Make us your home page
Instagram

Real gold to be made in fantasy football leagues

CINCINNATI — Fantasy football means real business for restaurants, and some big chains have launched promotional drives to score with dedicated players of the growing pastime.

Free appetizers, draft kits, meal discounts, gift cards and contests featuring sports celebrities are among lures for "draft parties" in which fantasy players select rosters of NFL players whose talents on the field equal imaginary glory for their fantasy coaches.

Dave & Buster's amenities include a free room, 10 percent off food, and a $20 card to play video and other games. Buffalo Wild Wings throws in $100 in gift cards and Hooters offers "season ticket" coupons totaling $500 with their draft setups.

Even as many Americans cut back on restaurant spending during the recession, fantasy football has been increasing as a source of regular customers — at least during the five-month season, which begins Thursday night.

The big chains don't release how much revenue those customers bring in, but they are playing hard to win over the roughly 20 million people in imaginary leagues that test fans' abilities to pick out players who will be the most productive. The Fantasy Sports Trade Association says the number of fantasy players has been growing at double-digit rates each year.

"There's a huge number of people who get into fantasy football, and there's a lot of restaurants trying to get them," said Bob Goldin of Chicago-based food consultancy Technomic Inc.

At a Buffalo Wild Wings near the University of Cincinnati, manager Michelle Gould said she and other local managers stay busy with draft party reservations, sometimes sending their overflows to one another.

"This is my biggest year yet. It just keeps getting bigger," she said. A corporate official said the company expects fantasy football clientele to double or even triple this year.

At a table decorated with plastic football caps, drink cozies and other regalia, Bryan Sherman hunched over a laptop computer, directing the draft of the 10-player "Real Deal" league using the restaurant's WiFi. He collected $60 fees that will go the winner at season's end.

Steady customers

While the draft was going on, the server kept the soft drinks, chicken wings, nachos, and $4.50 tall beers coming. Such draft gatherings typically take two to four hours, and can easily roll up tabs of $100 to $200.

Goldin, the analyst, said the football crowd usually buys simple, high-profit items for the restaurants, but the outings aren't a household budget-buster.

"It's a relatively modest expenditure, and it's a fun social event. I think consumers are justifying that pretty readily," he said.

The draft parties are only the start for the food-and-fun chains that usually hit peak business at Super Bowl.

"The great thing about the fantasy business is they don't just come in once," said Mike McNeil, marketing vice president for Hooters, which also touts its scantily clad servers as fantasy football cheerleaders. "Once you get them, they come back week after week."

Also, the players are interested in more than just their hometown NFL teams because the players they drafted are scattered among many teams.

"If I'm just a Cincinnati Bengal fan or Minnesota Viking fan, I'm just engaged when they are playing," said Andrew Varga, chief marketing officer for the Papa John's pizza chain. "They (fantasy players) have a natural attraction across the whole gameday; and Monday nights and Thursday nights. And they stay engaged throughout the season."

Papa John's is going for a slice of the fantasy business this year with an NFL sponsorship and a contest that gets the winning league free pizza delivery and a visit from Cris Carter, ESPN analyst and former NFL star.

And for restaurants, the leagues add the kind of boisterous atmosphere they like for big football days.

"They're very competitive. You hear them talking smack and see them giving high-fives," Gould said.

And that environment enables Eric Detzel, who likes matching his football knowledge with others in a competition that pays off, to bring his whole family along to watch.

"My 1-year-old can scream, and nobody cares."

Real gold to be made in fantasy football leagues 09/03/10 [Last modified: Friday, September 3, 2010 10:25pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

Copyright: For copyright information, please check with the distributor of this item, Associated Press.
    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Massachusetts firm buys Tampa's Element apartment tower

    Real Estate

    TAMPA — Downtown Tampa's Element apartment tower sold this week to a Massachusetts-based real estate investment company that plans to upgrade the skyscraper's amenities and operate it long-term as a rental community.

    The Element apartment high-rise at 808 N Franklin St. in downtown Tampa has been sold to a Northland Investment Corp., a Massachusetts-based real estate investment company. JIM DAMASKE  |  Times
  2. New York town approves Legoland proposal

    News

    GOSHEN, N.Y. — New York is one step closer to a Lego dreamland. Goshen, a small town about fifty miles northwest of the Big Apple, has approved the site plan for a $500 million Legoland amusement park.

    A small New York town, Goshen approved the site plan for a $500 million Legoland amusement park. Legoland Florida is in Winter Haven. [Times file  photo]
  3. Jordan Park to get $20 million makeover and new senior housing

    Real Estate

    By WAVENEY ANN MOORE

    Times Staff Writer

    ST. PETERSBURG —The St. Petersburg Housing Authority, which bought back the troubled Jordan Park public housing complex this year, plans to spend about $20 million to improve the 237-unit property and construct a new three-story building for …

    Jordan Park, the historic public housing complex, is back in the hands of the St. Petersburg Housing Authority. The agency is working to improve the 237-unit complex. But the latest plan to build a new three-story building for seniors will mean 31 families have to find new homes. [LARA CERRI   |   Tampa Bay Times]
  4. Coming soon at two Tampa Bay area hospitals: a cancer treatment that could replace chemo

    Health

    A new cancer treatment that could eventually replace chemotherapy and bone marrow transplants — along with their debilitating side effects — soon will be offered at two of Tampa Bay's top-tier hospitals.

    Dr. Frederick Locke at Moffitt Cancer Center in Tampa is a principal investigator for an experimental therapy that retrains white blood cells in the body's immune system to fight cancer cells. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved these so-called "CAR-T" treatments for adults this month. In trials, 82 percent of cases responded well to the treatment, and 44 percent are still in remission at least eight months later, Locke said. [CHRIS URSO   |   Times]
  5. Regulator blasts Wells Fargo for deceptive auto insurance program

    Banking

    Wells Fargo engaged in unfair and deceptive practices, failed to properly manage risks and hasn't set aside enough money to pay back the customers it harmed, according to a confidential report by federal regulators.

    Wells Fargo engaged in unfair and deceptive practices, failed to properly manage risks and hasn't set aside enough money to pay back the customers it harmed, according to a confidential report by federal regulators.
[Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images, 2017]