“To catch them is my real test, to train them is my cause…”
If you were around in the ‘90s, you probably know that this phrase comes from the Pokémon theme song, a phenomenon that took the world by storm in the form of TV shows, movies, games, cards, and more.
Now, Pokémon is making a big comeback with Pokémon Go, a mobile game that allows players to catch Pokémon in real-life settings.
Less than two weeks after its release, Pokémon Go has become the most successful mobile game of all time, beating Facebook, Tinder, and Snapchat in daily usage time and netting Nintendo a whopping $42.5 billion in market value, superseding Sony.
But what does that mean for your restaurant?
You might hear that your restaurant is a “PokéStop.” Or maybe it’s a gym. This might be confusing at first… But I’m here to tell you, it’s very, very exciting.
You see, this is "location-based advertising" or geolocation at its best. However, you don’t have to pay a billion dollars for it, like Starbucks does with their mobile app, and you can use some creative marketing tactics to easily capture some of the 9.5 million people playing the game.
For example, New York restaurant L’inizio Pizza Bar has seen a 75% jump in business with the right Pokemon Go tactics. Another restaurant has seen a 10% increase in sales.
Had an interesting chat at a bar/restaurant sitting between two Pokestops how their business increased by 10% since Pokemon GO came out.— Sarah Anne Williams (@SarahAnneWillia) July 11, 2016
Got your attention yet? Good. Before we delve into how to use Pokémon Go to power up your restaurant, here’s a quick refresher on what on earth these Pokémon Go terms are. Don’t worry, I won’t list all 151 Pokémon (but I could!)
Now, while you don’t necessarily need to play Pokémon Go to capitalize on the craze, I strongly recommend you download it now, so you can get used to the lingo your customers might be using. I’ve waited a couple weeks to write this post to see if the hype would die down, and it doesn’t look like it will!
So without further ado, here are 10 creative ways you can use Pokémon Go to power up your restaurant.
If you run a bar/restaurant and aren't spending $10/day on lures and advertising the fact what are you even thinking. #PokemonGO— Eric Neustadter (e) (@thevowel) July 10, 2016
The first step to “luring” in new customers? Place lures at your restaurant, 24/7.
According to Sebastian Fung, it only costs $1.17 an hour to place a lure at a local PokéStop, and the boom in business will definitely pay that money back. Restaurant-goers are now factoring in whether a restaurant has a PokéStops to their dining decisions, so it’s best to beat them ahead of the punch.
Plus, don’t forget to advertise the fact that you’re using Pokémon lures at your restaurant. Write about it on social media, and try to attract customers at a specific time, such as lunch time if you’re a QSR or happy hour if you’re a bar, to be more purposeful about your lures. Here’s how Brementon Bar & Grill does it:
If you’re not near a PokéStop, you can still take part in the fun. You can set up creative Pokémon Go discounts to get people through the door, based on…
For example, Lost Heaven Restaurant is offering 10% or 30% discounts on food based on whether trainers own these rare Pokémon. All they have to do is open their phone and show the little creatures to get the rewards!
This might not sound like the safest idea - people walking from bar to bar, looking at their phones and slowly getting drunk?! But with the right supervision, it can be a major success for bars and restaurants in your area.
A simple search on Google for “pokémon go bar crawl” lists at least 10 cities where Pokémon Go players can both drink beer and train their Pokémon on a bar crawl.
With the right marketing, especially on Facebook, this event could garner 1,000+ interested Pokémon Go players, generating massive foot traffic for your restaurant or bar.
Because Pokémon Go players can “hunt” their Pokémon, you may actually find that some customers ask to explore your kitchen, back of house, or even dumpsters out back. While that’s up to your discretion, many restaurants have taken to posting signs such as these to ward off these customers. After all, the more guests running around your kitchen, the more your food safety could be called into question.
However, if you want to get creative, you could host a tour of the kitchen / back-of-house once or twice a day for paying customers, allowing them to catch all the Pokémon they want - without touching your food.
"Pokémon are for paying customers only" — friend snapped this sign. pic.twitter.com/BeHh1aqO78— Bobby Cherry (@GoBobbo) July 10, 2016
5. Host a Pokémon party with food specials.
With the Pokémon fad, there are so many good food puns, it’d be a crime not to take advantage of them on your menu.
For example, Duffy’s Irish Pub is offering a $6 Pokemangorita. The Firehouse Restaurant has created an entire cocktail menu themed around Pokémon; the Pikachu, for example, is Lemoncello, Tilo’s Vodka, and Red Bull.
However, it doesn’t have to just be drink specials. Paris Creperie in Boston is even offering a “Jiggly-Fluff” crepe, seen above.
From outside the restaurant where we ate dinner tonight. There was a Pokestop next door with lure constantly active. pic.twitter.com/cfQ05yIdl8— Steve Lubitz (@WickedGood) July 11, 2016
Chalkboard or door signs, especially for quick service restaurants and bars, have historically been a great way to capture foot traffic. Now, they can be used to capture Pokémon Go foot traffic.
You may want to draw a picture of your favorite Pokémon, or one that you recently found inside the restaurant. You may want to share your favorite Pokémon pun. Or, you may want to stir things up a bit by calling out a specific team. Whatever you do, it could capture foot traffic and definitely attract guests to post social media images at your restaurant, building a community.
7. Post your Pokéfinds on social media (and engage with trainers).
A photo posted by Tommy DiNic's Pork & Beef (@tommydinics) on Jul 11, 2016 at 8:33am PDT
Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and even Snapchat can be great ways to engage guests before they come in the door and after they leave. It’s also a great way to engage Pokémon trainers. If you post a picture of a rare Pokémon in your restaurant, you could attract trainers who “gotta catch ‘em all”... and also, get a laugh out of your followers. Above, Tommy DiNic’s Pork & Beef did just that, and got their post reposted on a larger Instagram for their local area, Philly.
You could also bake Pokémon not only into your social media strategy, but also your loyalty program. If you’re not comfortable discounting, but do have a massive loyalty program, there are some great ideas here. Costa Vida in the picture below asks customers to send in their “Costa Catches” to be entered to win loyalty rewards. You can see the engagement - including a glowing review of their food - in the comments of the post.
Send in your #PokemonGO catches at Costa Vida and use #CostaCatches to be entered to win $4 (50 pts) towards your Costa Loyalty Rewards! Submit entries on Instagram or Twitter. *Picture must clearly represent Costa Vida to be entered. Limited number of winners per week. Participants will be entered in to win points. Must have Costa Vida Loyalty Rewards App.
A photo posted by Costa Vida (@costavida) on Jul 11, 2016 at 1:39pm PDT
The fun doesn’t have to stop at your loyalty program. Guests spend 72% more with restaurant gift cards, according to Toast’s gift card study. Ask guests to share their Pokéfinds for a free gift card, like Zoës Kitchen does in the tweet above. You’ll garner a ton of responses - they got 9 retweets and 30 likes - as well as get the opportunity to earn new business from people who could become repeat customers.
Flying Sauceris doing something similar. If a customer catches a Pokémon in the restaurant, posts that picture to social media, and tags Flying Saucer, they’re automatically entered into a daily raffle for gift cards to the restaurant.
What really made me realize that Pokémon Go is not going away any time soon is the fact that Yelp is now allowing diners to sort restaurants by whether they have a Pokéstop or not.
As Psyduck would say, “Psy-ai-ai!”
So first of all, make sure that your restaurant is listed on Yelp. There’s an easy step-by-step guide here. Second of all, make sure that you’re managing your Yelp reviews and are on the hunt for any Pokémon reviews. If someone claims that you don’t have any Pokémon in your restaurant, you could tell them that of course there are, and they should come back to catch them. Or tell them that they shouldn’t be on their phone at your restaurant. Your call.
We actually got a review complaining that there was no Pokemon in the restaurant— ♡Erica♡ (@ericaaaburt) July 11, 2016
10. Request your restaurant to become a gym or Pokéstop (or to be removed).
Just saw 40+ people outside of a restaurant that is usually empty. Asked if they were there because it was a Pokemon gym. I was right.— Jacob Pebley (@Jacob_Pebley) July 10, 2016
Finally, if your restaurant is neither a Pokéstop or a gym, but you do want to get in on the hype, you can request your location to be featured in the Pokémon Go app.
Just fill out this form on the Pokémon Go support page and share the reasons why you want your Pokéstop to be included or removed.
You can also keep an eye out for future sponsorship opportunities within the app, especially for enterprise restaurants. In Japan, Pokémon Go is starting “sponsored locations,” introducing McDonald’s restaurants as Pokéstops and/or gyms across the country.
As you might be able to tell from the tone of this article, I’m an avid Pokémon Go user. However, not everyone is. In fact, some restaurants are banning Pokémon Go, because some customers only come in the restaurant to catch Pokémon and leave, or simply sit there for hours eating bread and butter and throwing Pokéballs on their phone. If your restaurant is a fine dining institution that prides itself on creating an unforgettable guest experience, Pokémon Go might not be the most feasible restaurant marketing for you.
However, if you are ready to add Pokémon Go to your restaurant marketing strategy, I hope these tips help you "catch 'em all" - guests, that is!
How is your restaurant using Pokémon Go? What are your thoughts on the game? Share below!