Suffice to say, the environment has been set up well for HomeCourt to succeed—much better than if the concept debuted last spring. Li says the lack of restrictions has given HomeCourt more confidence in terms of opening, but he adds that the restaurant is still being careful. The concept enforces health and safety procedures, including temperature checks, staff wearing masks at all times, and guests wearing masks when they’re inside the restaurant and not eating or drinking.
“On the one hand, yes, I think the business environment is helpful,” Li says. “But at the same time, at our own store when we can control it, we’re still being careful because the virus is still with us. It hasn't just disappeared, and we want to protect our staff and our guests.”
Li says HomeCourt is a restaurant and bar with elements of entertainment, but nowhere near the level of Dave & Buster’s or Punch Bowl Social. The primary demographic is both families and adults. Within that, the brand expects to attract many sports fans because of McGrady’s involvement and the plethora of televisions. Going forward, Li says HomeCourt hopes to leverage its budding relationship with the Lakeland Magic, a minor league team based just 10 minutes away.
The idea is to encourage consumers to come watch games, but the brand isn’t doing it to the point that it alienates families. One of the techniques behind the balancing act is building different zones inside the restaurant where younger guests can hang out. Kids are able to check out Nintendo Switches and gather on a set of bleachers while adults watch the game and enjoy their meal.
“We tried to build a restaurant that gives you what you are looking for from a sports bar in terms of great TV, and the drinks and food, but at the same time, not be a turn off to a family that wants to come in and celebrate or just have a good time with the family,” Li says.
Li says the “McGrady” name has helped with marketing and brand awareness, but the value goes beyond just his playing career. McGrady didn’t go away for years and never come back—quite the opposite. He fervently supports his alma mater and founded the The Tracy and CleRenda McGrady Foundation, which supports a number of charities.
The restaurant is also not an ego play, Li notes, which is why it’s called “HomeCourt by Tracy McGrady” and not “Tracy McGrady’s HomeCourt.” The effort is truly about creating jobs and cultivating a gathering place—that’s the point Li and McGrady tried to bring home as local media showed up in full force for the restaurant’s opening.