Business and Operations
Giorgio’s corner: January-February 2017
By Giorgio Taverniti
Making the most of the sports season
By Giorgio Taverniti
Millions of people love watching sports. Rain or shine, winter or summer – the thrill of cheering on our favourite teams is contagious and during peak seasons even casual fans jump on the bandwagon. Depending on the month and the weather, the traffic a restaurant receives may multiply in the heat of playoffs or finals.
So how do you prepare for the sports season and what you hope is a great winning streak for the home team? For me, organization, editing of my menu, strategic staffing, extended hours and social media marketing are key factors.
First off, not every sport is for every person. Understanding your customers and recognizing which sports they will likely want to see is crucial in order to have a profit and not a loss. I’m in the heart of Corso Italia in Toronto, so right off the bat I know soccer is a giant sport for the area. We grew up watching every soccer game as a family or with friends. It’s an unwritten rule that you need to watch these games; it’s also a genuine happy feeling watching the team you favour win and celebrating that win with its supporters. As the soccer season nears, my patrons often ask me, “George, when are you bringing out the flat screen? Soccer season is around the corner . . . get on that.” I know they want to see the game, not at home but at my restaurant. I know the demand for watching this sport is there, and even though I’m not a pub or sports bar, I too want a piece of the “sports pie.” I want that increase in new traffic, I want to make my current customers happy and I love to watch, or at least listen to, the games with them. I don’t usually have a big flat screen TV in my restaurant; however, I make this exception for the Euro Cup and World Cup soccer events as well as for the baseball season.
I make sure I am prepared because I don’t want my regular patrons going elsewhere to enjoy a cold beer and great food. I also want to entice newcomers who would rather have gourmet pizza, pasta or good old-fashioned Italian food with their game over the typical bar food selection. Being ready for these events means bringing in a TV if need be, offering different menu items and keeping all items in stock.
The next step is to know what to edit on your menu during the sports season. Having a smaller restaurant means I can eliminate items that take longer to prepare even on a regular day to ensure the steady flow of traffic and service never slows. Because my orders and traffic quadruple during this time, cutting down my menu is vital. In fact, I often create a special smaller menu for those events.
I also add items I know will be more popular during this time, for example, a wider beer selection. During soccer events, I stock more European beers, and during the football and baseball seasons I add a local or new beer to my roster that I wouldn’t normally carry because the demand isn’t there. The subtractions and additions help me offer something new and ensure everyone receives their orders quickly.
An increase in traffic means you need all hands on deck. Have more than enough coverage at all times. There is always something to do in a restaurant, especially when your traffic has multiplied. Prepare your staff ahead of time by letting them know you need them for extra shifts. Tell them they may need to work beyond the normal hours for these events and that there may not be a time limit. When Italy won the World Cup in 2006, my staff and I stayed until the party died down. They agreed to this beforehand. Remember that not every game schedule will coincide with your time code or hours of operation. Your business hours need to be altered according to the game schedule.
Lastly, market your business before and during these events. Social media is the easiest and greatest free marketing tool with the largest reach. The new changes you’re making for the events may not be known to all of your customers and possible newcomers. Posting on Twitter, Facebook, Snapchat and Instagram about what you are offering or gently reminding followers that you are open for these events keeps you in the game and ensures you are not overlooked as a dining or viewing option. Simply posting a photo of a pizza pie and a reminder of the game time really engages people. Throw in a video of the food being made with the team banner or logo in the background or even you wearing your favourite team’s jersey: this makes you relatable and memorable. Also, using the hashtags on social media can pay off as people that don’t normally follow you can see your post and image linked to the Jays game or Super Bowl event.
It’s free marketing, so make the most of it to make game day a success.
Giorgio Taverniti owns Frank’s Pizza House in Toronto, which has been in his family since 1990. A graduate of George Brown College’s culinary management and Italian culinary programs, Giorgio helped found a popular pizza-making workshop at the college and ran it for three years.