June 19 - World Cup games are scheduled during American lunch and dinner hours for the first time in two decades, providing a summer cash infusion for U.S. bars and restaurants eager to cater to fans. Conway G. Gittens reports.
For the first time in 20 years - this World Cup crowd can go wild together. Businesses like Buffalo Wild Wings are rolling out price cuts, special deals, and other perks to draw in World Cup crowds and the dollars. Matches this time around fall just in time for lunch and just after work, a game schedule not seen in two decades for American fans, which is boosting sales at a time usually hit by a summer lull. Traffic on the night the U.S. defeated Ghana was triple the norm for that time of week, says Jackie Alberici, event manager, at the chain's Times Square location. SOUNDBITE: JACKIE ALBERICI, EVENT MANAGER, BUFFALO WILD WINGS TIMES SQUARE (ENGLISH) SAYING: "Overall we are expecting a higher check average per table that comes in. As far as chicken wings sales go, we are looking at anywhere between a 20 and 30 percent increase." REPORTER ON CAMERA: CONWAY G. GITTENS, REUTERS REPORTER (ENGLISH) SAYING: "This location caters to a number of global Wall Street banks. There are six private events being held here tonight alone - expected to sell 5,000 wings in just one night." An eye-catching marquee outside and with nearly 100 TVs inside, the national chain is putting extra staff to work and even teaming up with World Cup sponsor Budweiser for an exclusive promotional app. SOUNDBITE: JACKIE ALBERICI, EVENT MANAGER, BUFFALO WILD WINGS TIMES SQUARE (ENGLISH) SAYING: "It is a free game. You play it when you are here and you have a chance to win real cool prizes through Budweiser. VIP tickets to Las Vegas viewing parties. One lucky winner will win a chance to see a live game over in England." But Buffalo Wild Wings is not alone. Chili's Grill and Bar is hanging this sign in its front door windows to draw in the crowd, spreading the word through its official Facebook and Twitter pages, and even encouraging employees to use personal social media accounts to drive traffic. Social media is a major tactic national chains are using to make sure sports fan know where the action is, says Hudson Riehle of the National Restaurant Association. SOUNDBITE: HUDSON RIEHLE, HEAD OF RESEARCH, NATIONAL RESTAURANT ASSOCIATION (ENGLISH) SAYING: "When you look at the typical demographics of soccer fans, it definitely does skew somewhat younger and more tech savvy and that aligns quite nicely with many of the ways restaurants have changed in terms of marketing and promotions of their business." And while social media may get World Cup fans in the door - operators know discounts will keep them there. TGI Friday's is cutting prices on its drinks to as low as $3 dollars on certain days. Houlihan's is offering New Jersey and Long Island sports fans specially priced drinks too, as well as a chance to win a Team USA replica jersey and other prizes. But national chains are not just competing against one another, smaller venues are also looking to cash in, with U.S. TV ratings much to cheer about.