When Super Bowl LII comes to U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis, Minnesota, on Feb. 4, potentially one million out-of-town visitors are expected to descend on the stadium in the heart of downtown. With so many of the area’s restaurants and bars within just a few miles of the action, how is the local hospitality industry preparing for America’s biggest football event?
The Super Bowl is just more than just a one-day event; the Twin Cities metro area is preparing for at least 10 days of festivities beginning on Jan. 26. Some area restaurants have been contacted by the National Football League or affiliated organizations and given an idea of when support staff will arrive and expected crowd sizes, but others have found this information more difficult to come by.
I think that for the whole 10 days, we’ll see a 50- to 100-percent increase in sales.
Many restaurants are running off adrenaline and anticipation, simply hoping they’re prepared for the increase in demand.
“We don’t quite know what to expect, but we have been contacted by a few of the events setting up VIP reservations for the NFL, so they’ve let us know how many people they’re expecting,” says John Gleason, food and beverage director of Smith and Porter, a restaurant located less than a mile from the stadium. “All hotels are fully booked starting Jan. 26. They let me in on how many VIP reservations their group is expecting, and we’ve been getting quite a few reservations from corporations. You can extrapolate from that.”
Gleason says Smith and Porter will be running online and social media promotions, and that their relationships with area hotels and businesses, as well as their online reservation system, will keep them on their toes.
“I think that for the whole 10 days, we’ll see a 50- to 100-percent increase in sales,” Gleason says. “We’ll be staying open later and keeping the bar open later.”
Other restaurants have found official information is not quite as easy to obtain.
“It has been difficult getting any information from the city or the NFL on what to expect,” says Scott Kresbach, general manager at Town Hall Brewery, also located just a mile from the stadium. “We are going to do a few things with other local breweries, but nothing too extravagant. We are just going to be staffed well and give great service. We want to show off Minnesota a little bit.”
Kresbach says Town Hall Brewery generally does well on typical game days and during stadium events, and he’s confident business will be up, at least by a bit. However, he said, “It could be a huge flop for businesses if everyone goes to other events downtown or closer to the stadium.”
John Ng, co-owner of Zen Box Izakaya, which is located less than half a mile from the stadium, says he will be offering a limited menu during the week of the Super Bowl to better accommodate large crowds.
Jon Jacklin, director of operations at Smack Shack, says his establishment that’s a mile away from the action anticipates an uptick in business, but that aside from staffing accordingly, they plan on conducting business as usual for loyal local customers.
“We are running several food and beverage specials on game day,” he says. “Smack Shack began as a local neighborhood restaurant and our loyal customers and neighbors who have been with us for five years deserve to have a place to go while the rest of the city shuts down. Of course, we invite any visitors in town for the game to stop in and see what locals have come to love.”
On the flip side, Chris Bjorling, owner of the Copper Hen Cakery and Kitchen that’s two miles out says they’re not anticipating much additional business or bigger crowds. “We’re just outside of the downtown zone,” he says. “We could be wrong, but that’s our initial take.”
Several restaurants have been bought out during all or part of the 10 days of activities, but for those that remain open to the public, they hope everyone – local or visiting – will be patient as everyone adjusts to potential higher volumes and unprecedented amounts of activity.
The one thing everyone seems to agree on is that Minneapolis is eager to play host to the event and to show the true definition of “Minnesota nice.”
“It’s fun to have guests come that are new to town and excited to be here,” Gleason says. “It amps up the energy of the restaurant and our staff is excited. It’s fun to be part of the whole experience and process. Overall, we’re definitely looking forward to it.”
“If anything,” Kresbach says, “it’s a great trial run for the NCAA Final Four next year!”