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9 Ways for Sports Bars to Optimize Game Day Profits

9 Ways for Sports Bars to Optimize Game Day Profits

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The fall season is packed with sporting events and potential restaurant customers. Below are nine tactics to create a win-win sports season for all.

This article was written by Katie Fairchild CMO of Restaurant365 for FSR

Fall is in the air! For many restaurant operators that means it is time for the long-awaited sports season. With the start of the NFL, NHL, NBA, and MLB playoffs (and don’t forget the college games) there are many opportunities to drive sales and boost profitability.

Now is the time to develop a winning strategy to optimize game day profits. A great combination of smart staffing strategies, menu specials, and properly managed inventory will score points with customers and help run things smoothly. 

Below are nine tactics to create a win-win sports season for all:

Build your starting lineup

Knowing the start times of the games that attract the biggest crowds in advance can help managers know when to schedule the best employees. For example, NFL games will typically fall on Sunday at 1:00 PM, 4:25 PM, and 8:20 PM EST so be sure the bulk of the all-star employees are on the schedule.

Also, pay special attention to the schedule of local teams. If based in Texas, a restaurant will need its fastest and most experienced staff when the Cowboys or Texans are playing. Less experienced staff can be sprinkled in throughout shifts as needed or scheduled for slow nights of the season.

Forecast accurately

An accurate restaurant sales forecast will help to meet the inventory demand of projected customer traffic. Forecasting makes it possible to spot errors in inventory such as receiving mistakes, incorrect portioning, or even employee theft. By maintaining an optimal level of inventory, managers will ensure the restaurant won’t run out of customer favorites or high-margin items.

Offer a game day menu

Offering a specialized menu with profitable options that are easy to prepare is a great tactic to get food out quickly with less stress. A big pot of chili is a great example. Beyond the popular dish itself, items like loaded fries, nachos, and chili cheese dogs are always a game day hit.

Conquer menu recommendations

During the pre-shift meeting, bring out a sample of the most profitable game day menu specials and let the staff taste it while pointing out the highlights. Discuss the art of menu recommendations.

Approaching a table with “Would you like the chili cheese fries? They are our bestseller and only available on game days” is more likely to prompt a sale than “do you want an appetizer.” Promoting off-the-menu items that are only available for a limited time is a great way to increase both average order value and customer satisfaction. 

Prepare staff for quick turns

While game day may draw in large crowds, it is also an excuse for customers to linger at tables for hours on end. Be sure that bussers and servers are actively watching and ready to clear and clean tables immediately upon a guest’s exit so that new customers can be seated quickly.

Expedite beer sales

Beer and sports go hand-in-hand. Knowing that it will be one of your top sellers, consider incorporating attended stations where transactions are limited to walk-up guests paying with a credit card swiped by a handheld reader. Also, make sure these are located away from tight areas that may become too congested. This can be an efficient addition to bar and table service.

Play up the patio

NASA has confirmed that the summer of 2023 was the hottest year on record – ever. As the temperatures drop, people will be yearning to get outside. Now is the perfect time to make more room for the sports fans. Take advantage of the extra space by staging a tailgate party atmosphere complete with outdoor games such as cornhole or giant Jenga. Be sure to have space heaters or contained outdoor fire pits if located in an area with cooler conditions.

Include the stay-at-home crowd

Offering a to-go menu, tailgate boxes, or even take-home-and-heat appetizers for those who plan to host get-togethers at home is another way to boost game day sales. Consider setting up a special prep area to make the carry-out process as efficient as possible to not interfere with in-house guests’ experience.

Recruit new regulars

Punch cards, coupons, or loyalty programs are inexpensive compared to marketing costs to bring in new customers. Great food, fast service, and a fun environment will keep a restaurant top of mind, especially when actively promoting the next big game.

The fall season is packed with sporting events. Whether it’s football, basketball, or baseball, fans are always looking for a place to enjoy the games with great food, drinks, and service. With a strategic game plan, restaurant operators can attract big crowds, maximize profits, and gain repeat business.


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