Casual restaurant chains aim to score with new football promos

Photograph courtesy of TGI Friday's

Two weeks into football season, there’s no shortage of blitzing, blocking and punting. And then there’s the action on the gridiron.

The start of the NFL and college seasons has brought a slew of hard-knuckled promotional efforts from casual bar-and-grill chains. The come-ons are all aimed at fans looking for someplace that will keep them in drinks and grub while they watch the games. But the particulars of the pitches are as varied as pro squads’ hairstyles.

Here’s a sampling of the plays casual operators are running to snag business.

Applebee’s: ‘Hey, stay at home if you want’

Inside the casual leader’s 1,900 restaurants, the enticement is a three-course meal priced as low as $11.99. About 500 units are offering a second deal aimed at football fans who aren’t drawn off the couch by the first one. Every Monday during NFL season, stay-at-homes can get free deliveries of Applebee’s food via DoorDash. The orders have to top $25 for weeks two through four of the season. Then the threshold rises to $30.

The offer is aimed at fans of Monday Night Football, but it’s offered the whole day.

The resurging casual chain isn’t overlooking takeout business, either. Takeout customers can add fountain soft drinks to their orders for just 99 cents a serving.

Making Monday happier, even for Browns fans

Yard House, Darden Restaurants’ beer specialist, would prefer to pull football fans inside one of its bar-centric establishments on Monday nights. For the length of the pro season, it’s changing the times of its happy hours to coincide with the Monday game. The price of pizzas and appetizers are cut in half, and $2 is knocked off the charge for drinks, including cocktails and wine.

Hurricane Grill & Wings’ swag bag

The full-service sister of Fatburger is aiming to lock in hardcore fans by targeting fantasy football leagues. Groups that sign up to hold their player-draft session at one of the chain’s 76 or so restaurants are guaranteed a table. They’re also provided with a how-to kit for running a league, plus a booklet of coupons, beer holders for every participant and perks such as sunglasses. It values the giveaway at $125.

Buffalo Wild Wings’ big play

One of the open questions about this year’s football season is what gambling opportunities might be available to casual chains as a result of a Supreme Court decision a few months ago. A lot of eyes are on Buffalo Wild Wings in particular because of its partnership with DraftKings, a leading online betting site[MOU1] .

The results of that arrangement aren’t exactly Las Vegas scale right now. The partners are in effect offering an instant fantasy football contest. Users of BWW’s app can pick a team at the start and halftimes of two virtual games every Sunday. The customers who select the best-performing squads win non-cash prizes such as gift cards, free food and points in BWW’s loyalty program, not actual money.

That’s only part of BWW’s promotional efforts this fall. It’s also adopted an everyday value menu, the $5 Gameday Menu, though some of the items are priced higher than five bucks. Included are pitchers of beer, a group-oriented value option that has been a signature of a sister concept within the Roark Capital fold, Miller’s Ale House.

Football fans are also being encouraged to visit a BWW through a new overarching marketing campaign, “Escape to football,” where young men in difficult life situations find a much-needed break inside one of the brand’s restaurants.

TGI Fridays’ new football spokesman

The granddaddy of casual dining is aiming its big football pitch at fans of college-level play. It recently signed college football commentator Kirk Herbstreit to push a special football version of the chain’s $5 bargain menu. Herbstreit is also hosting a weekly promo video, accessible via Twitter, where he reviews highlights from the previous week’s games and previews college football’s next round of matchups.


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