For many sports fan, fall is the coveted season because with it comes football.
Whether professional or college, football brings big crowds to stadiums and gets sports fans into bars and restaurants all weekend long.
According to Harris Interactive, football is America’s favorite sport. In a survey from the beginning of 2013, football was awarded the title of favorite by 34 percent of adults who watch at least one professional sport. Baseball was the second place finisher with 16 percent reporting it’s their favorite sport.
So how can you take advantage of football’s popularity and boost your sales during the season? Here are a few examples of restaurants and bars offering specials and incentives to visit their establishment instead of tailgating on those Sunday afternoons between September and February.
FAMILY BUSINESS: Mary Palermo (behind bar, top photo) along with sons Jimmy, left, and Joe, serve up some brews for their patrons in 1935. Above left, patrons enjoy a favorite brew and sports event on the Farnsworth television. Above right, Jimmy Palermo tends bar in 1949. America's Original Sports Bar was founded in 1933 right after the Volstead Act was modified to allow for the legalization of beer and was a gathering place for sports figures and fans.
Sports Bar format has roots in family tavern founded during the early '30s
In 1947 America's Original Sports Bar became a popular gathering place every Friday night to have a favorie brew and watch the fights on the newest technology — a 12-inch Farnsworth television like this one.
America's Original Sports Bar was located adjacent to the left field gates of Sportsman Park in St. Louis — home at the time to both the Cardinals and Browns
Years before the advent of Buffalo wings, satellite hookups or wide-screen television, Palermo’s neighborhood tavern could take title as America’s Original Sports Bar. Always a comfortable, friendly meeting place since it’s founding in 1933, the tavern took on its "sports bar" personality right after World War II.
The tavern was opened at the intersection of Spring and Sullivan Avenues, and adjacent to the left field gates of Sportsman's Park in St. Louis — home to both the Cardinals and Browns — the day prohibition ended in 1933. Prior to that, the Palermo’s had owned and operated a confectionery and restaurant at that location since 1923.
Because of its proximity to the ballpark, the tavern, and confectionery store before it, had always been a gathering place for sports figures and fans. In the 1930s, patrons could listen to the Browns or Cardinals games on the Philco radio while they enjoyed something from the sidewalk grill like a ballpark dog, burger or even pork chop. Also on the menu were home-cooked Sicilian meals prepared from scratch. And, of course, the Original Sports Bar offered beers from nearly a dozen breweries that re-opened after Prohibition.
FIELD OF DREAMS:
America's Original Sports Bar (circled above) was fittingly located across the street from the ballpark that played host to more Major League baseball games than any other park in history. Sportsman Park in St. Louis opened in 1902 and housed both the Cardinals and Browns for 34 years, 1920 - 1953.
CHIPPING COAL FOR A NICKEL A TON
By 1946, Paul Palermo, the proprietor, had a long career in what was then called the "saloon" business. A Sicilian immigrant, he had worked in the coal mines of Southern Illinois in the 1890s as a child. At age 12, he took care of the mules that hauled the coal carts through the mines, and by the time he was 15 he was chipping coal for a nickel a ton. Paul figured he didn’t have much of a future in the mines when a cave-in killed his partner.
In 1914 Paul moved from Willisville, Illinois to East St. Louis to open a saloon along "Whiskey Shoot," which was a conglomeration of saloons and other establishments for adult pursuits located on the east side of Eads Bridge. His customers were all blue-collar types who worked in the nearby mills, or on the barges that plied the Mississippi River.
FIRST OF ITS KIND:
Rose Palermo serves customers from the first hot dog stand located outside the gates of Sportsman's Park.
Business was good for Paul as he acquired five more saloons along the "shoot" during a four-year period. In 1918 he sold his holdings in East St. Louis and opened a saloon at Cardinal and Easton in St. Louis. Although the saloon did well, the end was near as congress passed the Volstead Act in October 1919. With prohibition slated to begin in 1920, Paul decided to open confectionery stores, which were sort of a precursor to today’s neighborhood convience stores like 7-11.
FIRST HOT DOG STAND OUTSIDE SPORTSMAN'S PARK
In February of 1923, Paul and his wife, Mary, purchased the property at 3701 Sullivan, a two-story brick structure across the street from the ballpark. The front half of the bottom floor was used as the confectionery store. The rear was converted into living quarters to accommodate Paul, Mary, their two sons Joe and Jimmy, and Paul’s mother.
Paul and his 11-year old son Joe built the first hot dog stand outside of Sportsman's Park in April of 1923 in preparation for the Browns and Cardinals baseball season. Paul designed the elaborate grill himself, which could cook about 100 hot dogs at a time. Small dogs sold for 5 cents, large were 10 cents. Sodas were 5 cents. Also for sale were cigars, cigarettes, chewing tobacco and gum - which were displayed on the counter. On a good day the stand would take in $25 to $35, but the first $100 day was during the 1926 World Series when the Cardinals played the Yankees.
HALL OF FAMER Jim Bottomley would drop by America's Original Sports Bar to enjoy Sicilian-cooked meals.
Mary ran the confectionery store, which sold everything needed in an early 20th century city dwelling including dry goods, canned goods, bread, eggs, cigarettes, cigars, candy, ice cream and even hardware items. Ball players and coaches from both leagues frequented the establishment mainly for Mary's cooking, and during prohibition, for Paul’s excellent homemade wines. Major leaguers also dropped in regularly to buy smokes, chewing tobacco and gum because it was cheaper in the store than in the clubhouse.During the rebuilding of the area’s surrounding streets and improvements to Sportsman’s Park in 1925 and 1926, Mary added a small restaurant inside the confectionery to accommodate all the construction workers. The store was remodeled to allow for four tables and a long shelf attached to the wall for stand-up patrons.
Then in 1933, President Franklin D. Roosevelt sent a directive to Congress urging members to modify the Volstead Act to allow for the legalization of beer. Congress accommodated FDR, and on April 7 beer became legal for the first time in more than 13 years. Part of Palermo’s Confectionery was converted to a tavern and opened that same month.
TAKING CARE OF BUSINESS:
Paul Palermo, right, and Joe Schmidt man the hot dog stand on a Summer afternoon before a Cardinals game in 1938. Paul and his 11-year old son, Joe, built the first hot dog stand outside of Sportsman Park in April of 1923.
By the time World War II ended Paul had experienced some health problems and Jimmy had spent the last four years in the Army. That left only Joe to look after the family's five taverns. Upon returning from Europe in March of '46, Jimmy expected to go back to his professional umpiring career. But because his father was ill, and Joe needed his help, he joined the family business.
Business boomed in the post-war years as the Cardinals drew large crowds and nearby Carter Carburetor had shifts running 24 hours a day. To accommodate all the workers, the tavern opened at 7 a.m. The early birds enjoyed a hearty breakfast, and many had a shot or two before clocking in.
AMERICA'S ORIGINAL SPORTS BAR PROPRIETORS:
Paul and Mary Palermo with their sons Jimmy, left, and Joe. Mary and Paul were your typical hardy and hard-working immigrants of the early 20th century. Paul worked in the coal mines of Illinois as a child, and Mary was lucky to make it to the United Stated from Sicily because her vessel was rocked by a violent Atlantic storm that killed the captain and almost sank the ship. This photo was taken right after World War II.
It was during the late 40s that the tavern began to assume a sports motif. It all started when Jimmy was given several letter-sized black and white bust photos of the Browns players. Because Jimmy had been part of the St. Louis Browns organization from 1927 to 1941, he had many good friends (and customers) who worked for both the Cardinals and Browns - including the players and coaches.
THESE BATS, including those of Hall of Famers Hank Aaron, Ralph Kiner, Eddie Mathews, Willie Mays, Stan Musial, Pee Wee Reese and Duke Snider decorated the walls of America's Original Sports Bar.
FAVORITE GATHERING PLACE
Once a few of the photos were hung, the tavern's walls rapidly filled up with framed pictures of many of the Browns and Cardinal players of the day. Then in 1947, the tavern became a favorite gathering place every Friday night to have a beer and watch the fights on the newest technology - a 12-inch Farnsworth television. Thereafter, Palermo's Tavern, already a recognized stop-off before or after a Browns or Cardinals game, became a destination to listen to, or watch, sporting events while enjoying a favorite brew.
In the early 1950s, the tavern was remodeled and eventually decorated with game-used equipment from all 16 Major League teams including uniforms, caps, gloves, balls and hundreds of cracked bats. All of the items were brought over from the ballpark by Freddie Buchholtz, a good friend of Jimmy's who worked as batboy for the Browns and Cardinals from 1950-1955.
After the remodel in 1950 the house draft beer was Griesedieck. But when Gussie Busch purchased the Cardinals in February 1953, the house beer was changed to Budweiser. Gussie, a consummate marketer, enjoyed stopping by the tavern several times a year with his entourage and would shake hands and buy everybody a few rounds of the drink of their choice.
TABLE SHUFFLEBOARD was a popular bar game during the 40's and 50s and also with the patrons of America's Original Sports Bar. Above, Jimmy Palermo, far left, takes a turn. At far right is Joe Palermo, and to his right is his wife Mary Catherine and Jimmy's wife Nadine.
KING OF BEER:
When Gussie Busch purchased the Cardinals in February 1953, he enjoyed stopping by America's Original Sports Bar to shake hands and buy everybody a few rounds.
Palermo's Tavern, a forerunner in establishing the sports bar format, offered all of the popular games of the day including billiards, table shuffleboard, pinball and once a week in the kitchen - poker. When a sporting event wasn't on television or radio, a jukebox belted out a favorite tune.
By 1956 the tavern offered televisions in both far corners, and one over the bar. Even though many people had their own sets by this time, Palermo's was still the place to be to enjoy a pleasant meal, cold beer and good friends.
Although the building stands today, and is still a neighborhood tavern, the end for America's Original Sports Bar came when the Cardinals moved to their new downtown stadium and many of the long-time patrons relocated to the suburbs.
When a helicopter symbolically carried home plate to the new Busch Memorial Stadium after the last game at Sportsman's Park on May 12, 1966, it signified the end of an era for St. Louis baseball and America's Original Sports Bar.
UP, UP AND AWAY:
Sportsman's Park/Busch Stadium groundskeeper Bill Stocksick, an old friend of Jimmy Palermo and patron of Palermo's Tavern, carries homeplate to a helicopter on May 12, 1966 for the transfer to the new downtown Busch Memorial Stadium. The park played host to more Major League games than any other in history.
FOUR DECADES LATER:
The building at 3701 Sullivan Ave. that housed America's Original Sports Bar from 1933 to 1966 continues to stand today and is, appropriately, still a neighborhood tavern. In the above photo, taken in early 2005, are Jimmy Palermo, now 85-years old, and his son Jim.
I am extremely bullish on the use of wearable technology in the restaurant industry. Devices like the Apple Watch can provide subtle notifications, reminders, and guest details that are much less intrusive than a smartphone.
In many restaurants, servers are directly told not to use their smartphones. This is for good reason. Personal smartphone use, such as messaging and Snapchatting, can quickly detract from a server’s focus on their tables. Once you open the door to staff smartphone use on the restaurant floor, you are supporting a habit that sees the average person check their phone 85 times per day.
Taking advantage of wearable restaurant technology
The real question is, “How do you leverage the technological benefits of a smartphone without threatening the overall experience?”
The answer is wearable technology.
Wearable technology like a smart watch benefits from a simplicity in communication that only requires a glance. Everything from a back-of-house alert that a guest’s order is ready to a front-of-house notification that a VIP has just walked through the front door. Wearables can serve as a critical link in sharing just-in-time information.
A smart watch provided to staff also eliminates the threat of personal messages interfering with business communication.
Wearable tech in its infancy
While the days of wearable technology permeating the restaurant industry are still young, savvy operators are beginning to test the waters. Danny Meyer, of Union Square Hospitality Group and Shake Shack, will be utilizing Apple Watchesin his soon-to-reopen flagship, Union Square Café.
In a partnership with reservation and restaurant management platform Resy (a new on the scene OpenTable rival), all restaurant managers and sommeliers at Union Square Café will wear an Apple Watch. The initial app will alert managers to VIP guests, real-time inventory information, and will communicate with sommeliers when a table has requested a bottle of wine.
Even though the initial launch is not staff-wide, it’s only a matter of time until all front-of-house staff are wearing Apple watches. Servers using wearable technology is where where the tech rises above smartphones in the restaurant environment.
Arguably, managers can be trusted to use their smartphones respectfully on the restaurant floor to access important information. For servers, hosts, and other restaurant staff, wearable technology can be an invaluable customer service tool.
Here are five uses for wearable technology in the restaurant industry:
1. Communicate specialized guest information to front-of-house staff
This could include everything from VIP, loyalty status, and visit frequency to known allergies.
2. Track real-time metrics from the floor
Rather than having to spend time in the back office, managers can receive real-time inventory information right on the restaurant floor in a “glanceable” format. This gives them more time with guests while continuing their managerial duties.
3. Communicate important staff information
Rather than relying on printed signs in the kitchen or staff room, Apple Watches can serve as a valuable internal communications tool. Wearable technology can ensure that all staff receive important messages in a timely manner. No more chasing staff down or playing operator.
4. Facilitate guest requests
With connected systems that enable guests to request another drink or assistance from a tabletop top tablet or smart device, a server with an Apple Watch will be alerted in real-time. This paves the way for providing the highest level of guest service.
5. Alert servers of guests’ mobile payments
As reported, 43% of restaurants planning to implement mobile payments in the next two years. That means an increasing number of guests will choose to pay with their smartphones. To keep up, servers will need to be seamlessly alerted when guest checks are paid.
Sports bars are amidst a very unique market. Promoting and marketing one allows for unique, informal, and outside the box ways of doing so. They can tend to come a dime a dozen so setting yours apart from others is very crucial. These methods can show that you mean business, and failure to do so can mean the end of yours.
SUPPORT LOCAL TEAMS
Show you customers that you are on their side. Fans want a place that feels like home where they can feel comfortable rooting for their favorite team. Make sure you know when the home team is playing and have the game ready to go on the big screen.
SPECIALS DURING BIG GAMES
If you aren’t offering drink special during the big games, you can bet that someone else is. You can also bet that the fans will be flocking to those who are.
FEATURE OTHER SPORTS EVENTS
If you have the arsenal, show other big sporting events on other screens even if the home team is playing. Stay on top of what is going on in the sports world. This can mean more customers than just home team fans.
UTILIZE SOCIAL MEDIA
This can be one of the biggest mistakes a sports bar can make. Many people rely on social media for much of their news and information. Make sure your presence is felt on sites such as Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.
Pass out flyers around town featuring deals and events coming up. This is a in your face way of promoting and can rapidly make your name known around town.
Put signs out front of your restaurant with clever sayings and food and drink deals. This will catch the attention of anyone walking by. It may even persuade some customers to stop in right then.
Once or twice a week, feature a half priced drink night, or two dollar draft beers. You will notice some regulars coming in for this weekly deal and word will get around town.
What’s better than drink Specials? Food Specials! Plenty of places offer drink specials but not all feature great deals on food. This could be the finishing touch. Offer 25 cent wings once a week or half off appetizers.
Everyone likes a chance to win something. Every once and a while throw a contest. Whether it’s a video games or a putt-putt competition, give people a reason to come out, have some drinks, and have some fun.
Show that you are part of the community. Make a statement by hosting events in the community to show that you care. It could be raising money for a charity or supporting a local kid’s sports league in town. Show your customers that you are a part of the community and here to stay.
Get attention of the work force. You can have advertisements featured on local radio shows, or even better try to have local radio personalities do a show from your restaurant.
Make sure your website is up to date. Show your customers that you are with the times and make sure your website isn’t lacking. Make sure it also features links to all your social media sites.
Not everything has to be about sports. Give people a reason to party. Host a party for the beginning or summer or Cinco de Mayo. People are looking for a reason to have a good time so give them one.
Once a week or so, have a local musician come in and play a show. This could be a free or cheap way for you to host an event and draw in an extra crowd as some local artists are just looking to get their name out.
HOST CELEBRITIES OR SPORTS PLAYERS
See if you can get a local celebrity or athlete to come in a sign autographs and hang out for a while. You can bet this will draw an extra crowd. This will also show the area that if you can attract celebrities then your place might be worth their time as well.
Sports bars have the ability to market to customers in a creative and fun way. Try these ideas to help increase the sales and foot traffic at your bar.
In what ways have you marketed your sports bar that has shown great results?
First, let's look at "BIRGing." This term is not a typo of an eating disorder, but applies to the phenomenon called "Basking in Reflected Glory." When your team is doing well, you feel great. Research shows that on the day after a team's win, people feel better about themselves. They say "we" won, and by "we," they don't mean themselves, personally. The closer you identify with the team, the more likely you are to BIRG. People who BIRG also are more likely to wear their team's regalia on the day after a victory.
In contrast, "CORFing" means that you "Cut Off Reflected Failure." Your team was trounced and now you want to distance yourself from them and their disgrace as much as possible. It's not "we," who lost, it's "they." The last thing a CORFer wants to wear on the day following the team's loss are hats or shirts with the team's logo. This is the test of the true vs. fickle fan. It's the CORFers who are the fickle fans. Their identification with them rises and falls with the box scores. True fans, in contrast, will don jerseys, hats, and almost any item with the team logo no matter how poorly their team performs. True fans may feel dejected, but their heroes remain their heroes, even if somewhat tarnished by defeat.
These two aspects of the psychology of sports fans are great for understanding how fans, true and fickle, behave after victory and loss, but other concepts help explain why fans do what they do during games. Fans who actually attend games regularly display the social psychological phenomenon of disinhibition. They shout, yell, stand up, cheer, and high five strangers all around them. Even people who are ordinarily reserved and shy will explode in bursts of exhibitionism when surrounded by other people engaging in the same unrestrained excitement. Unfortunately, at times their disinhibition can create havoc as rowdy fans spill out onto the streets after a victory (or defeat) until subdued by local authorities. Needless to say, alcohol helps foster the disinhibition effect. You don't even have to attend the game to show the disinhibition effect. Sports bars provide a fine venue for the group mentality to take over and for alcohol to nurture the process.
Whether you attend the game, watch or listen to it, or follow the scores on line, sports fans are particularly subject to the effect known as superstitious conditioning. Skinner discovered this effect when he was training the pigeons in his Skinner box to perform their various feats including, appropriately, "Take Me Out to the bal Game" on a xylophone. When Skinner trained his pigeons through operant conditioning, he noticed that they would start to perform behaviors that he was not reinforcing but that the pigeons seemed to "think" they needed to perform in order to get their pellet rewards. For example, Skinner may have been training the pigeons to discriminate between a + and a - displayed above the lever they needed to peck at. However, the pigeons sometimes added their own unnecessary move, such as turning in a circle, before pecking at the right target. That little dance, superstitiously reinforced (because it wasn't necessary to receive the reward), then became part of the pigeon's ritual.
What do pigeons pecking at a lever have to do with sports fans? Maybe you already see the connection. Sports fans will claim that by turning on the game and watching it, they caused the team to start scoring and eventually winning the game. Others will claim the opposite, avoiding any real-time action because they can "cause" the team to lose just by turning in. Then there are the lucky jerseys, hats, sneakers, t-shirts, etc., etc., that sports fans will wear (or not) to help their teams win. Wearing a hat facing forward? Turn it backward and maybe the team will score. If they do, you'll never wear that hat with the brim facing forward ever again during a game.
The ingroup-outgroup bias is yet another tried and true social psychological phenomenon. The fans of one team, the "in-group" will deprecate the fans of the other team, the "outgroup." There typically is very little, if anything, that distinguishes these two groups of fans. They are passionate about their teams, know every detail about the players, and religiously follow the progress of their hometown heroes. The only factor that differentiates these groups is the team they root for. Yet, people create arbitrary distinctions between the teams (and fans) they love and those they hate. It's doubtful that knowledge of this social psychological principle will lead to fans of the Patriots to reach out and hug fans of the Jets, but theoretically they should recognize that they are more alike than they are different.
Athletes themselves are subject to a host of other social psychological phenomena. Debates wage in the literature about whether a team is advantaged or not by playing a clutch game at home. The "home team advantage," which most people believe in, refers to the slight edge that the home team has due to the familiarity they have with the field, the preponderance of enthusiastic (i.e. disinhibited) fans in the stands, and the fact that they don't have to travel. Conversely, Florida State psychologist Roy Baumeister supports the "home chocke hypothesis" which predicts that home teams are more likely to lose in the final playoff games of a series because their self-consciousness is pathologically increased and they can't focus on the game. Instead, they focus on how the fans are feeling or perhaps on how much they'll enjoy the celebration when they win. In either case, the statistical and theoretical battle will no doubt continue. The possibility that playing a home game isn't all that advantageous is nevertheless an interesting one.
This is the age-old question of every server who takes care of any table of eight or more (or five or more in some restaurants; pick your poison.) On the one hand, it’s a guaranteed 18% of the pre-tax total. On the other hand, many servers give 25% tip service, and subsequently earn that percentage. It’s a roll of the dice either way: server kismet, waiter chicken, waitress roulette.
BUT – what about a two-top getting slapped with a gratuity?
This actually happened last night as I ate sushi and enjoyed hot sake with my dining companion in San Francisco. Granted, we probably wouldn’t have gone to this particular restaurant if we didn’t have a Groupon.
Wait, a Groupon, you say? Ahh… now it begins to make sense.
Your restaurant's servers should always alert guests when gratuity is included in the bill.
So, two well-dressed, well-mannered guests had a gratuity added to their bill because they informed their server they would be using a Groupon. Would our server have added it had we not informed her we would be enjoying a discounted (if somewhat sketchy) meal?
My guess is… no.
Adding this gratuity was protecting the server against the accidentally (or intentionally) extra-frugal guest using the coupon, and tipping on the discounted amount… the bane of servers in restaurant break rooms everywhere.
As a former server, I understand why she did it. I know the sinking feeling a server gets in the pit of their stomach when a table presents a coupon. Oh, crap, their inner monologue laments. I’m getting a smaller tip. I get it. I really do. I’ve even said that very same thing to myself. Here’s a somewhat-spirited discussion on Zagat’s blog about tipping on the original amount of a discounted guest check.
But here’s the thing – what our server did was sneaky and somewhat deceptive… and against most restaurants’ policies. And she didn’t inform us that she did it. In fact, I was in the process of writing in a slightly larger tip (based, of course, on the original total) than the gratuity she added when I noticed the “Service Charge” line on the receipt. Roll those dice!
Was she a good server? Yes. Friendly? Yes. Helpful? Yes! Would I have tipped more than the added gratuity? Absolutely! It’s not even the fact that she didn’t tell us about the gratuity… it’s more the fact that I was going to tip her more because I’ve been there, I understand the job, and she did her job well. Right up 'til the end. I felt… somewhat insulted.
So, she got her guaranteed 18%… and a slightly irritated guest that will probably not come back. Roll those dice – she almost got over 20% and a probable repeat customer!
There are a lot of tips out there that can help you run a successful bar, but sports bars are a different beast and present their own unique set of challenges and opportunities. How can you combat lulls between major sporting events and keep the interest and excitement piqued year-round? Can you appeal to a casual crowd without alienating sports fans? Read on for a few sports bar marketing ideas for new and established operations, alike!
There is no marketing more beneficial than positive word of mouth so with that in mind, let's assume that you're already equipped with a great menu, great service, and great pricing. Perhaps the next most important thing to consider when it comes to sports bars is great programming. Broadcasting the local teams' games is an absolute must.
If you're lucky enough to have opened your business near a perennial championship contender, you know all about reaping the rewards of a ravenous fan base. But even if you're situated closely to a storied franchise whose greatest quarterback "couldn't care less about the team strug-gul-ling" and would rather focus his energy on awkwardly wooing sideline reporters, there are bound to be locals who will support their team no matter what. And remember—a team that is terrible today may be great tomorrow, and maintaining a commitment to that team can earn you some good will with its most ardent supporters.
It's important to expand your scope beyond regional sports coverage, especially when it comes to big games and events with broad appeal, but you can really take things to the next level by offering premium content that customers otherwise wouldn't have access to without paying subscription fees. This could mean showing pay-per-view boxing matches or providing access to every pro football game (which are regionally restricted), but the key is to draw patrons in with something they couldn't just tune into at home on basic cable.
What about those few times throughout the year when many of the major sports enjoy their offseason? Consider showcasing classic sports broadcasts from years past that have local, national, or worldwide significance.
You can't really call your bar a "sports bar" just because you show sports on a few TVs—you also have to establish a sports atmosphere. Help your customers become fully immersed in the wide world of sports with some careful interior decorating. Pennants, pictures, jerseys, sports movie posters, balls and other memorabilia should be craftily sprawled across the walls of your sports bar, with extra points for anything that's autographed.
The decorating doesn't end with the walls, however—be sure to consider your staff's attire, too! On special occasions you might encourage them to wear their favorite team's jersey but, in the interest of an orderly appearance that maintains an athletic vibe, why not consider something as tried and true as a referee's uniform or as adventurous as designing your bar's own custom jersey with the employee's name on the back? And remember—your employees can't walk the walk if they can't talk the talk. Sporting events are a social experience so, while not everyone needs to be a walking sports anthology, hiring those who have a basic level of sports knowledge can only pay positive dividends for your more chatty customers.
In today's world of short attention spans and constant connectivity, you need more than a tremendous product and a lively atmosphere to bring in customers—you need to stay in touch with them and be able to reach them at a moment's notice. Enter social media.
Establish a presence on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and other social networking platforms to make yourself more accessible to followers and give you a strong (and free!) way to spread the word about special deals and events to your target audience. But if promotions are all you have to offer on social media, they can easily become white noise, so be sure to actively communicate with your followers to establish a more meaningful and profitable rapport. Or, if you want to skip the social-media-middle-man, consider creating a mobile club using SMS marketing where customers can opt-in to having coupons and other special offers sent directly to their phones. There are a lot of things to consider when going this route, so be sure to research how to set up an SMS campaign system before you get started!
There are also more "traditional" opportunities for sports bars to build brand awareness, such as sponsoring local sports teams or buying radio ad space during sports talk programming.
Shocking as it may seem, there are some out there who have no interest in any sport, but you can still score a touchdown from the free throw line with these potential customers! Billiards, darts, and beer pong can be enjoyed by sports enthusiasts and everyday patrons alike. If you have enough space, you could host card games or trivia nights with prizes like free booze or shirts and bottle openers with your logo printed on them, or you could even arrange open mic nights for local comedians or musicians to showcase their talents. The key is knowing how far you can go with each event to create an environment that will appeal to non-sports fans, without interfering with the sporting atmosphere enjoyed by your regular customers.
Field of Dreams
"If you build it, he will come"—a famous sports sentiment great for mystical cornfields, but not as true for sports bars. You can build these tips into your sports bar marketing plan to start bringing in customers and keep them coming back for more, but there is no substitute for knowing your market. If your efforts don't pay immediate dividends, don't be discouraged! Give it time, keep your finger on the pulse of your customers' needs and wants, and adjust accordingly to achieve the success your sports bar deserves.
Like everything else in life, sports bars are continually changing and evolving. And just like on the playing field, it’s all about amping up the action. Rapidly shifting consumer tastes and desires are combining with ever-savvier owners, resulting in next-wave concepts that are once again reinventing the notion of what exactly comprises a sports bar.
Long gone are the days when a venue could air The Big Game on a 25-inch television behind the bar and call itself a sports bar. To compete in today’s crowded marketplace, it’s critical to discover new ways to create excitement so your customers think of you first when it’s time to choose a venue at which to cheer their favorite team.
Today’s establishments have totally redefined this genre, in many cases blending elements of other successful dining and nightclub concepts. And developers of these next-generation sports bars find customers are responding not only with loyalty but also with their wallets.
So what are patrons are looking for today? As with guests of most segments of the industry, the mantra these days for sport-minded patrons is more options and more value. And those establishments mastering both categories are reaching the finish line quickest.
“You used to get by with one TV, but now it’s bigger and better. You can’t have too many TVs with many choices and options,” says David Commer, president of Commer Beverage Consulting. “It’s critical that anyone can watch anything they want, even if that means watching a tennis match during the Super Bowl.”
Additionally, people must feel as if they’re getting their money’s worth. “You need to have added value. You have to ask why someone is going to seek out your venue rather than another,” explains Corey Nyman, director of operations with The Nyman Group, a consulting and restaurant management company.
Commer agrees. “One of the mistakes operators do is confuse value with cheap — cheap is not always cheap. Value in this instance needs to be inexpensive, but quality is important,” he says, noting that offering smaller plates with high-quality food seems to be a good game day strategy.
Retro food also is in the spotlight today, crossed with higher quality menu selections that appeal to both men and women. Message: It’s important to serve something other than just fried foods; salads and fish seem to be big hits these days — an anomaly in what used to be a fried-food-centric category.
As for drinks, experts agree some people now opt for non-traditional beers when out to watch a sporting event at their favorite watering hole. They can get the big-name brands at home, they reason, so when imbibing on-premise they want something regional and handcrafted.
Oh yeah, and flawless and informed service is a must. “People don’t want to wait 20 minutes for a drink. And your servers should know something about the sports that are being broadcast, too,” Nyman says.
Here are some establishments that have found success in an increasingly crowded field, playing to both men and women and offering something outside the tired old sports bar concept.
Celebrity VenturesBy taking a single concept and rolling it out in different cities under different names, Celebrity Ventures is tapping into the local scene with success. The company operates two outlets — deals are in place for more — named after local sports heroes rather than a generic catch-all name. Across from The Ohio State University, for example, there’s Eddie George’s Grille 27, and Pittsburgh is home to Jerome Bettis’ Grille 36. According to Bob McCarthy, partner and vice president of concept development with Celebrity Ventures, it’s critical to maximize your potential audience. And while many sports bars consider women as an afterthought, McCarthy sees appealing to the female demographic as paramount, which is why the company blended a restaurant concept with sports bar appeal.
“People looking for a sports bar experience find that, but those looking for a restaurant that has sports viewing can find it, too. Men want a place to bring wives and girlfriends, so we look for ways to attract broad-based clientele,” McCarthy says. “We knew we had to be gender neutral.”
In addition to traditional sports bar fare, the Grille menus also boast edamame, crispy tuna rolls and assorted fresh fish. That, combined with a stylish atmosphere and more than 60 flat-panel televisions, is where Celebrity Ventures’ formula really begins to play out. To grab the lunchtime crowd, channels are switched to Bloomberg News or CNBC; during commercials in sporting events, a DJ plays and then takes over on weekend nights when the games are done. The venues also utilize NanaWalls, which split larger spaces into smaller spaces quickly and easily so some guests can watch tennis while others take in a football game — all without disturbing each other.
Lagasse’s StadiumBam! Chef Emeril Lagasse is taking the sports bar concept up a notch with his newest Las Vegas outpost, Lagasse’s Stadium at the Palazzo Las Vegas. Setting the stage for an entirely new way to watch sports in a social environment, this place is more like a living room than many people’s, well, living rooms. With 109 televisions, it’s all about wall-to-wall action. And of course there is the chef’s world-renowned cuisine to enjoy while quaffing some tasty beverages and taking in the big game.
“The place is an extension of home because it is such a comfortable setting,” says general manager Marc Zakin. “And when it comes to food, we have everything from nachos and wings all the way to filets and salmon tartar.”
The combination of high tech and high taste is helping expand the venue’s target audience. Interestingly, Zakin expected patrons to be about 75 percent men, but just a few weeks after the fall opening, he finds it’s actually more of an even split. Women are particularly interested in specialty drinks and cocktails, which were co-created by distributor Southern Wines and Spirits.
The 24,000-square-foot space also has themed rooms, each focusing on a particular sport. And since it’s Las Vegas, there is a sports book available right there to make watching games a little more interesting.
Xtreme Sports Bar + LoungeIn Reno, Nev., the Grand Sierra Resort has opened the Xtreme Sports Bar + Lounge. Rather than just focus on the big sports such as football and baseball, this place is an homage to extreme sports like snowboarding, skateboarding and motocross. Turns out Reno is a major encampment for extreme sports athletes and their fans, so going this route was natural.
“There’s a whole generation of people today where sports are something totally different,” explains President and CEO Richard Silverman. “[The bar] is absolutely at least 50 percent focused on the extreme athletes of the world.”
Walls are adorned with 40-foot murals of Olympic athletes, BMX champs and local favorites; food menus appear on snowboards, beer menus on skateboards. Plus, the Xtreme Girls serve up the food offerings, all of which are extreme versions of bar food found elsewhere in the country. As for drinks, expect kegs rather than traditional bottle service.
The bar also has authentic memorabilia and features 25 high-definition 42-inch plasmas and one LCD high-definition projection with a 12-by-8-foot screen. More than 30,000 watts of power drive a 50-plus speaker sound system, which comes in handy when the place turns into a nightclub several nights a week. And even that’s gone extreme, as the house DJ plays alongside the house band Audioboxx in a major musical mash-up. It’s all helped create a venue that appeals to men and women equally, according to Silverman.
Tilted KiltRuling the Midwest and Southwest with a plaid skirt is the Tilted Kilt Pub & Eatery, and the Tempe, Ariz.-based franchising company is looking to dominate the rest of the country; 26 locations are now open and seven are in the works.
Casual and comfortable, the Tilted Kilt is the perfect antidote for those looking for something other than a serious and upscale sports bar. Here, the focus is on delivering good food in a fun, sports-oriented atmosphere. Its all-female wait staff is clad in the official “uniform:” a miniskirt-style kilt, starched button-down shirt tied to bare the midriff, sporran, stockings and flashings. The chain’s tagline is “The Best-looking Sports Pub You’ve Ever Seen,” and the 2010 calendar featuring the staff was released this fall amid much fanfare in the restaurants. Décor-wise, the pubs play on a traditional Celtic theme but inject the atmosphere with a comical twist. There are humorous limericks on the walls, and a variety of cheeky displays encourage customers to let their guard down and have some fun.
Of course there are plenty of HDTV screens to watch the game, along with pool tables and dart boards. The food menu is also as casual as the atmosphere, delivering the requisite wings alongside “Sloppy Janes,” “Drunken Clams” and updated versions of Irish classics such as Shepherd’s Pie and bangers and mash. Steaks, chicken and stews round out the menu, which also features seasonal specialties. NCB
Games People Play
Capturing business at sports bars isn’t all about the newest technology. In fact some folks like to completely unplug when visiting a sports bar.
At New York City’s Southern Hospitality, for example, it’s all about creating a laid-back atmosphere, says director of operations Chris Russell. “This place is about being who you are, and we are not about following tech trends. We have an old school heart,” he says. Instead of over the top accoutrements, management focuses on basic college drinking games like beer pong and quarters. Beer pong has proved to be a great sales tool, as pitchers for a game cost just $10.
“We want to turn trial customers into long-term customers,” Russell says. “And long-term relationships are built on old school games.”
On the plugged-in side, one old school game that has proven popular for two decades at bars is Golden Tee. According to Gary Colabuono, marketing director with Incredible Technologies, this classic game is still a lynchpin strategy for many bars. Some operators are also leveraging the popularity of sports-oriented gaming systems such as those available from NTN Buzztime, TouchTunes and others. Additionally, recreational leagues for games like darts, pool and even skeeball help establishments capture repeat customers.
“This is a nice melding of all things going into why bar games are popular. It comes down to social competitiveness. You play with buddies, have a beer and while one plays the others scope out the place for ladies,” Colabuono quips.
It stands to reason that if guests are expressing their desire to enjoy great content at your place, you should deliver it in the most efficient and highest quality ways possible.
But there’s a rub. What defines a great sports-watching experience has changed dramatically over the past few years. Guests want to view games on-demand, check their own fantasy results, see a wider variety of content, and expect you to keep them informed about what they can see at your place.
This is why, we have identified four areas that you can address right now to ensure your sports bar remains a great place to watch games well into the future.
Update Your AV Systems
Now is the time to overhaul your Audio Visual systems. Consumer electronics have never been less expensive. From 55” flat screens for $400 to incredibly tiny speakers that will rock the house, access to great components and forward thinking technologies is easier than ever. While this isn’t the place for a full discussion of AV, it is the place to realize now is the time to upgrade. Having the flexibility of a high quality switching device or matrix system gives you room to grow how (and where) you deliver content to guests.
Any integrated system should include the following elements: Signal deployment to any TV, integrated PA microphone, space for expansion of sources like internet streams or recorded content, a balanced sound system (heat map tested) to ensure every inch of your joint has a great AV experience. You will also want to work hard to determine zones for sound. These factors coupled with a tablet based remote and you’re ready for whatever new technologies arrive and can integrate them seamlessly.
Embrace Streaming Video
Have you heard? The NFL’s TV ratings are down 19% so far this year. We are finally seeing the effect of streaming video in a real way. Consumers want to watch content of their choice (including sports) when they are good and ready. With so many folks cutting the cord and consuming their formatted TV content on platforms like Netflix or Amazon, you have to be ready to deliver the same experience.
Look at the experiments that the NFL has undertaken with Thursday Night Football on Twitter this season and a game, wholly televised, on Yahoo last season. Even the folks on Park Ave can see the writing on the wall.
Did you know that the Ohio State OT victory over Michigan was watched online by more than 1.3 million people? That is a world record of sorts and the highest watched live sporting event on stream EVER. Couple that with the fact it was on the regular ABC network feed and it’s even more impressive that folks opted to watch the stream. While some might see this as a threat to sports bar viewing -- we don’t. By embracing streaming content and educating your guests that you have it available, you are further proving to them that they can count on you to give them what they want.
Friends, laughter, celebrations, entertainment--fun! These are the things that might come to your mind when you think about owning your own bar as you imagine rooms filled with friendly conversation, music and people enjoying themselves. If you're thinking of opening a sports bar, you might envision an exciting game on big-screen TVs with everyone cheering and having a great time. Owning a bar sounds like the perfect life to many potential entrepreneurs, but it's not always fun and games behind the scenes.
Owning your own bar/club can mean long hours, meticulous attention to detail, giving up vacations and weekends, and sometimes dealing with unruly customers. But if you have a clear vision, do your homework and learn the ins and outs of the business, it can also translate into a rewarding and financially successful enterprise.
Although people still gather to socialize in bars, just as they have for hundreds of years, other factors have come into play for the industry as well. Problems with driving while intoxicated have changed the drinking patterns of people in United States. The growing concern with health and fitness toward the end of the 20th century took its toll on the bar industry. Keeping tabs on this industry requires a look at the alcoholic beverage industry as a whole--what people buy in the store doesn't differ much from what they buy in a bar. The distilled spirits industry generates around $100 billion in U.S. economic activity annually, according to the Distilled Spirits Council, a national trade association.
You have some pretty tough competition out there. But you're not just competing with the other bars in your area these days. You're competing with every entertainment option from which your customers can choose.
What You Can Expect
Successful new bars can be in the black within the first six months, and they can go on to recover their initial investment within three to five years. However, like many new businesses, the statistics for bars aren't in favor of the startup. Why do they fail? The first reason is they didn't have enough capital to keep the business going. The second reason is a lack of knowledge about the business.
From a personal perspective, you need to ask yourself if you're really the type of person who wants to own and run a bar. Of course, you don't have to run it if you own it, but you'd better make sure you have a team of good, trustworthy managers working for you if you plan to be "hands off." In the beginning, you will probably have to be greatly involved whether you plan to be an active owner or not. If you're the kind of person who would rather deal with paperwork or sit in an office where you don't have to talk to people, this business is not for you. You will need to be out there talking to people and shaking hands. Getting to know your patrons, even if it's just to say "Hi," can go a long way for your customer service.
Another thing you should consider is the time commitment and hours of operation. If you're an early riser, you might not enjoy having to work until 3 or 4 a.m. at your bar. If you have a family, you need to discuss how owning a bar will affect them. Many days you will have to be at your bar from the time you wake up--say, around 10 or 11 a.m.--to the time you go to sleep--say, around 4 or 5 a.m. As you can see, this could take its toll on your family life. Eventually, you'll probably be able to have a saner schedule, once your managers and staff are well-trained, but it may take six months to a year to reach that point. If this could cause problems for you or your family, you may want to reconsider the idea of owning a bar.
If we haven't scared you away yet and you're ready to go for the bottle-in-the-sky dream, read on!
What's Your Bar Type?
Before you get started on the actual nuts and bolts of creating your dream bar, you have to decide what kind of establishment you'd like to own. Let's take a trip through the various kinds of bars--from neighborhood bar to large-scale club--and see which one is right for you.
- Neighborhood bar. Conceptually, the neighborhood bar is still an American version of the English pub. You'll find them everywhere in the United States. If you own this kind of place, you can expect to know many of your regular customers. As on the TV show "Cheers," you may find yourself taking phone messages for customers or cashing their paychecks. It's because of the friendly "home away from home" atmosphere that neighborhood bars are successful. Some of these pubs open as early as 6 a.m., and they sometimes close earlier than other bars--depending on the clientele. This type of bar is perfect for small-scale entertainment options, such as darts, pool tables, video games and jukeboxes.
Across the country, this is probably the most popular type of bar you'll find. There are a lot of neighborhoods out there, but you might find that there is room for one more in your area. According to the experts we interviewed, the startup cost for this kind of bar ranges widely, depending on the size and concept, but mostly on location. You can buy an existing neighborhood bar in a small town for $20,000, or you can spend a million dollars building a brand-new one in a big city. Not coincidentally, the amount of revenue these businesses produce varies greatly, depending on your bar's location and capacity.
- Sports bar. Depending on the establishment's capacity, sports bars can be a specific version of the neighborhood tavern, or they can take on a life as big as a club. You may have the latter in mind, but your market research may point to the former. It's important to do your homework!
Generally, sports bars offer some kind of menu options, such as sandwiches, burgers, pizza, sandwiches and appetizers. Since the main attraction is sporting events, sports bars have televisions in view of every seat, sometimes all tuned to different channels. Audio and video technology comes into play, with some owners spending a large percentage of their revenue on keeping up with the latest in technology--from satellites to big-screen TVs. As with neighborhood bars, startup costs and revenue potential vary widely, depending on the size, concept and location.
- Brewpub or beer bar. Studies have shown that although consumers are drinking less alcohol, their tastes are becoming more discriminating. As a result, microbrews are more and more popular. In a brewpub, you can brew your own beer right on the premises. In a beer bar, you can offer a large selection of different types of beer, including microbrews produced elsewhere. It's often easier to get a liquor license for a brewpub or beer bar than a full-scale liquor license, since you don't need a fully stocked liquor bar.
Most brewpubs only sell their own beer options on tap (draft beer), with a few selections of bottled beer options, too. Since you're creating your own product in a brewpub, you also have the ability to control what you make and sell--from quality to quantity. The startup costs of a brewpub can be quite high--from $100,000 to $1 million--because of the brewing equipment you need to have. If you produce a popular beer, you have the opportunity to grow into a very successful operation.
Beer bars tend to have lower startup costs, which can often mean obtaining a less expensive, fixed-price license from your state government. Beer bar startup costs range from about $20,000 to $100,000, depending on size and location. The revenue potential depends on the geographical location and drinking trends in the community.
- Specialty bar. Specialty bars, which concentrate on one type of libation, from wine to martinis, or theme, like cigar bars, are gaining popularity. Although some specialty bars focus on only one drink category, there must be a wide variety available within the genre. Take martinis: They have become very popular due to the variety they offer. The traditional martini still has a solid appeal if made with quality vodkas and gins, but other mixes, like sour apple martinis, have expanded the martini-drinking base, especially among women. But even with their increased popularity, martinis are still looking up at wine.
Beyond the traditional glass or bottle with a nice dinner, for many, wine is the drink of choice. In fact, women order wine more often than any other alcoholic beverage. Wine bars offer guests the opportunity to taste a variety of different kinds of wine and the ability to learn more about their qualities.
Specialty bars tend to stay small and intimate in size and are located in more sophisticated neighborhoods. The costs and revenues you can expect to find when opening a specialty bar depend mostly on the type of product you serve and your location.
- Club. Like the neighborhood bar, nightclubs can take on a number of different personalities. You can open a small cocktail lounge with a jukebox or a tinkling piano in the corner. A medium-sized club might look like a neighborhood bar during the lunchtime hours, then spring to life with a popular band at night. Or if you have a big enough budget, your club might be a large dance club where the most fashionable people and hippest celebrities hang out every weekend
Whichever path you take, you must be prepared to spend a great deal of time and money on promotion to create your "buzz." Clubs can make plenty of money if they're managed properly. Most successful clubs draw on a city population of 500,000 or more. If you're in a small town or suburb, you may not have the customer base to open a large dance club. Market research is key.
As we've discussed, the bar/club industry can be a pricey undertaking. Because of the high failure rate, you may come across desperate bar owners willing to take a low purchase price just to get out of the business. You'll also find that startup costs for bars vary depending on size, location and target market. So we can't give you a concrete amount for what you can expect to pay to start your business.
We spoke with one entrepreneur in California who spent $25,000 taking over someone else's bar business. Another bar owner in Florida spent several million dollars starting his club (and he didn't even build the building!). The numbers vary all across the board. Your bar's size, location, type and concept will make your startup costs as individual as your business.
However, the chart below will give you some idea of what you'll be looking at--from the low end to the high end. Again, you could buy an existing bar that would nullify all the numbers on our low-end chart or start a large-scale club that's off the map from our high-end numbers. You'll have to do some research to find out what your bar will cost based on your concept, size and location.
Here are the startup costs for two hypothetical bars. The first, Night Owl, is a tavern with a maximum capacity of 100 people and serves only beer and wine with a limited menu. Night Owl has annual sales of $327,416. The second, Neverland, is a 1,000-person-capacity nightclub with a full-service bar. Located in the downtown area of a metropolitan city, Neverland has annual sales of $976,132.
|Rent (security deposit and first month)||$3,250||$6,125|
|Leasehold improvements (heating/air conditioning, electrical, plumbing, painting, carpentry, sign, flooring, smoke detectors)||$18,000||$65,000|
|Grand opening marketing||$1,000||$3,000|
|Miscellaneous expenses (add roughly 10 percent of total)||$12,907||$39,238|
|Total Startup Costs||$141,982||$431,618|
Calling your bar an operation fits because of how much operating it takes to keep it running. Someone will have to mind the store every minute your doors are open and some minutes when they aren't, and your place will need some sort of monitoring during the off-hours to prevent vandalism or break-ins.
Many compare running your own business to raising a child. If true, then a smooth-running, problem-free, profit-making bar compares to parenting a happy, well-adjusted, self-assured teenager preparing for adulthood. But don't worry, the bumps in the road hold the best lessons. And as with parenting, you succeed with consistency and concern instead of rigidity and blame.
The Road to Success
The groundwork you lay to operate your bar includes the systems you use to track liquor and food. How much does the customer owe the server/bartender, and in turn, how much do they owe you? Also, what liquor and food do you sell the most? The systems you choose depend on the type and size of bar you have.
In most bars, only the bartenders and servers handle money. Cashiers or takeout staff may also have cash-handling responsibilities. Factors to consider when choosing an accounting system include the level of sales you expect, both from alcohol and food, and the efficiency needed for your staff to operate at its full potential. Also, look for holes that your accounting system might leave open for theft at all levels, not just servers and bartenders. No one thinks they are hiring a thief. Many people who might steal if the opportunity arose do not consider themselves thieves, either, so they don't come off as such.
If you use the cash-and-carry system, where the drink is ordered by the server verbally and then paid for before the bartender or server rings it up, you might find many "forgot to ring it up" drinks, as well as a few given away for free. It is the nature of the system. If your inventory controls are so tight that you will notice when too much has been used, or if your manager, who shares in the profits anyway, is your bartender, then you can use this system without much fear.
Finding Your Perfect Location
Your choice of location will depend on how you want your bar to look, what you want your bar to contribute to the community, and the kind of clientele you want to patronize it. Then you need to decide whether you want to buy the location or sign a lease. Again, that depends on your budget. Finally, you need to figure out how to fuse your concept with both your name and your location to your best advantage.
People who know this industry well have polar opinions on the concept of location. Some owners and experts we talked to put enormous importance on the bar's location while others refuted its significance altogether. It all depends on what you want your bar to be and what your strengths are as an owner. If you want your bar to get impulsive neighborhood traffic in a particular area, then you should be closest, and most obvious, to them. If you'd rather spend the time and money saved by more affordable real estate to develop your establishment's concept and create your own buzz and destination, your actual location won't matter so much.
You should consider factors such as safety, parking, accessibility to customers--even the history of the site--when choosing a location.
Your Bar: The Place to Be
The word "location" can refer to two different things--what area your bar is in (downtown, uptown, suburbs, etc.) and where you are in relation to your customers. Are you on their way home from work? Or do they have to make it a point to get to you?
Michael O'Harro, a National Bar & Restaurant Management Association board member, explains how he took a bar location nobody wanted in Virginia and made it work. "It was in an alley," he says. "It was a 15-foot-wide alley, and we were 128 feet away from the street. No one would go up the alley--[people] were afraid of it. So the building sat empty for 50 years. But the bar at the end of the alley was spending $20,000 a month in rent, while my rent was $500. I figured I had $19,500 to put toward marketing per month. I made the alley fun and chic. In the alley, I put down Astroturf that I purchased from a football stadium. I had signs, lights and banners. It became the alley. Nobody knew it was there, and then all of a sudden it was the hottest alley in town."
On the other hand, you can have an incredible spot and still not be successful. For example, if you are lucky enough to have the only sports bar right outside your town's athletic coliseum, you should be rolling in cash at least during every in-season homestand. But if your staff is stealing from you, operating procedures are badly managed, or your service isn't up to par, you could quickly find yourself out of business--grade-A location and all.
Naming Your Bar
When it comes to naming a bar, experts generally fall into two major schools of thought. The first says your bar is your dream--your hard work--so you should name it anything you want. The second approach to naming says your moniker is the first and greatest form of advertising for your drinking establishment. A name like Bill's Bar & Tavern doesn't really tell the public anything about your business, but The Haystack, Romp and 3rd & Vine give customers something to connect you to. You wouldn't consider going to bar called Romp if you just wanted a quiet drink. Likewise, you wouldn't travel up and down 4th Street looking for a place called 3rd & Vine.
O'Harro advises that your name should exemplify your concept. "First, I would try to figure out what my concept is going to be," he says. "Sports bar? Discotheque? High energy? Low energy? Singles bar? What exactly am I going to be? Then, what's the name of this business going to be? I would do tremendous research to try to come up with a name that literally fits with the concept."
When coming up with different names, don't stop until you love at least three. In your brainstorming sessions, keep these three questions in mind:
- How well does the name fit the concept you want to create?
- What types of customers will the name attract?
- What will people expect based on the name?
It's time to start planning how you're going to get people into your bar to enjoy it. Just like any other aspect of operating your bar, marketing is an ongoing process. Many bar owners think marketing is the most fun and exciting aspect of running a bar. The entrepreneurs we interviewed agreed that advertising in the media didn't bring as much reward for the cost as it does for many other types of businesses. Generating a buzz for your bar will mostly come from word-of-mouth and the special promotions you set up.
"The only cost-effective way to advertise a bar is word-of-mouth," says Bob Johnson of the Beverage Management Institute, in Clearwater, South Carolina. "When you don't have word-of-mouth working for you, you are in serious trouble. It's not necessarily terminal. There are still ways to get some advertising and marketing out there without spending a ton of money. But anytime you reach into your own pocket to buy advertising for a bar, it's not good.
"Word-of-mouth advertising is priceless," he continues. "It means everything is right. Everything is happening. The bar is alive. Your employees love working there. They are talking and saying great things about the place, and that is passed on to your customers. The customers love being there, and they tell other customers. If you can get to that point, it's just priceless."
So what are some ways to generate word-of-mouth buzz? You can get involved in community events and charity functions to gain exposure. You can launch a direct-mail campaign with a newsletter for regular customers, develop a website, and use any other creative marketing techniques you can dream up.
A great way to promote your bar is to create special internal promotions. If you fully developed your bar's concept, your promotions and events will seem so natural you may even take them for granted. R.C. Colvin, a neighborhood bar owner in Niles, Michigan, got into the bar business because he loves to play pool. "We have pool tournaments several times a year that bring in people from all over. We [also] have a couple of hayrides every year, and people get a kick out of them," says Colvin.
Staging Promotional Events
Once you have established what your promotions will be, it's time to start making them happen. After you bar is up and running, you'll have a better idea of what nights need a little boost. Most bars are busy on Friday and Saturday nights, with Thursdays coming in third place. You might decide you need to pump up business on Monday or Tuesday, so pick one day and keep it going until you have established enough regular business to move the promotions to a different day. Of course, you'll still do your holiday promotions, like July 4th, Super Bowl, Cinco de Mayo, etc., on the appropriate days.
Here are some ideas to keep in mind when you're working on promotional events.
- Prepare. Work out a budget. If your promotion continues for more than one day, budget for the entire time you want it to run. A good goal to shoot for is to make a profit that's three times the cost of the promotion.
- Make a schedule. Design a planning calendar at least eight weeks before the promotion. Depending on the size and magnitude of the promotion, you may want to start advertising it at this point, too. Never advertise an ending date, though, so you can cut it early if it doesn't do as well as you planned or you can extend it if it really takes off.
- Maintain the energy level. On the day of the promotion, don't stop the action to give away prizes or make announcements. You can turn the music down, but don't turn it off. This will keep the energy level high and consistent. If you absolutely have to turn off the music, never keep it off for more than 10 minutes, or you risk people getting impatient and leaving.
- Party all night. Schedule your prize giveaways, contests and entertainment to run throughout the night. If you have a grand prize to give away or a finale planned, don't do it until after midnight so your guests stay in your bar as late as possible.
Promoting your bar can be fun and creative. During a promotion and after it's over, ask your customers and your employees for feedback and critiques. Of course, your sales will give you a lot of the information you're looking for, too.
- Complete World Bartender Guide by Bob Sennett, Editor
- How to Start a Restaurant and Five Other Food Businesses
- The Upstart Guide to Owning and Managing a Bar or Tavern by Roy Alonzo
As a sports bar owner or manager paying attention to the details is one of the most important aspects to driving success. How you choose to create just the right atmosphere for your patrons/sports fans encompasses many things like service, design of your establishment, promotions, lighting, cleanliness, entertainment, and staff. If you overlooked even something as simple as one of your flat screen TVs being out during a game, the reputation you worked so hard to build can end up be damaged forever!
Consider this, the various social media platforms available today… then consider when someone has a bad experience just how many ways that experience can be shared online. The negative impact that can have on your bottom-line can be disastrous!
A sports bar is not a sports bar unless it has enough screens to accommodate all patrons/sports fans making it easy to view and hear their favorite sports game no matter where they are sitting. Without a well thought out integrated audio video system your sports bar will be known as the place not to go… your Yelp reviews will have pages of sports fans ranting about how they couldn’t see or hear the game and before you know it you glory days will be over… as in game over!
Building Value and Creating Loyalty
Have you heard the term go big or go home? Any sports bar owner or manager should fully understand the going big trend. Scoring the loyalty of sports enthusiasts takes more then a dedicated staff and great promotions… how people make buying decisions is based on many things like personal, situational, psychological, and social. Two of the most important factors of influencing consumer behavior to consider when targeting a sports enthusiast are situational factors and social factors… situational factors drive loyalty and social factors drive purchases.
Without getting into the intricacies of consumer behavior and marketing let’s make things simpler. Situational factors are mainly physical. Physical factors that sports bar owners or managers can control include things like layout of the sports bar, lighting, temperature, smells, video, and sound these are known as atmospherics. Strategically speaking making it easy for someone to view and hear a sports game no matter where they are sitting is the key to your success!
Harnessing the Crowd-Drawing Appeal of Sports
Providing the best sports viewing experience is the biggest way to draw the sports fans in… Giving someone the ability to sit anywhere in your establishment and have a perfect view of any game or event will help you create a sports fan destination… one that will not be forgotten! If you are eager to gain, the reputation of being a fan favorite your establishment must have a better than average audio video entertainment system. Things to consider when building a superior integrated audio video system for your sports bar include:
- Indoor and Outdoor
How to Create a Sport’s Fan Destination
Great Viewing and Listening Experience from Any Seat
The sporting events shown on the screens in a sports bar is one of the main attractions. While there is nothing better than being at the game, being a sports bar owner or manager you want to come as close as possible to replicating the experience. To get a better understanding of your situation contact SportsBar TV Systems- We specialize in custom turnkey solutions for every sports bar size and layout… It’s Not When It’s On, Its Where It’s On!
Just how much does it cost to start a restaurant?
Restaurant startup costs might vary wildly because of the kind of restaurant, location, and more. A survey by RestaurantOwner.com polled about 700 restaurant owners across the United States to dig into the numbers and learn more about average costs.
These are some interesting statistics from this survey:
- Average startup cost without a land purchase: About $500,000
- Average startup cost per seat without a land purchase: About $4,200
- Average cost overrun from initial cost estimates: About 33%
Of course, these are only averages. Some restaurants may cost much less, while others take an investment of millions of dollars. The average startup costs for restaurants might not be that surprising. However, one thing that might alarm some future restaurant owners is how easily these costs get underestimated, meaning your planned expenses end up being over your budget.
To avoid this, keep these 5 restaurant expenses in mind when starting or opening a new restaurant.
1) Restaurant Equipment Cost
All restaurants needs the right equipment to prepare, store, and serve food. Naturally, you'll need to consider which types of foods and beverages you will be serving prior to purchasing equipment, as certain cuisines require different items. For example, if the restaurant will include a buffet, proper heating, refrigeration, and serving materials need to be purchased.
This goes not only for the pieces of equipment patrons will see, but for the chefs and servers as well. A pizza oven is a pricey purchase, but if you're not selling pizza, you won't need to plan for this. Similarly, some foods may require more pots and pans than others, while some restaurants may need to install an extra oven for baked goods.
To stay within budget, restaurant founders might consider second-hand equipment, comparison shopping, renting, and doing without some items that aren't absolutely needed in the beginning.
On the other hand, the right equipment can help restaurants offer better food and better service, so it's important to invest in anything that can help the restaurant earn a profit, lower costs, and satisfy customers.
2) Restaurant Staff Expenses
All but the tiniest eateries will need to hire a substantial staff. While you may start out as a one or two person operation, you'll need more manpower if you're customers keep coming back.
When restaurants are considering staff, it is essential to note the needs of the business. Restaurant positions common to all concepts include cashiers/greeters, line cooks, and managers. Full service restaurants will need servers, while fine dining restaurants will need bartenders and a team of experienced chefs in the kitchen.
Even if a new restaurant hires experienced staff, these people will still need training to operate the new venture. Some restaurant owners might hire inexperienced staff to save money in the beginning, but it's likely that they will need even more training. And remember, even if your restaurant doesn't turn a profit during its first few weeks (or months, or years), you'll still need to pay your staff - both hourly and salary-based employees.
In any case, it's important to consider all of the expenses associated with staff. These expenses include everything from recruiting, to wages, to outfitting, to meal comps, and maybe even time off.
3) Restaurant Marketing Expenses
Since new restaurants can't rely upon much word-of-mouth advertising in the beginning, it's important to develop a solid marketing plan in your restaurant or bar's business plan.
Today, restaurants might advertise online or in other media. This will cost you, but the price varies on the method you use. Google and Facebook charge different rates for sponsoring messages, but one may be worth more if the other won't get you any customers.
Other restaurant marketing expenses include promotional discounts to attract new customers. You'll also need to purchase a domain name for a website and to make sure the site gets listed in the right directories. Extra expenses can include hiring a professional to optimize the page and launch a restaurant app to tie into online ordering and your loyalty program. All of this marketing may help increase revenue in the long run, but it will require an initial investment.
4) Building or Remodeling
Building an entirely new restaurant is a big investment. Keep in mind, those initial restaurant expenses we mentioned at the beginning were for restaurants that did not make a land purchase. Even if your restaurant will occupy space that another restaurant used to, there will almost always still be some remodeling and redecorating costs.
Your building design will dictate a lot when it comes to your restaurant. What will your design look like, and what kind of customer base will it appeal to? What will your kitchen look like? Will there be enough room for your staff to move around? Are you willing to sacrifice floor space for more customers, even though this can make your restaurant seem congested and limit your servers' mobility? These are questions you always have to ask in your restaurant remodeling.
Certainly, restaurant owners may hope to build their business by offering patrons a comfortable, clean, and attractive dining facility. The cooking and wait staff will also need adequate work spaces to perform their jobs. At the same time, you'll may need to limit restaurant expenses during your startup phase. To stay within a budget, restaurant owners might need to prioritize their wish list and only begin with the basics.
5) Restaurant Tech
In order to manage costs, expedite service, and run more efficiently, you'll want to invest in different restaurant technology tools that are available today. These can range from table ordering and payment kiosks to software that helps manage cash flow. While software and hardware costs for new technology might seem like overkill in the startup phase of a new restaurant, it might also help make the business easier to run and manage.
As with equipment, restaurant owners will need to decide which tech can improve their business and which purchases immediately and in the long run. Restaurant technology that helps restaurant owners manage their time or finances may be more universal, but it is still important to analyze the benefit of the technology in comparison to the cost in order to ensure the budget is not stretched early on.
How to Pay Restaurant Startup Expenses
Like other startups, many new restaurants get partially funded by their owners. However, this limits options for all but very wealthy people. Even if it's possible to find investors, they are likely to want to exert their own influence in exchange for their money. This option doesn't appeal to everybody who dreams of opening up their own restaurant.
Owners who need funding in order to grow might access funding for restaurant owners by considering a restaurant-friendly lender. For instance, online lenders are often willing to consider new businesses that haven't had a chance to build their own business credit and don't have a large owner stake in the company. The virtue of these online lenders is that they offer online applications, speedy approvals, and quick funding. Enjoying access to quick and secure funding can help a new restaurant grow and give the restaurant owner peace of mind.
I made the splash over the pond last year, moving from my beloved New York City to London. I have always had a special place for London in my heart and when the opportunity came to work in London I could not turn it down.
There are many things that I looked forward to exploring in London, and of course all the museums and famous landmarks were high up on the list but finding a good sports bar in London was certainly the main priority. I am a huge sports fan, I love my American sports, including American Football and Baseball, and so a sport bar in London that showed American sports was essential. I was also keen to embrace the British sports on offer, I was determined to give Cricket a go, and have always followed the English premier league.
After digging around on the internet it became clear that there were plenty of options for sports bars in London. The most famous and prominent one I came across appeared to be The Sports Cafe in Haymarket. I spoke to a few Londoner's and it definitely came recommended so I thought I would try it out first for American Football. The New England Patriots were playing the New York Jets, quite a fierce rivalry, so this was a perfect game to watch in a bar for the atmosphere. Sure enough the Sports Cafe was showing this on the big screen and boy was I impressed with this sports bar. There are TV screens dotted all over the bar, the decor is dedicated to sports, even with a model F1 car, so you walk in knowing that if there is a big sports event on then this London bar sure will have it showing.
There were lots of American Football fans there watching the game and it was great to have table service where we could sit down, enjoy the game and order plenty of beer and a bit of food. The menu is classic American, so lots of Burgers, sandwiches and Chicken wings! After talking to the staff here I also determined that this was truly a 24/7 sports bar as they show live sports all through the night if there is a big game on. For example Cricket fans flock here for the Ashes games between England and Australia so if you are out partying on want to finish the night off in London with sports then this is the place to go.
After the sports bar I was after something a bit more local and authentic as it was definitely more of an American style sports bar. I spoke to a few work colleagues and discovered there were plenty of traditional London pubs showing sports.
The best by far that I came across was The Three Kings in Kensington. This is another dedicated sports bar in London but its set in a huge pub with dedicated zones depending on what game is on, so you might have a bunch of rugby fans crammed in the front room cheering on their team, and then a load of football fans in another area watching the multiple screens. The atmosphere is electric in here with plenty of singing and has fast become one of my favourite bars in London to watch sport.
A few great sports bars in London include the Jetlag bar in central London which has comfy sofas and a nice relaxed atmosphere for watching the games. I also really like The Roxy in London Bridge which doubles up as a cinema in the evenings so this a pretty cool place to watch the Rugby in particular. If you want lively atmosphere then The Clapham Grand is a fantastic setting as it's an old theatre so you can sit back with over 1,200 people and watch on one of the biggest sports screens I have ever seen!
As you can see there are plenty of options for sports bars in London so I hope you enjoy some of these.
Dylan franks is a born and bred Londoner, dedicated to sharing his vast knowledge of London pubs, bars and club with the world. For more London sports bars recommendations, check out his site http://www.designmynight.com
Article Source: http://EzineArticles.com/expert/Dylan_Franks/781416
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There is nothing better than watching a game at the local sports bar surrounded by good friends, a cheering crowd, and good food. Watching live sports at a bar is really one of the best options because there is a real sense of camaraderie. Strangers and friends come together in order to cheer on their local team and their favorite players. The excitement of the game is heightened substantially by this atmosphere, and it certainly beats watching a sporting event at home. But the atmosphere in a bar is not a spontaneous thing. Many factors go into a pub in order to ensure that the experience is fun and lively.
The Sports business has grown in leaps & bounds over the past few years. Now more the ever it is important that on"Game Day" that bars & restaurants need to be able to offer their patrons the ability to see their favorite teams.