Pokémon mania has officially swept the country.
Pokémon Go has already reached 21 million daily active users, clinching a spot as the most popular game in history. The upside for restaurants? It’s a major driver of business.
Here are five brilliant ways restaurants can use Pokémon to level up their sales.
- Take Advantage of Nearby Pokéstops
“I wish I would have caught on a little bit quicker, because as you know this happened all at once, this craze,” says Jeffrey Kaune, general manager of Bremerton Bar & Grill.
His restaurant is in Bremerton, WA, a town with one of the largest naval bases in the United States. The game flags areas of historical significance, assigning them as “pokéstops,” where players can replenish items, and Bremerton has dozens of Navy-related stops, two in the restaurant itself.
“Within 48 hours we were seeing quite a large increase to our business,” says Kaune, whose staff informed him that many customers were coming in specifically to play Pokémon. “I’ve heard that it eats up a lot of your data, so a lot of people were here using our Wi-Fi—but they were here eating and drinking too, so it was great.”
Babo Market in Ann Arbor, MI is another registered pokéstop in the game that has seen a spike in sales, according to store manager Joe Williams. “The other night, one of our managers saw like 10-12 people in our stores at 9:00 PM, just hanging out…somebody asked the guests, ‘what brings you in here? And they said that “oh, we’re just trying to catch a Pokémon,’” he laughs. “It was kind of out of the ordinary.”
Since then, Babo Market has signs drawn in chalk in front of their store, advertising their status as a pokestop.
- Drop Lures All Day
One easy way to increase the spawn rate of Pokémon near your establishment is to purchase a lure module, which costs approximately $1 as an in-app purchase, and attach it to the nearest pokéstop. This increases the rate at which wild Pokémon appear in the area for all gamers in the vicinity.
“A co-worker of mine…was given a free shot of fireball for every customer she brought to a bar,” recounted NYU senior Justin Cho. “She put one of those lure modules at a pokéstop that was either at the bar or close to the bar, because that attracts people to the area, and then she went out to talk to them and brought them in.”
Bremerton Bar & Grill also purchased Pokémon lures to add to their pokéstops. “We advertise on Facebook that we’re doing it, you know, ‘We’re dropping lures all day,’ come down and use our free Wi-Fi,’” recounts Kaune. “I haven’t had anyone come in and not get something to eat or drink while they’re here. It’s a very mutually beneficial relationship right now with the Pokémon Go community.”
An influx of wild Pokémon can be a powerful persuasive force for potential restaurant-goers. Upon first downloading Pokémon Go with his friends, video game enthusiast Sal Mattos noticed a batch of Pokémon next to Tacorgasmica, a Mexican restaurant in the Castro district of San Francisco. “We were thinking, well, we wanted Mexican food, and there were at least 4 different options around the same area—so that really influenced our decision [to eat there].”
During lunch breaks, Mattos describes witnessing large congregations of players around food trucks located near pokéstops. “Someone had put out lures onto the pokéstops, so if you’re trying to catch Pokémon on your lunch stop, it was a no-brainer to go to these food trucks.”
- Organize Large Meetups
When Justin Cho first downloaded Pokémon Go, his first thought was to organize a meet-up for like-minded individuals.
“I wanted to recreate the atmosphere that I’ve been seeing at some parks around the city,” explains Cho. “What I find fascinating about this is that everywhere you go, especially in parks, you’ll see this app connecting people who wouldn’t normally interact, from every age [and] background.”
His instinct was right. Three days after creating the Pokémon Go: Battle for New York City! Facebook event, 6.2k people expressed interested in the public event, with 1.2k committed to attending.
Businesses could capitalize on this trend by organizing similar large gatherings and meet-ups, then selling their merchandise, food, and drinks to attendees as a way to enhance the event. After hours of catching Pokémon, hordes of hungry and thirsty players would be eager to come in together to recharge over food and drink.
According to Mattos, a similar meetup recently transpired near the Beach Chalet Brewery & Restaurant in San Francisco.
“From 10 to midnight, hundreds of people had gathered all around the parking lot, because somebody had organized an official meetup,” he explained, describing hundreds of people walking around playing the game, in and out of the restaurant. “It was nuts! I had never seen that many people all in one place playing a game before.”
- Hop onto the Hype
Capriotti’s Sandwich Shop began offering customers one free sandwich for tweeting a Pokémon they’ve caught at the sandwich establishment.
“We have a mobile app with a loyalty program, so we can award a free sandwich through the app if someone tweets about the promotion,” explains owner and president Jason Smylie.
Not only does this encourage people to go into the restaurant and buy a sandwich, but it also advertises the Capriotti brand, promotes the “Capaddicts” app, and enrolls future customers into the loyalty program to redeem the sandwich. “Hopefully that gives them a reason to return, with a friend,” Smylie explains.
Ann Arbor’s Babo Market is advertising an $4 Pokémon-inspired drink called the “Pikabrew,” a lemonade and hibiscus tea concoction created by a barista. “It kind of looks like a pokéball because it’s yellow at the bottom and red on top,” explains store manager Williams, who commented on the popularity of the drink.
- Look Out for Future Sponsorship Opportunities
Niantic Labs founder John Hanke has stated that the game will offer opportunities for sponsored locations in the future.
After tinkering with the code of the Android version of the app, Australian student Manu Gill discovered a yet-to-be-activated string of code embedded with the McDonald’s logo, indicating that some major sponsorships are already in the works.
Further partnership opportunities may be not so far down the line, as restaurants, stores, and bars may eventually have the option to pay Niantic to become sponsored Pokémon gyms, providing incentives for customers to purchase food and drink while training their Pokémon.
This article was written by Yehong Zhu from Forbes and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.