draw big crowds


Use these tricks and attract large crowds to your sports bar.

Major sporting events provide a unique opportunity for sports bars and restaurants. Whether your customers are arriving solo or in groups, fans are seeking out other fans to shout at the screen, revel (or commiserate), and bond with. Give them what they’re looking for! A big crowd of people to view the game with, in an exciting atmosphere.

If you have the right set-up for large crowds but don’t seem to be attracting big numbers, we have some ideas for how you change that:

  1. Offer attractive menu specials.
  2. Give a marketing push to spread the word.
  3. Encourage word-of-mouth by consistently giving top-notch service and electric viewing atmosphere.
  4. Use a top-of-the-line bar point of sale that manages inventory, tracks sales, and can be updated daily with specials.

For sports bars, large crowds are vital for the business to thrive. Not only do game-watchers consume more food and beverages, they tell their friends about your sports bar. Keeping them happy requires some planning and excellent service, but over time, these sports fans turn into loyal patrons.

Below we reveal different ways of turning a trickle of fans into a roaring flush of busy tables and crowded bar areas.

Do people know they can watch sporting events at your bar?

You might have an all-access, sports-channel cable package, but that’s not enough to see an uptick in sales—you must shout it out to the public. Send out emails, take out radio ads, and write the times of the games in your menus; until you have attracted enough customers, don’t overlook any opportunity to advertise your sports bar as the venue to view a game.

Cast a wide net of potential customers by using multiple channels:

  1. Passers-by—If you’re in a heavy foot-traffic area, get a sidewalk chalkboard and write the daily schedule of games you are showing. This simple approach is extremely effective. Anyone walking by could be a fan or know someone who wants to watch a game, and word will spread organically.
  2. Social media followers—Like the way you do with the chalkboard, post a daily game-day schedule on your social media platforms. Make a bigger impact on Instagram by posting an additional photo every day. In addition to the schedule, alternate content subjects to show people what to expect, such as photos of food specials, fans shouting at the screen, or a group of friends saying cheers! These moments highlight different aspects of your sports bar and can draw in more customers a
  3. Family and friends—Not your family and friends—your customers’! Offer a round of free shots or a pitcher of beer for groups of four or more. Print out coupons and affix them to checks, or simply have your FOH team spread the word about this special as guests come in.
  4. Email blast—With a catchy subject line, send a weekly email to everyone in your restaurant’s email database that includes the game schedule. (Not sure what the subject line should be? Make it your menu specials! Buy two pitchers, get the third free.)
  5. Go guerrilla—Guerrilla marketing is one of the most effective marketing styles for restaurants. The only rule for successful guerrilla marketing: Don’t be boring.
  • Start a flash dance mob in the center of town and pass out flyers at the end.
  • With chalk, make a pathway that leads guests to your front doors.
  • Hire a local musician to sit outside and sing sporting songs.
  • Set up a grill on the sidewalk and offer free hot dogs with a drink-special coupon.
  • Go wild with your exterior decorations.

Be imaginative. The central characteristic of guerrilla marketing should stick out as positive, strong, and emotional. With a fun guerrilla tactic, people will associate having fun with your sports bar and will stop by to check it out for themselves.

In the upcoming weeks and months, use all your marketing channels to attract customers. Remain consistent and, in time, your advertising and marketing moves will create a tidal wave of response.

Offer Irresistible Menu Specials

The basics of hosting a sports-game viewing party are similar to hosting a great happy hour:

  1. Serve killer drink specials.
  2. Offer food and drink specials during the hours of the games.
  3. Schedule an alert and attentive staff.
  4. Attract sports fans.
  5. Be consistent: serve delicious food, high-quality drinks, and give excellent customer service every time.

Sporting events are prime times to sell, so schedule your best staff members when you expect big crowds. An alert staff that anticipates your guests’ needs, quickly takes orders, and is speedy in delivering requests is a major component to your success as a buzzing sports bar.

Since food and beverage discounts are deciding factors for most people, go all out. To stick out from the competition, offer hard-to-resist discounts, and in addition to your regular specials, offer specific discounts depending on the sporting activity being broadcasted. For example:

  • In honor of the World Cup’s host country, offer vodka cocktail specials and Russian-inspired pizzas and snacks.
  • For Formula 1, create a different cocktail based on the location of the race.
  • Offer a new special each quarter during football games. For 15 minutes, offer extra-low drink prices, a basket of appetizers, or super-sized cocktails.

The better the prices and the more unique the specials, the harder they are for customers to resist.

Triple-Check the Details

Since your marketing outreach is bound to attract more customers, double-check the technical details to avoid disappointing fans.

  1. Every morning, check that all equipment is working, including the television, speakers, and satellite or cable connection.
  2. Schedule enough staff to manage the crowds.
  3. Update your sports bar POS system with the daily specials.
  4. Triple-check that inventory is full.

Venues for watching a game are as important as the game itself. It’s not just the trendy nightclubs that are scrutinized by patrons, but even local sports bars are judged by their ambiance. Great bars have a certain vibe when people walk in for the first time, and that first impression can make all the difference in the world. 

It’s the sports photos on the walls, the lighting, the layout of the tables, the pool tables, the flat screens all over with multiple games on; it’s everything that encompasses what people expect in an awesome sports bar. Give sporting fans an exciting atmosphere with hard-to-resist specials and excellent customer service, and you will grow an engaged, loyal patronage over time.

Finally, any Realtor who’s worth their weight will tell you that Location Is Everything! This certainly holds true when it comes to where these bars are located in relation to getting customers. Larger establishments need to be in an area that’s going to pull higher traffic. Smaller sports bars in a small town; they can still prove to be successful just by gaining customers from their immediate local market.

When serving large crowds, complications can arise with customers. See these five steps for handling unhappy diners and diffusing tense situations.