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

As Super Bowl LIV approaches, Womply’s data science team was curious to know how the big game impacts revenue at restaurants and bars in towns with NFL teams, as well as for restaurants and bars across the country.

Interestingly, there are inconsistent reports regarding the real financial impact of hosting a Super Bowl. The Minnesota Vikings’ PR agency claimed a $450 Million windfall for the host city of Super Bowl LII. Another source said $370M, but the New York Times reported that the projected impact ($343M and $29M in tax revenue) was “overstated.”

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Regardless, it’s clear that for the host city, and for certain kinds of restaurants and bars across the nation, the Super Bowl means big business… but there are some surprises.

Let’s take a closer look at the data for restaurants nationwide first, and then we’ll examine the numbers for NFL team cities in particular.

How much impact does the Super Bowl have on restaurants and bars nationally?

Somewhat surprisingly, Super Bowl Sunday doesn’t appear to move the needle much for restaurants and bars nationwide, on average. 

For restaurants, total daily revenue is down, both compared to their average day and compared to an average Sunday.

For bars, revenue compared to their typical day was up, but for a Sunday, it was slower than usual.

Restaurants (sample size 36,000+):

  • Total revenue = -14% vs. the average day
  • Total revenue = -19% vs. a typical Sunday
  • 228th day of the year by revenue

Bars (sample size 3,100+):

  • Total rev = +24 vs. the average day… but
  • Total rev = -8% vs. average Sunday
  • 133rd day of the year by revenue

Super Bowl Sunday is huge for pizza restaurants

So we see that for restaurants and bars generally, Super Bowl Sunday may be kind of “meh,” but what about specific types of restaurants? Womply’s data shows that one particular type of restaurant definitely outperformed the rest.

Our common sense suggests that any restaurant with a heavy take-out component might do big business on days like Super Bowl Sunday, and for pizza restaurants in our sample, the big game definitely means big business.

Pizza Restaurants (sample size: 900+, includes takeout/delivery/sit down)

  • Super Bowl Sunday is the #1 Sunday of the year for pizza restaurants in our sample
  • Revenue is up +22% vs. the average day
  • Compared to a typical Sunday, revenue is up +26% 
  • It’s the 99th biggest day of the year overall
  • #7 biggest increase in sales vs. the comparable day of the week (so it feels quite busy compared to a typical Sunday)

pizza restaurant patrons enjoying super bowl

In which cities did Super Bowl Sunday have the biggest impact on local revenue at restaurants and bars?

Restaurants (sample size 100 or more) 

  1. Hartford, CT
    Hartford restaurants enjoyed a whopping 61% lift compared to the average day, and 43% more revenue than the average Sunday.
  2. Scranton, PA
    Scranton restaurants saw a 43% boost compared to an average day, 31% more than a typical Sunday.
  3. Atlanta, GA (host of the Super Bowl in 2019):
    Local restaurants were up +16% vs. the average day and +1% vs. the average Sunday. It was the 121st biggest day of the year, and the 23rd-ranked Sunday.
    Although it wasn’t a massive day, hosting the super bowl had enough of a positive impact on Atlanta restaurants for them to see the biggest increase compared to the average day of any “Super Bowl town” in our analysis.
    It’ll be interesting to see if Super Bowl LIV impacts Miami restaurants enough for it to claim the top spot this year.
  4. Philadelphia, PA
    The Philly metro area saw a 13% jump in revenue on Super Bowl Sunday compared to their average day, and a 6% increase compared to a typical Sunday.
  5. Poughkeepsie/Newburgh, NY
    Restaurants in this metro area enjoyed a 13% increase in daily revenue compared to average, but actually performed -7% worse compared to their typical Sunday.
  6. Cincinnati, OH
    Cincinnati metro area restaurants’ daily average revenues were up 12% on Super Bowl Sunday compared to a typical day, but compared to their average Sunday this boost was only 1%.
  7. Detroit, MI
    Detroit restaurants’ average daily revenue spiked 10% last Super Bowl, but they were still down -4% compared to their typical Sunday.
  8. Chicago, IL
    This area experienced a modest 5% jump in revenue compared to an average day, but this worked out to a -16% drop compared to the average Sunday in Chicago area restaurants.
  9. Las Vegas/Henderson, NV
    A 4% boost compared to an average day was welcome at Las Vegas area restaurants, but the Super Bowl didn’t make this particular Sunday perform any better here: revenue was down -9% compared to a typical Sunday.
  10. Baltimore, MD
    Baltimore metro area restaurants’ daily revenue was up by 3% compared to the average day, but down -9% versus their typical Sunday.

Bars and Lounges

  1. Las Vegas, NV
    While the area didn’t see much of a boost at restaurants, Las Vegas bars and lounges performed best on our list, with a whopping 127% increase in average daily revenue which works out to 83% better than a typical Sunday, We can only speculate that this is due to lots of people watching (and perhaps betting on) the big game at their favorite bar or lounge.
  2. Pensacola, FL
    Floridians obviously love watching the Super Bowl at their favorite watering hole, as area bars and lounges enjoyed a huge 120% boost in average daily revenue, and 82% more than a typical Sunday.
  3. El Paso, TX
    An impressive 101% increase in daily revenue for El Paso bars and lounges compared to the average day works out to a modest 3% increase compared to their typical Sunday. This suggests that, for bars and lounges in our sample, Sundays are unusually busy compared to other parts of the country.
  4. Wichita, KS 
    Wichita area bars and lounges enjoyed a 97% increase in daily average revenue last Super Bowl Sunday, or a 34% increase compared to their average Sunday.
  5. Boston, MA
    Patriots fans likely drove the very respectable 84% increase in daily revenue enjoyed by Boston area bars and lounges, which was 18% greater than their typical Sunday figures.
  6. Davenport IA
    Bars and lounges in Davenport and environs experienced a 71% boost, or 21% better than their typical Sunday.
  7. Raleigh, NC
    The Raleigh metro area supported its local bars and lounges to the tune of 71% more revenue than a typical day, or 16% up compared to an average Sunday.
  8. Cincinnati, OH
    Cincinnati residents clearly enjoy going out to see the big game, spurring top-ten placings on both the restaurants and bars/lounges lists. Area bars and lounges enjoyed a healthy 70% boost in daily revenue compared to average, or 25% more than a typical Sunday.
  9. Kansas City, MO
    KC metro bars and lounges performed well last year, with 64% and 23% increases in revenue compared to the average day and the average Sunday, respectively. What can we expect with the Chiefs heading to the Super Bowl this year? Time will tell!
  10. Detroit, MI
    Another metro area with top-ten rankings in both restaurants and bars/lounges, Detroit’s bar patrons boosted daily revenues by 62%, or 9% greater than the average Sunday.

How much does having a team in the Super Bowl impact a city’s restaurants, bars, and lounges? Let’s look at Boston vs. L.A.

Restaurants:

During Super Bowl Sunday last year (Patriots vs. Rams), Boston and L.A. restaurants overall both took significant hits.

Boston restaurants were down -19% vs. their average day, and -23% compared to their typical Sunday. For revenue the day was ranked 247 for the year, and almost the worst Sunday of the entire year at 48th.

In L.A. the story wasn’t quite as bad, but still restaurant sales were down -8% compared to their average, and they saw a painful -26% drop compared to a typical Sunday in the area.

Even worse, Super Bowl Sunday was dead last in revenue compared to other Sundays throughout the year, and the day was ranked 187 overall.

Pizza restaurants:

On the other hand, pizza restaurants experienced a windfall during the Super Bowl in both of these towns, with Boston posting a healthy 27% boost compared to a typical day, up 40% versus the average Sunday (day rank 64) and it was the top Sunday all year.

L.A. may have lost the game but local pizza restaurants won this contest, with a huge 85% jump in revenue compared to the average day, and 68% more revenue than their typical Sunday. That Sunday ranked #1 for all Sundays throughout the year, and overall the day ranked #4. Tubular!

Bars and lounges:

Boston area bars and lounges benefited from an 84% surge in revenue compared to the average day, and an +18% bump versus a typical Boston Sunday. (Day rank: 39; Sunday rank: 13)

In the Los Angeles metro, bars and lounges in our sample brought in 39% greater revenue for the day compared to average, but this was actually -11% slower than a typical Sunday in the area. (Day rank: 94; Sunday rank: 44).

How about restaurants, bars, and lounges in Super Bowl LIV’s team cities: Kansas City vs. San Francisco

Obviously with their teams in this year’s big game, these cities will mostly likely show different numbers this year than last, but here’s what we have based on last year’s data:

Restaurants:

The Kansas City and San Francisco metro areas posted typical restaurant numbers during the Super Bowl last year, with KC metro down -11% versus the average day, and -20% compared to the average Sunday (day rank: 196; Sunday rank 46).

San Francisco/Oakland metro’s numbers were similar, down -15% versus their average day, and -26% compared to their typical Sunday (day rank: 251; Sunday rank 49—the fourth-worst Sunday for restaurants all year)

However, at pizza restaurants specifically, it was a much different story.

Pizza restaurants:

In the S.F./Oakland metro, pizza joints had their number one Sunday of the entire year, and their third biggest day overall, with a 70% increase in revenue compared to average, and 49% more revenue than their typical Sunday.

Our sample size was not large enough for an accurate evaluation of Kansas City metro area pizza restaurants for 2019.

Bars and lounges:

In the K.C. metro area, bars and lounges enjoyed a huge 66% bump in revenue compared to the average day, which was 18% up from their typical Sunday (day rank: 37; Sunday rank 7).

San Francisco/Oakland showed a healthy 16% boost compared to average, and 26% more revenue versus the average Sunday (day rank: 133; Sunday rank 51).

It remains to be seen whether their trip to the big dance this year will have a significant impact on revenue

Super Bowl Sunday for the average business: not the best, but far from the worst

Just because revenues for most businesses 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 for most businesses (pizza restaurants and bars/lounges being the obvious exceptions).

Also, 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 poor restaurant 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. Also 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 restaurant tables will be low, and there won’t be much you can do to increase sales during the game.

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.

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