Are You Ready For Some Football?

Football is the most popular sport with the longest season, so what are you doing to get guests to come by your locations, hang out for the game and sip some brews or quaff some cocktails?

Many full-service restaurants and hotels, in fact, are taking advantage of these football fanatics with food, drink and contest promotions, thus securing their bar as go-to destinations every weekend. That's just what the Minneapolis-based Buffalo Wild Wings chain does, kicking off football season with its fantasy draft parties. When they sign up for the parties, guests received a draft kit filled with $100 vouchers of free food, a draft board, beer koozies and a champion trophy.

Buffalo Wild Wing’s Marketing & Brand Manager Patrick Kirk says this is all part of the plan to make Buffalo Wild Wings the best alternative for guests who can’t be at the game. Additionally, the chain hosts a Pick ‘Em Challenge, a weekly competition with Buzztime where guests pick the winner of each pro football game throughout the season. Winners at each of the 696 locations are awarded a $25 gift card, which gets people coming back each week hoping for a chance to win — or use their gift card if they already clinched the prize.

Plus, guests want to stop in for a chance to win the grand prize for the Pick 'Em Challange: a trip to the Rose Bowl. Winners will get a chance to play a flag football game coached by Jerry Rice, Deion Sanders, Mike Golic and Mike Greenberg from ESPN’s “Mike & Mike in the Morning.”

Buffalo Wild Wings' season-long promotions are what the brand calls “tablegating.” “We have made football a huge priority for us every year, but this year we have one platform — Tablegating — for all of our promotions to rally around,” Kirk says. “It’s a fun term that’s easy for our guests and team members to get behind and understand.”

Kirk’s goal is to make the Buffalo Wild Wings tablegating experience no different than what fans tailgating at the stadium have. That means offering shareable food items such as appetizer samplers, a large platter of wings and flatbreads, as well as a Bloody Mary cocktail made with Buffalo Wild Wings' Honey BBQ sauce and the Margeveza, a beer cocktail made with Dos Equis and half Margarita.

Through social media  and more traditional marketing such as menu inserts, TV commercials and radio spots, Buffalo Wild Wings’ football promotion is taking football season to a new level. Kirk refers to this as “a full blown football media blitz — pun intended.”

Between hosting fantasy football drafts like Buffalo Wild Wings or offering food and drink specials aimed at the football-loving crowd, your restaurants can gain profits and patrons by taking advantage of this lucrative sporting event.

Another concept that is winning with football is Arlington, Va.-based Interstate Hotels & Resorts. With more than 233 properties around the world, Interstate is luring people into the hotel lounges with its enticing mini football helmet menu promotion.

Interstate Hotels

After last year’s successful mini football menu promotion, Bradley Moore, corporate director of food and beverage operations for Interstate Hotels & Resorts, and his team decided to take this a step further with their new promotion. Moore says that football-centric promotion like this is a great way to get hotel guests mingling with each other while also enjoying a great American past time.

“It is important to represent football in the lounge areas of the hotels,” because, he says, “this encourages guests to visit our lounges instead of watching the game in their room.” Not only that but, “this creates a better experience for our guests while driving lounge sales,” Moore explains.

The mini football helmets are replicas of football helmets with pads, facemasks and all the nuanced details of an authentic helmet but in place of a team logo is the lounge’s menu. When Moore first saw the helmet, he was immediately inspired: “A football menu was the first thing that came to my mind.” And because the football program is the largest for Interstate, in terms of budget dollars, these mini helmets were in-line, price-wise, with past promotions.

Introduced to a handful of Interstate locations at the beginning of August, the mini football menus are strategically placed at the bar and table tops, so they’re the first thing guests notice when walking in to the hotel lounge. Because the design of the helmet is unique, guests don’t want to put the menu down, which is exactly the reaction Moore wants.

“The hardest thing to do with a bar menu is to create something that guests want to pick up and spend time reading,” he says. “The mini football helmet menus definitely have this quality.”

It’s just not looks that draw guests to this seasonal offering, but also the food and drink specials printed on those menus. The menu consists of game day favorites such as Honey Habanero Wings and Onion Rings Our Way. These savory food items complement the football-related cocktails, including the aptly named First & Ten Rita (Jose Cuervo, Especial Tequila and Cointreau Orange Liqueur) and the Kickoff Bloody Mary (ABSOLUT Vodka, Finest Call Bloody Mary Mix and a celery stick for garnish). Pricing varies at each location.

For Moore, this promotion has potential to grow and evolve each year. Originally, the football helmet menu was intended for only a few select hotels, but because of its popularity among guests and staff, the menus are in 90 percent of the full-service hotels and 50 percent of the select service hotels.

Interstate Hotels & Resorts and Buffalo Wild Wings, it seems, have the right strategy to take advantage of those diehard football fans. After all, nothing is more important than scoring big bucks on game day.

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