MTA, Patrick Cashin

Restaurants Are the Real Winners on Trivia Night

What’s a fun, yet academic, way for restaurants to triple their food and beverages sales on a slow weeknight? Think Alex Trebek.

Trivia nights are becoming weekly icons at restaurants, as patrons move from shouting answers at “Jeopardy!” to competing at neighborhood eateries. Restaurants that host trivia nights, often with the help of a third-party company that prepares the questions and sends out a snazzy host, become habitual destinations for the Q&A-loving crowd. Many players bring big groups that up the food and beverage sales, even creating a late-night crowd for restaurants.

“We make more during the two hours of trivia than we do the rest of the day,” says Sarah Diaz, general manager of The Press Restaurant in Claremont, California, which has hosted a trivia night every Tuesday for about two years. “We make much more than triple what we pay King Trivia [the third-party trivia company].”

Located in a town with several universities, The Press generally fills the restaurant (60 seats) and bar (40 seats) on trivia nights. Management chose Tuesday because it was typically a slow day. The Press also tested live bands on Tuesdays. “Those did okay [driving business], but it was a little bit loud,” Diaz says.

Trivia begins at 9:30 at The Press, introducing another daypart for customers. “The idea is to create that second dinner rush on a slow night for a restaurant,” says David Wyatt, co-owner of DJ Trivia, a third-party hosting company.

Diaz declined to list the fee for King Trivia, though DJ Trivia typically charges $150 per night. Most restaurants also offer awards to the night’s winners, including cash prizes, gift cards, and free menu items. Many restaurants using DJ Trivia, for example, pay $10 for third place, $20 for second, and $30 for first. Players are often just as happy to earn bragging rights, owners say.

The hosting company is partially responsible for making sure the restaurant’s sales increase on nights it is quizzing. “We want restaurants to make at least $500—at least triple their ROI—on a given night,” Wyatt says. “If we are not putting 40–60 people in there every week, then we shouldn’t be there.”

Like The Press, Friendly Confines, a sports bar with four locations in Orlando, Florida, more than triples its ROI during a typical Wednesday night trivia event. The sports bar and restaurant pays local trivia company Earth Trivia $185 per night.

Earth Trivia markets itself on a popular local radio show, and the tactic is effective: Friendly Confines boasts 60–80 attendees each trivia night. If sales stagnate on Wednesday nights, Sam Akel, general manager of the south Orlando location of Friendly Confines, simply talks to Earth Trivia about stepping up its marketing. Still, trivia pulls in good volume and buzz for the restaurant.

“Even during the summer, which is typically slower for sports bars, it is going pretty well,” says Akel. “Usually, we are seeing an extra $600 a night [in food and beverage sales].”

And that’s much better than a Daily Double.