March Madness in Michigan State Spartan Country: How do Lansing restaurants perform?

March Madness is huge around the country, but Michigan doubles down on the hype with both Michigan and Michigan State typically doing fairly well in the tournament. And few cities love their NCAA basketball more than East Lansing, home of the Michigan State Spartans.

As you might expect, March Madness brings big revenue to restaurants across the country, which see a significant boost. (Click here to read our detailed report.) To analyze the effects of March Madness on restaurants, we analyzed transaction data from 42,000 small, local businesses across the country in 2018, using revenue performance during the 2018 NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament.

Want to get more repeat business to your restaurant with just a few clicks? Loyalty marketing software can help. Learn more, plus get free reputation monitoring and customer insights when you sign up for Womply Free!

Do Lansing restaurants bring in more daily revenue during March Madness than during a typical weekend day?

If we start by looking at the daily revenue for restaurants in Lansing, we see they brought in an average of $1,483 per day during March Madness—a significant increase over the $1,162 average revenue on a typical day. However, because restaurants do the bulk of their business over the weekend, we see a significant, but more moderate bump when comparing March Madness to revenues over a typical Thursday through Sunday timeframe.

When comparing average daily revenue during March Madness against what restaurants would ordinarily expect on a Thursday through Sunday, restaurants nationwide generally made about 2% more. But restaurants in cities with teams in the tournament brought in about 4% more (double the national average).

Statewide, Michigan restaurants saw a 3.82% boost in daily revenue throughout the tournament, nearly on par with college towns who had teams in the tournament.

But the real winners were Lansing restaurants, who saw a daily March Madness revenue more than 8% greater than the national average weekend day—nearly four TIMES the boost experienced nationally, and double that of other cities with teams in the tournament. Go Spartans!

(Click here for our in-depth blog post detailing March Madness’s effect on restaurants in college towns.)

Do Lansing restaurants do better the as the tournament progresses?

Now let’s look at how Lansing restaurants performed throughout the tournament.

As you can see, Lansing restaurants saw a HUGE boost for the second round in 2018. These were the biggest days of the tournament for restaurants across the country, which may have been influenced by the fact that they were were the first Saturday games of the tournament (Saturdays are usually restaurants’ biggest earners) AND St. Patrick’s Day fell on that Saturday last year.

To get a more detailed look, we next compared how restaurants in Lansing performed for each day of the tournament against what they would normally expect on that day of the week.

In this graph the green line indicates a game day and a win, and the red line indicates a game day and a loss (since the Spartans made it to the second round in 2018 but lost in a barn-burner to Syracuse).

Michigan State’s second round game was played on a Sunday, which for Lansing restaurants didn’t bring in the gigantic pile of money that Saturday did, but it was still a big day with revenue almost 10% higher than a typical local Sunday.

Interestingly, the general trend is for restaurants in cities whose teams were eliminated to see better numbers on championship day than those in cities with teams playing in the championship. One possible reason for this might be that for the most important games, people prefer to watch them at home or at friends’ houses, rather than in a restaurant.

We can see clearly that Lansing restaurants followed that trend, with championship game day revenue well above a typical comparable day.

How did Lansing restaurants compare to the rest of Michigan as the tournament progressed?

We next examined how restaurants in Lansing performed as compared to the rest of the state.

Here we can see the general statewide trend toward smaller boosts over average the further the tournament progressed past the second round, with revenue falling well below national averages for the Elite 8, Final Four, and championship rounds.

Lansing bucks that trend with a gigantic lift for the Elite 8 round and for the championship game.

What can Lansing restaurants expect if the Spartans make it past the Sweet 16 this year?

Finally, we dug even deeper and compared Lansing restaurants’ revenue to other cities whose teams either did or didn’t progress in the 2018 tournament.

Here we see that restaurants in Lansing saw large swings in revenue, with huge peaks for the second round and for the Elite 8 round, but for the Final Four, their revenue dipped below even the national average.  

However, as we discussed above, Lansing restaurants’ revenue rebounded for a nice boost on the day of the championship game.

Of course, every March Madness is different, and it’s hard to predict whether a deep run in this year’s tournament would translate into big gains for Lansing restaurants.

However, looking purely at the national trend from last year’s tournament suggests that the longer a team remains in the tournament, the better it is for local restaurants in their area—the exception being the championship game.

How to get the most out of March Madness if you own a restaurant in a college town

If you own or manage a restaurant in the Lansing area, you should make hay while the sun shines and capitalize on this yearly tournament—whether Michigan State goes all the way or not.

If you typically see a nice bump in revenue during March Madness, consider ways to make the most of the increased traffic and extend those gains until well after the tournament. For example, you might take advantage of the increase in customers to boost your online reputation. Read our article on how to get more reviews for your restaurant for tips and ideas.

If your restaurant tends to struggle, on the other hand, think about ways you can drive extra customers to your restaurant. If you have TVs on site, you might encourage fans via social media to come watch the games at your restaurant. If you don’t have facilities for fans to watch the games with you, consider promotional deals on takeout or delivery. Read our 4 key elements to building an effective marketing strategy for your restaurant for more ideas.

Finally, consider using loyalty marketing software to help build repeat business. With automatic emails, reminders, and promotional offers, you can get more loyal customers with just a few clicks. This way, can get the most out of March Madness long after the cheers of the fans have stopped echoing.

Womply has helped restaurants like yours get 20% more revenue, 22% more repeat customer visits, and save 10 hours per week. Learn more, plus get free reputation monitoring and customer insights when you sign up for Womply Free!


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