The bar scene constantly changes, which means bar owners need to think outside of the box to boost their revenue year over year.
Great food and drink will bring patrons to your door, but how do you encourage them to sit, stay, and spend some more?
Mounting a TV and putting the game on is one solution. Or you can let your guests get in on the action with great bar games — ideally crowd-pleasing, addictive games that will keep them coming back.
Bar games used to be pretty predictable. We’ve all enjoyed a good round of pool and whiled away an evening tossing darts. These standbys endure for a reason and will never go out of style.
But today, fresh game options abound that will complement your concept and let guests flex their competitive muscle.
Here’s a round-up of eight classic, modern, and up-and-coming amusements to consider bringing to your bar.
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1) Giant Jenga – A Childhood Favorite All Grown Up:
What’s better than Jenga? Giant Jenga.
Oversized party games have been sprouting up in recent years and for good reason: bigger is better. They not only entertain the folks playing, they also serve as a spectator sport.
This one even comes with its own chant. Who can forget the ritualistic "Jenga, Jenga!" from those old commercials?
Brace yourself for a clatter – and raucous cheers – when the blocks come tumbling down. For extra credit, build your own Jenga blocks and stamp with your logo as Black Hog Brewing in Oxford, Connecticut did.
2) Bimini / Wall Hooky / Hook & Ring – A Beach Game Gone Mainstream
No one can seem to agree on what to call this game but no matter, it doesn’t need much explanation. It’s the one with the ring on a string you swing to land on a wall-mounted hook. It’s hypnotic, deceptively challenging, and conveniently leaves one hand free to hold a beverage.
Get ready for your bar-goers to make lots of GIFs and Instagram Boomerangs.
3) Trivia & Quiz Nights – Building Mental Muscle
A mainstay for decades across the pond, quiz and trivia nights have been gaining traction in the States in recent years.
The appeal is easy to understand: they’re great for groups of friends and coworkers and an effective tool to lure in a crowd on otherwise slow nights. According to one study, nearly half of Americans only make purchases at a restaurant on weekends.
Christ Christon, owner of Second Salem Brewing Company in Whitewater, Wisconsin says, “Being located in a small college town, we host trivia on Thursday nights during the school year to help draw students in for a late dinner and drinks. It creates a shot in the arm for [our] business between 8 to 10 p.m. of anywhere from $600-$1000 depending on the week.”
4) Long-Form Strategy Board Games – For Endurance Lovers
Settlers of Catan is to millennials what Risk was to baby boomers: an epic, multiplayer game of strategy suitable for playing (and drinking) into the wee hours.
Board game sales have been growing steadily in recent years and Settlers remains among the most popular: in 2013, U.S. sales of the game exceeded $80 million.
Because Settlers and games of the same ilk (like Ticket to Ride and Carcassonne) typically have a cult following, bars and restaurants can capitalize by bringing that community together. Knight Moves in Brookline, Massachusetts is an example of a bar that has welcomed board-gamers with open arms.
5) Shuffleboard – To Make Your Granddad Proud
Traditionally relegated to retirement communities, cruise ships, and beachside motels, shuffleboard has been making a comeback.
Most of us have enjoyed a game with our grandparents at some point so shuffleboard holds nostalgic value, but it also has contemporary appeal. See Royal Palms Shuffleboard Club, a veritable hipster heaven with locations in Brooklyn and Chicago. They’ve got tiki drinks, food trucks, biscuits, and a league for regulars.
6) Spelling Bee
Ever see the documentary Spellbound? Released in 2002, the film sparked a bit of a spelling bee fever.
As such, many bars had the p-r-o-s-p-i-c-i-e-n-c-e (n. foresight, 2002 National Spelling Bee winning word) to craft opportunities for their adult patrons to relive – or redeem – their fifth grade glory. Often hosted by third parties like trivia or quiz nights, spelling bees deliver a bit more nail-biting drama. At Highland Kitchen in Somerville, Massachusetts, bee champions take home a gift certificate so they can come back to defend their title the following week.
7) Single & Double Lane Bowling Alleys
Most bowling alleys have a bar, but how many bars have a bowling alley? More and more these days.
One or two lanes can be creatively configured into all types of floor plans and contribute to a club-like feel. At Harp & Crown in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, guests must weave Goodfellas-style through stairways, hallways, and past kitchens to get the basement bar featuring a two-lane alley complete with wooden bleacher seats for spectating.
8) Vintage Arcade Games – For When You Need a High Score
The generation that grew up avoiding Blinky, Pinky, Inky, and Clyde (the Pac-Man ghosts) is now flocking to arcade-themed bars to pair their prowess with cocktails and craft beers. Whether you install a single classic or line your walls with Donkey Kong to Pong, you can be sure vintage arcade games will attract devotees. Space Bar in Boise, Idaho houses an impressive collection of 27 vintage games and throws it back in the beer department too: gamers who pass on craft can sip cans of Coors Banquet and Rainier.
When's your bar's next game night?
Whenever it is, make sure you mark it in your restaurant marketing calendar and share it with your followers on social media.
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