Coin-Op in San Diego, CA

Games are for kids, right? Wrong. Games are for everyone!

All types of games are making their way into the restaurant and bar scene, adding a new dimension to the dining experience and keeping guests in their seats longer (so they end up spending more!). Games are not only fun attractions and promotional opportunities, but they can also build a bond between staff and guests, and help occasional patrons become regulars. That’s why this restaurant industry trend might be a good one for you to try incorporating into your establishment.

Take a look at some popular gaming options and how some restaurants with games are already using them to their advantage. Then, think about which ones might be a good fit for your clientele, and your overall brand.

There are a variety of games you can bring in-house, depending on how much of an investment you want to make. You might keep it simple by putting in a couple of billiards tables or hanging a couple dart boards. There are even plenty of simple games that bartenders can play with customers, like dice games or trivia. For more spontaneous fun, you can stack some board games for your customers to grab at their leisure, or put out dry erase boards for some Pictionary. Or you might decide to take gaming to the next level, whether it’s putting in shuffleboard or bocce courts, a live video gaming room, or bingo with live entertainers.

Get inspired by what some pubs and restaurants with games are doing well.

Restaurants with Games for Kids

If you have a family-friendly establishment, go beyond handing kids a couple of cheap crayons, and go all in on games. All you need is a small area and an entertaining staff member or two to turn your restaurant into the most fun place ever! From party game classics like musical chairs and freeze dance to more sophisticated kid-friendly food trivia, the idea is to make the kids beg their parents take them to your place for dinner.

Some restaurant chains like Applebee’s and Buffalo Wild Wings offer tabletop gaming tablets for kids and those young at heart. Think about what family-friendly games you might be able to offer your customers with children.

Map out your entire marketing strategy for 2019 with help from our Restaurant Marketing Guide.

Trivia in Bars and Restaurants

On the cheaper side of things, you could offer trivia nights as Snooker’s Sports Billiards Bar and Grill does in Providence, Rhode Island. Snooker’s, like many bars, hosts this event weekly. For the trivia lovers among us, this gives consistency to an activity they love and keeps them coming back on a regular basis. Trivia nights also have a tendency to get competitive, and your guests will need some extra sustenance to keep the play going. Here are some ideas to get you started!

If you want to spike interest in a trivia night, try doing themed trivia for sports fans, TV junkies, movie buffs, and more.

Board Games in Bars and Restaurants

Do you have any old board games lying around your house that could be better served in your restaurant? Bring them in and see what happens! Some restaurants and bars will have a designated area where board games are kept. Guests can sift through everything from Scrabble to Risk to Taboo and challenge other patrons to a friendly game as desired. Just make sure the board game area is noticeable, or have your servers inform guests while they visit their tables.

Some establishments take this concept even further, like Dayton, Ohio’s D20. It’s a bar that boasts both an extensive beer and board game collection, and there’s not one television in the place.

D20 in Dayton, OH

Better yet, if you have floor space or an outdoor area, set up a few life-sized games like giant Jenga, Connect 4, or cornhole. It’s a great way to keep patrons eating and drinking a bit longer.

Darts in Bars and Restaurants

Darts may be the ultimate pub game. They’ve been enjoyed since before World War II in pubs throughout Europe and North America. Why neglect the historic trend? Make it an ongoing event and offer league play. It could pique curiosity and provide a great excuse for guests to come back regularly. 

Ice House Pub in Punta Gorda, FL

The Ice House Pub in Punta Gorda, Florida is serious about its darts, as it offers 10 regulation size dart boards, hosts regular league play, and features open dart night competitions.  

Video Games in Bars and Restaurants

Some restaurants and pubs have the old-school arcade games that guests can play for a few quarters. There’s something very nostalgic about offering games like Frogger and PacMan, complete with a joystick. For instance, San Diego’s Coin-Op is a bar that takes the gaming theme to the extreme. Not only does it feature old school arcade hits, but it has a speakeasy entrance inspired by the movie Tron.

Coin-Op in San Diego, CA

Let’s face it though, those arcade games can be expensive and take up a lot of precious space. Luckily, since video games have evolved, your video game offerings can too. Nintendo Switch, PS4, and Xbox make live gaming a sport. Set up a few screens for guests who want to jump in and play, or promote Fortnite battle events and MarioKart racing challenges.

And spread the word! The idea is when people search for “restaurants with video games near me,” you want your establishment to come up.

Bingo Brunches and More

If you want a fun game that doesn’t cost much, but attracts a crowd, consider offering a Bingo brunch on the weekends. The key is it has to be hosted by someone who is super fun. That’s what draws people in for Luscious Lola’s Bingo Brunch, which is almost always a sell-out event at Staten Island, NY’s Phunky Elephant gastropub. Lola is a drag performer, so you can just imagine the fun that ensues once you add a few Mimosas and Bloody Mary’s to the mix.

Whether you want to attract the PTA crowd, or keep it clean for older clientele, Bingo is a classic.

Ready to play?

If you want to start up some fun and games at your restaurant or bar, start with these questions:

  • What are the demographics of my clientele?
  • Which days or times are my slow periods?
  • Is my objective to attract a whole new crowd, or encourage my current guests to hang around longer?
  • Do I have the space to bring in gaming tables or other equipment?
  • What type of trivia or bingo (if any) might be a good fit for my restaurant?

One you figure out your goals, who you want to attract, and when an ideal time for game-related activities might be, you can start experimenting and see what works. Be sure to spread the word, and incentivize guests to share your events on social media to build some excitement. Being known as a restaurant with games can help create some buzz and bring in new guests.

Once you find something that works, you can move on to level two – using games to attract more customers and generate more revenue.

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Written by   |  
Dawn Papandrea is freelance writer based in New York. Her work has appeared in numerous publications including Family Circle, WomansDay.com, and more. She loves trying new restaurants with her family and friends in her spare time.