Restaurants should have a strategy and the right tools in place to take advantage of March Madness revenue opportunities
There are few televised sporting eventsAmericans find more excitingthan March Madness, the month-long, 67-game journey of college basketball drama tipping off this week. The tournament’s steady flow of buzzer-beaters and slam dunks either thrills onlookers or breaks their hearts, depending on their rooting interest. March Madness is such a big cultural event that Wendy’s iseven bringing backits iconic “Where’s The Beef? tagline from the 1980s to generate media chatter during the tournament.
For fast-casual restaurants, full-service eateries and sports bars, the hardcourt hoopla represents a lucrative chance to attract groups of on-premise diners keeping their eyes on the big screens and online orders from fans enjoying the action from their living rooms. But first, hospitality operators need to have a strategy and the right tools in place to take advantage of this revenue opportunity that can also create customer relationships for years to come. Let’s look at a few ways they can accomplish these outcomes as the games begin.
Embrace the Local Talent
According tonews reports nationwide, March Madness can sometimes drive sales during the lengthy tournament.That’s why, with nearby Penn State in March Madness, Philadelphia’s newest luxury sports bar, Bankroll, looks forward to welcoming many customers for the first time. It should be a festive atmosphere: AToast study foundthat Philadelphians love beer with their sports.
For instance, during the recent Super Bowl pitting their Eagles versus the Kansas City Chiefs,Philadelphia metro area restaurants using the Toast platform on average served 109% more beer during Super Sunday 2023 than in 2022, while the Kansas City metro area restaurants on the Toast platform was only up 67%. Bankroll says it’s implementing technology that willoffer a unique diner experienceinvolving entertainment, fantastic food and upscale service.
Indeed, just as the quickest basketball players have advantages over the slower afoot, restaurants that have their speed games down are built to win. Johnny’s Hall of Fame, in downtown Des Moines, Iowa, understands this and is arming servers with handheld ordering tablets to give them real-time information on whether menu items are available or sold out, get orders to the kitchen faster, and save them steps back and forth from the stationary terminal while punching in orders from table to table. The latter benefit has become more important as outdoor seating has risen in recent years.
“This becomes especially valuable when ordering from the patio where a server might get stuck in the foot traffic from our customers,” Jimmy Owens, General Manager at Johnny’s Hall of Fame, recently told me.
Loyalty Slam Dunk
As noted earlier, March Madness can sometimes increase restaurant sales around the country, and this should be especially true for eateries in markets where teams are not only participating but expected to go deep into the tourney. One such example is Lawrence, Kansas, home ofthe No. 1 seedUniversity of Kansas Jayhawks. Fast-casual operators throughout the Kansas City metro, including Lawrence and Olathe, Kansas, may reap extra business from fans’ enthusiasm in the next three weekends.
With that in mind, Olathe-based fast-casual restaurantOscar’s Authentic Mexican Grill will not only likely enjoy the extra foot traffic but also will be thinking long-term, signing customers up for a points-based loyalty program that drives sales on off days. For example, since implementing its loyalty program, Oscarshas seen a 100% increasein sales over previous Tuesdays. Oscar’s shows that restaurants’ March Madness mindset can be about playing the long game and maximizing sales during and after the tournament.
Overall, March Madness is a huge opportunity for restaurants to boost their business, attract new customers and generate loyalty. If they are prepared, the next few weeks should be a slam dunk as diners enjoy their favorite meals while following the excitement.
He holds BS and MS degrees in Computer Science from MIT and currently leads innovation and business development initiatives at Toast.