Restaurants Kick Off Football Season

Staff Writer
Brands not typically associated with the sport also get in on the game

Photo Sasabune Omakase Modified: Flickr/erin/CC 4.0

Restaurant chains that specialize in wings, pizza and beer have launched National Football League promotions to capture the game-day spirit that seemed months ago to be lost to a prolonged labor dispute.

Buffalo Wild Wings began lobbying the NFL and the NFL Players Association to end the lockout when it began in March by circulating a “Save Our Season” petition to its Facebook fans. More than 45,000 signed. Football games are significant traffic-drivers for the Minneapolis-based chain, which has more than 780 units.

The 2011-2012 NFL season began on-time Thursday, and Buffalo Wild Wings is honoring its pledge to give away six wings every game day in September to every fan that signed the petition. Eligible fans can download a free-wing coupon from the brand’s Facebook page.

“Our restaurant teams are ready to deliver a great game-day experience and serve up more than 270,000 free wings,” Kathy Benning, executive vice president of marketing and brand development, said. “We’re wrapping up another season of fantasy draft parties in our restaurants, and with all the pro and college football rivalries kicking off this week, we’re more thrilled than ever to be the place to watch all the action.”

Buffalo Wild Wings also is running its 13-week Tablegating Challenge on the location-based smart-phone app SCVNGR.

Louisville, Ky.-based Papa John’s, marked its second season as official pizza sponsor of the NFL with the launch of its Million Pizza Giveaway earlier this week in anticipation of football season. The contest will award 60,000 large, one-topping pizzas at random every week to members of the chain’s Papa Rewards loyalty club.

Applebee’s, the approximately 2,000-unit chain, also is trying to increase its game-day traffic for Monday Night Football. The Overland Park, Kan.-based brand is hosting a Check-In & Win contest at its U.S. locations.

Fans can scan a quick-response code posted in restaurants or check in via Facebook Places to be entered into a sweepstakes giving away hundreds of gift cards each week. The grand prize is a VIP tour of ESPN Studios.

Even chains not typically associated with a sports atmosphere are tackling promotions for football fans, including bd’s Mongolian Grill and Straw Hat Pizza.

Burnsville, Minn.-based bd’s is promoting bd’s Tailgate Party through Oct. 30 by adding four new Create Your Own Mongo Burger choices — Angus, turkey, veggie or salmon — as well as bratwurst, for a limited time.

“Football season is all about family, friends and fun,” said Denise Head, vice president of marketing for 40-unit bd’s. “Adding burgers and brats to our menu creates the ideal tailgate party experience and is exactly what our guests want.”

The chain also will offer 50-cent Wing Appeteasers and stadium cups of Bloody Mary or Bloody Caesar cocktails, Bud Light draft beer, or IBC root beer.

Straw Hat Pizza will begin to offer chicken wings to celebrate football season. The wings come in five flavors — oven-roasted, hot, BBQ, teriyaki and sweet chili — and will be offered with beer specials. The wings also will be offered for 50 cents from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday.

San Ramon, Calif.-based Straw Hat Pizza has 86 locations.

— Mark Brandau

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