Cinderella story: Restaurants win during March Madness

March 14, 2011 | by Alicia Kelso
Cinderella story: Restaurants win during March Madness

Behold the madness – as college basketball fans scramble to solidify their brackets and argue over their team’s superiority, restaurants are scrambling to fulfill a boost in demand.

According to new research by the National Restaurant Association, 20 percent of American adults plan on watching some part of March Madness at a restaurant or bar, or order takeout or delivery from one.

Restaurants planning to offer special-price deals, as well as those that have the best televisions will be the big winners come tip-off.

“Sports-themed establishments are not the only ones catering to college basketball fans – many restaurants and bars will attract a crowd during the upcoming games,” said Hudson Riehle, senior vice president of the Research and Knowledge Group for the NRA. “More than half of guests are looking for happy hour specials and high-quality television options when selecting a restaurant or bar to cheer on their favorite team, but about one-fifth also look to menu options when choosing where to go.”

Special-price deals, such as happy hour, are the biggest draw for hoops fans, with 34 percent identifying that as their most important factor when choosing a restaurant or bar for the games.

Twenty-five percent say they look for the best selection of televisions when choosing where to go, and 19 percent choose the place with the best food and drink choices. In addition, 17 percent pick their favorite restaurant or bar, while 4 percent go where fans of their favorite team gather.

Additionally, 16 percent of consumers who watch the game at home or a friend’s house will order takeout or delivery. Eight percent said they will go out to a restaurant or bar to watch the games, and 4 percent of consumers plan on doing both throughout the tournament.

Men are more likely than women to say they are going out or ordering takeout for the games; 24 percent versus 15 percent. In addition, younger consumers are more likely than older ones to do so; 28 percent of adults ages 18-34 versus less than 15 percent of adults age 55 and older.

Pizza fuels NCAA parties

Pizza chains are taking advantage of the anticipated delivery boost, offering a variety of March Madness promotions.

Domino’s, recently named The Official Pizza of the NCAA, has launched the Domino’s Pizza Bracket on its Facebook page, as well as a special NCAA March Madness Pizza Tracker.

The Domino's Pizza Bracket features each pizza "competitor" seeded based on popularity, and placed in the region appropriate to its toppings. As fans vote, their favorite pizzas will advance, eventually leading to the crowning of the champion pizza, coinciding with the week of the NCAA Men's Final Four. The bracket is available for viewing today, and voting begins Thursday.

Pizza Hut will offer free slices of pizza at designated locations throughout the United States if a 16 seed beats a No. 1 in the first round, something that’s never happened in the history of the tournament.

Pizza Inn is offering an online college basketball bracket challenge for customers with the chance to win free pizza for a year.

The Pick’Em Challenge is available on the Pizza Inn website. Fans can register now and have until noon March 17 to finalize their picks. The Pick’Em Challenge will award one first place prize of free pizza for a year. Second, third, fourth and fifth place prizes will each receive a $100 Pizza Inn gift card.

San Diego-based Flippin’ Pizzais celebrating March Madness with its Create-A-Pie contest, which offers customers the chance to submit their pizza creations on the company’s Facebook fan page.

"Referees" from the company will post the top 16 Create-A-Pie picks March 17 before the competition begins March 18. Flippin’ Pizza fans will be able to move their favorite choices to the next round by “liking” the creations on the Facebook page.

Do you anticipate a boost in restaurant business during the tournament?

Photo provided by joelogon.

Topics: Customer Service / Experience, Delivery, Domino's Pizza, Food & Beverage, Marketing / Branding / Promotion, National Restaurant Association, Online / Mobile / Social, Online Ordering, Pizza Hut, Pizza Inn, Trends / Statistics

Alicia Kelso
Alicia has been a professional journalist for 15 years. Her work with, and has been featured in publications around the world, including NPR, Good Morning America, Voice of Russia radio, and Franchise Asia magazine. View Alicia Kelso's profile on LinkedIn

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