games draw customers, but savvy restaurateurs use other programming through DIRECTV FOR BUSINESS to ensure their location always has something exciting to attract patrons.
Here are some real-life ways to make your restaurant an entertainment go-to destination.
1. Capitalize on football’s popularity.
- Become a “home field” for fans who want to watch their non-local favorite teams play. Dittenber said that at his Michigan restaurant, it started with Pittsburgh Steelers and Miami Dolphins fans. “For whatever reason, people came here. They were looking for an area to go and gather and have fun.” By regularly broadcasting those teams’ games, fans knew that restaurant was the place to go to cheer or commiserate in solidarity.
- Use the popularity of Fantasy Football to draw in customers who might not otherwise come to watch, Dittenber said. “In the last ten years, we’ve found people who might not know anything about football but want to watch if their Fantasy League players are in the game.” Even if these games aren’t as widely popular, broadcasting them can be a good lead-in to bigger games shown later in the day.
- Offer limited time offers that tie-in to games. Give discounts on appetizers for patrons who wear their team jerseys.
- Involve the staff in the fun. Jim Grandahl, Director, National Accounts, DIRECTV, suggested encouraging the staff to wear their favorite team jerseys, offering them the chance to participate in a Fantasy Football league, and giving them sales training for success. “People in the restaurant industry want to make money. They want to serve customers, be busy, and make great tips. The more they talk about these things and get customers to return, the busier they’ll be. They can help drive traffic while being part of the activities.”
2. Although football is big, use other sports to attract guests too.
- Soccer doesn’t always get the same love that football does. But when Lionel Messi joined Inter Miami, Dittenber said his restaurant played off of the MLS connection. “If Messi scored a goal, we’d have half off appetizers,” he said. “Or, we’d give away wings or a free roast beef sandwich, like they do between periods for soccer or rugby in Europe.”
- Restaurants can build sales by opening during nontraditional hours for fans of European sports, Grandahl added. People will go to an Irish pub in the morning if it televises their favorite European soccer matches.
- Other sporting activities, such as the Olympics, World Cup, and the NBA can also draw fans and patrons who might or might not be traditional football followers. The international spirit of some of these games is an excellent way to attract new guests.
3. Create the right flow of energy.
- Just as a DJ adjusts the songs to build and maintain the right groove, use your entertainment options to keep going strong. Guests tend to leave when a game is over. Grandahl said that to keep people engaged, be intentional about what entertainment you offer next. “The TV may now go to reruns or ESPN News. But those natural pauses are when people tend to leave. Instead, switch to the second half of a game on the West Coast. Turn on trivia or turn the music volume up a little bit.”
- During the day, when fewer sporting events occur, be mindful of what you show. “You might not want to put on the news or other content that might be inappropriate for children. But we have a channel called Barvanna that’s fun and upbeat with a lot of trivia. It’s keeping that engagement with the media and keeping the customer in a fun environment.”
4. Manage success with growth.
If you build it, they will come. But what do you do if you exceed capacity? “Sometimes it’s okay to be full,” Dittenber said. “You’ve created that demand and maybe you can now expand the business hours even earlier because people are going to come to you even when a game isn’t on.” He suggested introducing weekend specials like Bloody Mary or Mimosas that continue to bring guests in during traditional low-crowd times.
Add more activities around the major sporting events, he said. “Create something that starts earlier and tied around Fantasy Football, or special that get people to come later in the day but stick around for dinner.”
Becoming a go-to destination requires focusing on guests and delivering a memorable experience. To stand out from the competition, restaurateurs must understand and listen to their customers, have a sense of fun and make the most of their entertainment options.
Grandahl said that when restaurant operators do those things well, guests get the message: “If you want to come watch the game on Sunday–or any other day of the week, we're the place to do it.”