Super Bowl Sunday: a boost or bust for local restaurants & bars?

The Super Bowl influence factor

As Super Bowl LII approaches, we wanted to know how the big game impacts sales in towns with NFL teams. So, our data science team at Womply analyzed transactions at small, local businesses—especially restaurants and bars—in every city with an NFL team for every Sunday of the NFL regular and postseason last year. Here’s what we found:

  • Nationally, revenue at small restaurants, bars, and similar businesses is the same on Super Bowl Sunday as it is every other Sunday during the NFL season.
  • Surprisingly, the only real bump in revenue for small businesses across the board is during the divisional playoffs.
  • The good news: cities with NFL teams typically see moderately higher revenues than non-NFL cities during the entire NFL season.

It’s the biggest day money-making day for the NFL. It’s one of the biggest days for advertisers. But for most small businesses, it’s no different than any given Sunday.

One big exception: Boston

Last year, local businesses in Boston, home to Patriots, who won last year’s Super Bowl, got a 58% boost in revenue on Super Bowl Sunday. Sales in Atlanta, home of the Patriots’ opponent, the Falcons, were below average. Seems like everything tips the Patriots’ way, right?

A slightly smaller exception: Houston

It appears hosting the Super Bowl can give local restaurants and bars a bump, too. Sales at Houston businesses rose 48% on the day of the big game in ‘17. We’re keeping a close on Minneapolis, this year’s host city, to see if businesses there see a similar trend.


It is not the best, but it is far from the worst

Just because revenues don’t increase during the game doesn’t mean game night won’t be busy. It just means it’s not more profitable than your average Sunday game night. Our analysis focused on total sales, but the timing of those sales is another matter entirely. For example, it could be that a lot of folks watched the game at home and then went out for drinks afterward, which would cause a spike in traffic to bars in a small window of time. 

As for the sales numbers, at first blush, we were a bit surprised ourselves. The Super Bowl is considered a huge day for consumerism, so we expected to see a big lift. But if you think about it, the Super Bowl is just one four-hour game. Factor in the capacity constraints and the fact that most Super Bowl watchers won’t be leaving before the game is over, turn-over rates for most tables will be low, and there won’t be much you can do to increase sales during the game.

Fun Fact: in 2017 the average cost per 30-second commercial cost $5.05 million. Last year, they made $534 million in ad sales. More interesting still, only 58% of Americans say they watch the Superbowl for the game. Coming in at 46%, the second highest reason people watch is for the commercials [source].

All in all, this is not bad news for small, local businesses. It’s a regular day and a great day to connect with your friends, family, and customers to cheer on your team. You may even consider using the opportunity to connect with some of your loyal customers. Just because it’s not a killer sales day, doesn’t mean it can’t be a good day for business.

One last insight: The best revenue opportunities, from virtually every angle, are actually on divisional playoff weekend. During divisional playoffs, more teams play, which means more people have a vested interest in at least one game. With the playoffs being earlier in the season, most people have not yet reached the point where they are planning at-home social engagements.

The overall lesson is pretty clear—if you want to cash in on post-season football, look beyond the Super Bowl and focus on earlier rounds of playoffs, especially if you’re a bar or restaurant.


How do the biggest cities compare?

Below we’ve listed you’ll find the top cities and how their sales compared to their average revenue on Super Bowl Sunday.

A quick note on how to read this list: The number listed next to the city is the percentage of the average day’s sales. When we see 158% next to Boston, that tells us they saw a 58% rise in their average NFL-season Sunday sales. Dallas came in with a perfect 100%, meaning they neither saw an increase or decrease in sales. And coming in 19% below average, we see that Nashville and Pittsburgh only saw 81% of their average sales on the day of the Super Bowl.

  1. Boston, MA – 158% [The Patriots have had five Super Bowl wins]
  2. Baltimore, MD – 156%  [The Ravens have had two Super Bowl wins]
  3. Houston, TX – 148%
  4. Cincinnati, OH – 136%
  5. Jacksonville, FL – 120%
  6. Buffalo, NY – 120%
  7. Charlotte, NC – 118%
  8. Oakland, CA – 113%  [The Raiders have had three Super Bowl wins]
  9. Phoenix, AZ – 110%
  10. Tampa, FL – 109%
  11. Indianapolis, IN – 109%
  12. Los Angeles, CA – 109%
  13. Miami, FL – 107%  [The Dolphins have had two Super Bowl wins]
  14. Seattle, WA – 105%
  15. New Orleans, LA – 103%
  16. Denver, CO – 101%  [The Broncos have had three Super Bowl wins]
  17. Cleveland, OH – 101%
  18. Dallas, TX – 100% [The Cowboys have had five Super Bowl wins]
  19. Kansas City, MO – 99%
  20. Green Bay, WI – 98% [The Packers have had four Super Bowl wins]
  21. New York, NY – 97% [The Giants have had four Super Bowl wins]
  22. Minneapolis, MN – 97%
  23. Chicago, IL – 96%
  24. Washington, DC – 91%
  25. Detroit, MI – 91%
  26. Atlanta, GA – 91%
  27. Philadelphia, PA – 85%
  28. San Francisco, CA – 84% [The 49ers have had five Super Bowl wins]
  29. Nashville, TN – 81%
  30. Pittsburgh, PA – 81% [The Steelers have had six Super Bowl wins]

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