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For bars and restaurants across the U.S., the World Cup is bringing in revenue and new fans

Jordan Mangi Dec 8, 2022
Fans watch the U.S. vs. Netherlands game at Round Trip Brewing Co. in Atlanta, Georgia. The brewery has been opening early to screen some World Cup matches. Photo Courtesy William Rudolph

For bars and restaurants across the U.S., the World Cup is bringing in revenue and new fans

Jordan Mangi Dec 8, 2022
Fans watch the U.S. vs. Netherlands game at Round Trip Brewing Co. in Atlanta, Georgia. The brewery has been opening early to screen some World Cup matches. Photo Courtesy William Rudolph

Sports fans around the country are tuning in and showing up to watch the World Cup, during a season usually reserved for (American) football. 19.9 million viewers tuned in to the U.S. vs. England match on Black Friday, which might not sound like much compared to the Super Bowl, but beat the previous record for U.S. viewership of a soccer match.

Bars and restaurants across the U.S. are pulling out all the stops to capitalize on the moment. Even ones that aren’t known for soccer are drawing fans with massive viewing screens and competing country-inspired tacos. Many are getting needed boosts, too — in sales, but also in foot traffic and name recognition.

In Queens, New York, Pig Beach BBQ has been firing up their grills early to host watch parties in their indoor/outdoor space. A 30 by 30 foot jumbotron has been a big draw, and in the mornings they’re serving barbeque-inspired breakfast sandwiches.

The tournament means extended hours and extra business for a restaurant that only does dinner service and is usually closed on Mondays. Match days have been double, sometimes triple revenue compared to an average day.

This surprised Shane McBride, Pig Beach’s director of operations, especially given the “wonky” schedule. Group stage games aired at 5 a.m., 8 a.m., 11 a.m., and 2 p.m. Eastern time.

What he has loved most about hosting, McBride said, has been the people. Queens is one of the most diverse places in the world, and fans have come out to support pretty much every country in the tournament.

“We have guests coming in … and they’re banging drums, they’re bringing air horns,” he said. “It’s a way different intensity level than a World Series or a Super Bowl. There’s a pent up need to watch your country win.” 

The huge turnout, McBride said, means Pig Beach is considering permanently changing their hours. Or, at least, screening more soccer games. They’re also excited to bring back the watch parties in 2026, when the World Cup will be hosted by the U.S., Canada and Mexico.

Meanwhile, The British Bulldog in Denver, Colorado is no stranger to opening early for soccer — the bar has always opened at dawn on weekends to show U.K. and European matches. Sometimes, patrons have to wait until half time to start drinking due to state liquor laws, so the British Bulldog’s tournament offerings include coffee and a breakfast menu. 

Fans coming for the World Cup, though, are a bit different from their usual crowd, said General Manager Kevin Tuohy.

“The World Cup brings out, for lack of a better term, the fairweather fans, kinda like the Olympics where you only watch figure skating or gymnastics every four years” he said. That’s in addition to die-hard England fans and other big soccer countries like Argentina, Portugal and Brazil.

Tuohy said his goal is to convert some of those “fairweather” fans into consistent patrons.

“We’re hoping to see kind of a bump later on and hopefully get back some of that business that was coming in before (the pandemic),” he said.

While The British Bulldog cheers for England, and Pig Beach, said McBride, is “rooting for the underdogs,” Round Trip Brewing Company in Atlanta, which focuses on German-style lager, has become a place for Germany fans to celebrate — and despair, when the team was knocked out at the group stage.

Although some early games didn’t get great turnout, the U.S. vs Netherlands game last Saturday was likely a top 10 day in sales, said William Rudolph, the brewery’s director of marketing. They surpassed a normal Saturday by noon, he said.

With their two big teams — the U.S. and Germany — out of the tournament, Rudolph said he’s hopeful quarterfinal and semifinal games still draw crowds. And they’re already making plans for the final, coordinating with a church group that usually rents out their event space Sunday mornings. 

“I think what they’re gonna do is try to do their service earlier in the morning, and then we’ll have the World Cup right after that,” he said. “So it’s a little bit of juggling, but we’ll make it work.”

No matter which countries make it to the final, they already have one group slated to watch at the brewery: a local adult rec soccer league called Sons of Pitches.

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