What is in this article?:
- Olympics fail to attract more casual-dining sales, traffic
- Hockey a bright spot
- Looking beyond Sochi
Many executives anticipate other major sporting events, notably the NCAA basketball tournament during March Madness and the 2014 World Cup this summer, to have a bigger effect on traffic and sales.
Spectators at Fado in Chicago
Hockey a bright spot
Several operators have noted anecdotally that some events in which American teams and athletes were expected to compete for gold medals — particularly hockey — did boost sales and traffic in their restaurants.
Pudduck of 400-plus-unit Hooters made a second phone call to Nation’s Restaurant News from the restaurant in the Cumberland neighborhood of its headquarters city of Atlanta, noting in a voicemail that hundreds of customers had showed up to cheer on the United States’ men’s hockey team in a semifinal matchup against Canada.
“It is packed,” Pudduck said. “There are a ton of people here, and they’re definitely viewing and enjoying the hockey game. For sure, today will be a great day for the industry, but we’re also looking forward to March, where pretty much every day of the [NCAA basketball] tournament is like this.”
Eric Peterson, director of operations for Atlanta-based Fadó Irish Pub, said the Olympics have been more of a boon to the 14-unit chain than to other sports-friendly brands because the Winter Games match the excitement of international soccer, the sport that drives much of Fadó’s game day traffic.
“It’s most specifically around men’s hockey and a little with women’s hockey,” Peterson said. “On the more popular sports readily accessible to people, we’ve promoted against them and seen incremental crowds. It brings out that nationalist pride no matter where you’re from. That gets people more hooked into the pub, and they’ve been extending their visit for one more appetizer or one more pint.”
As it does for soccer games for the English Premier League, Fadó opened its restaurants early in the morning to let crowds watch Olympic hockey games live.
“We opened up early last week for Team USA versus Russia, and we had 100 people, so it was well worth it,” Peterson said. “It was probably comparable to crowds in some locations for [a Champions League game between] Manchester City and Barcelona.”
Even for less popular sports like curling or ice dancing, as long as American athletes have a chance to advance, customers stick around longer to see how their countrymen do, he added.
“I’m not a hockey guy; I’m a USA guy,” Peterson said. “When we’re in the medal hunt, I’m into it, but I couldn’t tell you how to do a triple axle on ice skates.”