Adjusting menus to each season has gone completely mainstream in restaurant culture. Right now at Old Chicago, the focus is not so much on growing seasons, and much more on football season. During the 17 weeks of the NFL season, the sports bar concept has been driving up incremental sales and engaging customers with creative promotions that focus on both money-saving perks and experience-based offers.

In addition to new food options, Old Chicago is using its competitive advantage in craft beer to compete with other concepts that target similarly sports-crazed demographics. The brand is going beyond simple promotion of its extensive beer program, and is turning consumption into an experience with a second year of its Gridiron Mini Tour, which was its most popular Mini Tour promotion of 2014, and is on track to once again top the charts in 2015.

“It’s a great way for us to get out there and compete with the Buffalo Wild Wings of the world and provide a really great experience,” says Old Chicago’s brand manager, Jason Murphy. “What we’re really trying to get after is not only are we a great place to watch football; you’re probably not going to get as deep of a craft beer selection at other spots, and anyone is going to come away having a great experience and wanting to come back.”

The Gridiron event allows customers to “draft” a lineup of 12 beers, earning points based on their beer selection with a chance to win prizes along the way.

Old Chicago is also encouraging social media engagement with its first-ever hastag promotion: #HookedOnGridiron. The campaign encourages guests to share how they watch football at Old Chicago by submitting photos to Instagram and Twitter for a chance to win a trip to an upcoming NFL game.

As far as food goes [which will certainly be necessary after drafting so many beers], Old Chicago has added a brand new football menu for this season. In addition to the restaurant’s Gridiron Classics menu and build-two and build-three combos, which have boosted sales significantly during football season for the past couple of years, Old Chicago added a special Buffalo! Menu as a play off of Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning’s popular “Omaha!” play call to give some variety to regular guests who want to branch out beyond the combo menu.  

On a typical football week, Old Chicago sells around 200 of the popular combos, which are only offered on Thursday, Saturday, Sunday, and Monday.

The new menu’s Buffalo Poutine and boneless chicken wings have been especially popular, and have been gaining positive traction on social media.

“For us, we really looked at that second page of the football menu as something that was going to help us drive up average checks during this timeframe,” Murphy says. “And we couldn’t think of anything that went better with football food than buffalo flavors.”

Murphy says Old Chicago’s NFL-season sales have gone above and beyond regular promotions, which normally peak around week three or four and then take a dive. In contrast, last year, Murphy says that the combo menu built sales and transactions up until about week six or seven, and then held steady for the remainder of the season, affirming how valuable the brand’s efforts really are during this time of year.

Some other high-selling menu items making an appearance this NFL season include Buffalo Chicken Mac & Cheese and Buffalo Chicken Rolls’ along with the Sriracha Bloody Mary, Hail Mary, and Beemosa Cocktails. Be on the lookout for these items making an appearance on social media as games and sales heat up.

By Emily Byrd

Beverage, Casual Dining, Chain Restaurants, Industry News, Marketing & Promotions, Menu Innovations, Old Chicago