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Do local bars and restaurants make more money during the NBA Playoffs?

In this 7 min read:

  • Do bars and restaurants make more money during the NBA playoffs?
  • Do bars and restaurants in cities with teams in the playoffs make more?
  • Does a deeper playoff run mean more money for local bars and restaurants?
  • Which types of playoff games were the biggest for local bars and restaurants?
  • Which playoff cities were the biggest for local bars and restaurants?
  • How to get the most out of the playoffs if you own a bar or restaurant

The NBA Playoffs means big business for TV networks and big national ad campaigns, but does it mean bigger business for local bars and restaurants? Do fans across the country—in NBA cities in particular—enjoy watching the NBA Playoffs in the company of fellow fans with a cold beer and a basket of hot wings?

Or do fans instead prefer to watch from the comfort of their own home, leaving relatively empty bars and restaurants during the big games?

We analyzed transaction data at over 42,000 local restaurants and bars during last year’s NBA playoffs to answer these questions and more.

Do bars and restaurants make more money during the NBA Playoffs?

Because the NBA Playoffs take place over the course of nearly two whole months, it’s a little challenging to determine if and when a restaurant or bar is doing more business than a given day. Particularly when you consider that bars and restaurants do much more business on weekends than on weekdays.

As you can imagine, comparing a first round game on a Wednesday night to a Conference Final game on a Friday night is an apples/oranges deal.

For example, on Monday, May 28th—Game 7 of the Western Conference Finals (and Memorial Day)—bars and restaurants across the country averaged 41% more than on a typical Monday. On Monday, April 16th—game 2s of the first round—saw bars and restaurants average a 7% drop in revenue compared to a typical Monday.

After looking at the average over or underperformance for each game of the playoffs, restaurants and bars across the country averaged an insignificant 0.52% boost in revenue.

But not all games are created equal. Do later rounds bring more consistent traffic in the door? And are things different in cities home to teams in the playoffs? Let’s dive deeper.

Do bars and restaurants in cities with teams in the playoffs make more money?

Next we analyzed performance at bars and restaurants in cities that were home to teams in last year’s NBA Playoffs (note: we did not have data for Toronto, Canada).

As you can see, having a hometown team in the playoffs translated to a modest increase in revenue compared to the national average.

Looking closer at bar and restaurant performance in cities when the hometown team is playing, though, shows a larger bump in revenue when the team is in town than when on the road. Perhaps due to the influx of tens of thousands of fans streaming in and out of the arena on gameday.

Do restaurants and bars make more money in later rounds or during bigger games?

Like we said earlier, not all NBA games are created equal. There’s bound to be more interest in a game 7 of the NBA Finals than a random first round game. There’s no question that bigger games translate to bigger TV ratings, but do they translate to more business for local bars and restaurants?

Let’s take a look.

Which round of the NBA Playoffs was the biggest for local bars and restaurants?

Starting with a round-by-round look at how bars and restaurants perform reveals some interesting insights. For starters, advancing deeper into the playoffs clearly translated to larger boosts in revenue for local bars and restaurants.

Cities with teams left in the round experienced boosts in revenue both on days when the hometown team was playing a game as well as throughout the round as a whole. Meanwhile, only the Conference Finals saw cities with eliminated teams experience a boost in revenue.

The Conference Finals, perhaps thanks to two exciting 7-game series, saw the largest increases in revenue across the board. That same logic seemingly translated in the next round as well. The NBA Finals, decided in an unexciting 4-game sweep, was the lowest performing of all rounds for local bars and restaurants.

That brought us next to take a look at how local bars and restaurants performed depending on the types of game being played.

Which games of an NBA playoff series are biggest for local bars and restaurants?

First we looked at games throughout the course of a given series, and one thing was immediately clear. Game 7s are a big deal for local bars and restaurants.

When a city was home to a team playing in a game 7, local bars and restaurants averaged 10% more in revenue than on comparable days. Cities with a game 7 at home saw that number jump to 12%.

This led us to wonder whether you could tie a game’s importance to consistent increases in revenue at bars and restaurants. So next we looked at revenue at bars and restaurants in cities where the hometown team was playing a “deciding” game.

Whether the team was playing on the road or at home, “deciding” games brought in 4 – 5% more revenue for local bars and restaurants. Interestingly, though, it’s the “win or go home” teams that seem to go out more on game day than the lower-pressure “win to advance” teams.

Which NBA cities were the biggest for bars and restaurants during the playoffs?

This brings us to the final, and most exciting question. We all know which city was home to the best team in basketball during last year’s NBA Playoffs, but did that translate to championship-sized boosts in revenue at local bars and restaurants?

Let’s take a look.

Washington topped the list of teams in the first round, with local bars and restaurants averaging 7% more than usual when the Wizards were playing their short-lived series. (The Washington Capitals NHL championship run took place at this same time, likely heavily impacting restaurant and bar revenue.)

Houston and Indianapolis tied for the 2nd spot, while Salt Lake City bars and restaurants came in dead last in average first round revenue. Interestingly, all five cities that experienced an average decrease in revenue during the first round were home to teams that advanced to the next round.

The second round saw Salt Lake City turn things completely around and claim the top spot of the list, with Philadelphia not far behind. Meanwhile, Cleveland and Boston bars and restaurants were clearly still not the place for locals to watch their teams play.

Houston natives were the most likely to go out to watch the Rockets play during the Western Conference Finals. Game 7 of the Rockets and Warriors series also brought a huge increase in average revenue for local bars and restaurants in Houston and the Bay Area (+40% in Houston and +38% in the Bay).

Interestingly, Eastern Conference fans clearly preferred to stay home to watch their teams play their decisive game 7. Boston and Cleveland bars and restaurants both experienced an 8% drop in typical revenue during the Eastern Conference Finals.

And finally, while Cleveland bars and restaurants outperformed their Bay Area rivals in during the NBA Finals, it’s clear that the short and decisive series likely left local business owners wishing for a more competitive and longer series.

What the NBA Playoffs (and other big events) could mean if you own a bar or restaurant

Do you own your own local bar or restaurant? Maybe even in a city home to a professional sports team? If so, do you see the NBA Finals (or other big sporting events) drive big business when your local team is in the mix?

It’s clear that long and exciting playoff series can mean boosts in business for local bars and restaurants, and not just to the big chain restaurants with hundreds of TVs. Try creative ways to draw customers to your restaurant during the NBA playoffs or any other sporting event. If you have TVs playing the games, make sure to feature that fact. If you don’t, try running special promos centered around delivery or takeout. Think about running special give-aways or contests.

Check out our post on 4 key elements for an effective marketing strategy for your restaurant for even more ideas and suggestions. And if you’re really looking to take your loyalty marketing game to the next round, Womply’s email marketing solution can help you build customer loyalty and revenue. Sign up for a free demo below to see how Womply has helped restaurants like yours increase revenue by 20%, see 22% more repeat customers, and save 10 hours of time per week.

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