Whether you have 10 or 100 TVs in your restaurant, understanding the elements that create a great sports bar experience requires organization, planning, and review.
Here are eight things every sports bar must have. Follow them and you will grow. Ignore them and your guests will eventually look elsewhere for the service standards.
#1 The Latest Technology
The restaurant industry truly led the pervasion of HD TV. Since the 2000s, the technology has taken several leaps forward. Unfortunately, many sports-themed operators are still employing technology solutions from the 1970s. Your goal should be to make your average sports fan fantasize about having your A/V system in their home.
With today’s matrix systems, content can be deployed to any and all TVs using a tablet or mobile phone to control all elements of the A/V. What’s even more apparent is that guests expect us to deliver a technologically advanced experience. This is especially true of the Millennials who frequent your establishment.
Giving the guest a sense that you employ the newest technology to satisfy their viewing requests can be a point of enormous differentiation. The cost of these new technologies can feel daunting, but the urgency for your guests should justify it. By improving the overall A/V experience in your restaurant, you further prove to your guests that you are focused on delivering what they want to watch -- where and when they want to watch it.
#2 Sight-lines to a Lot of TVs
When is the last time you sat in your location and experienced your restaurant through the eyes of a guest? One terrific exercise is to sit at every seat and count how many TVs you can view from there. If the number is less than two, then you need to review your TV placements. They might need to be moved or more TVs may need to be added.
Your guests want to see multiple TVs. That’s why they are visiting your location instead of staying home. Likely you installed those TVs before you ever saw your restaurant populated. The easy approach is to do a heat map and mark each table by the number of TVs it can comfortably view. Then ensure that you place the TVs to increase or maximize guests’ viewing. As a general rule, the viewer should be able to read titles on the screen.
#3 Let Guests Know What’s Available
We know that guests are coming to you specifically to watch sports. If you are a sports-themed operator and your mission isn’t to create the easiest, most carefree viewing experience for your guests, then it might be time to change concepts. The most basic method of facilitating viewing is making clear what you can provide the guest for content. If you use the SportsTV Guide then you know what’s on.
But are you sharing that info with your guests? By posting the list of games you can show, you are telling the guests that sports are a priority.
One feature of the SportsTV Guide is our RSS feed, where you can embed your available programming right onto your website. No matter what your approach, informing the guest as to what you will show is a smart way to convince them yours is the best place to watch the game.
#4 Comfortable Seats
Making your restaurant as comfortable as possible has been a standard in dining over that past 10 years. Whether you make overstuffed chairs/recliners available or just ensure that your bar stools have backs and arms, comfortable furniture can be a huge point of differentiation.
For the typical football game, a guest is in your location for up to three hours. Passing that time in a seat that accommodates you well is a benchmark your guests will consider when picking where to watch the game.
#5 Great Wi-Fi Connection/Service
Studies have found that 40% of guests consider free, reliable Wi-Fi to be crucial to their dining decision. This is second only to whether a restaurant posts their menus online.
The good news is the infrastructure necessary to deliver a great Wi-Fi experience is inexpensive. Whether you want to just give it away or require an email address to “log-in,” guests will appreciate the convenience of using your Wi-Fi versus their own data.
There are several companies that provide all the infrastructure to require a guest to give their email address to get access to your Wi-Fi. This is a simple method to build your email list and direct market to guests that have accessed your connectivity. Zenreach claims that guests who register in their installed locations visit 65% more often than those who don’t. It’s clear proof that making their Internet experience easier is a potent influence on a guest’s dining choice.
#6 Hot Bartenders
Ok, so this headline sounds terrible, but it’s comes with a dose of reality. Hot isn’t exclusively a comment on appearance. Hotness for bartenders can be measured by their personality, energy, mixology skills in addition to just appearance. Having an incredibly handsome bartender with no personality or pouring skill is probably worse than having your creepy Uncle whose pants are always falling down tending bar at your place.
The sports-themed restaurant segment is particularly driven by regulars. One sure fire method for converting new guests to regular status is having a hot bartender engage them. Train your team to pay attention to new folks, ask them questions about themselves, and make them feel welcomed.
#7 Great Craft Beer Selection
While you may be weary of this conversation, your guests are not. The new norm is to have a ton of interesting beers both on tap and bottle. Gone are the days when Bud was a winning beer menu strategy. This is especially true of Millennials as they redefine consumer expectations across industries -- especially ours.
Even if you can’t implement more draft lines, at least review what you are doing with the ones you have now. It’s imperative that you know your audience today, but also appreciate that their make-up is changing. Remember, craft beer is going to become more important, not less. So, if you can’t adjust your taps, try adding some bottled options including growlers or large-format bottles to add variety and excitement to your beer menu. It’ll make for a better viewing experience if your beer is as nuanced as your football team.
#8 Amazing Chicken Wings
In a spirit of directness, most restaurants that attempt wings simply get it wrong. The original Frank’s Red Hot inspired wings included butter and the wings being tossed with warm sauce while reducing the mixture in a sauté pan. This extra step allows the sauce to bind on the wings instead of dripping off. Additionally, the butter limits the vinegar impression that hot sauces can leave if untreated.
Operators that shortcut the process by pre-making butter-cut hot sauce or worse, tossing the wings directly into the sauce, cheapen an amazing food. Delivering great wings matters. That’s why so many successfully sports-themed operators put that in their names: Buffalo Wild Wings, Wild Wing Café, Hurricane Wings, Wing Stop, Buffalo Wings & Rings… you get the point.