Carrie Rengers

Wichita bars and restaurants shouldn’t get their hopes up for big sales this week

Working with credit card companies, Womply examined data from four million business transactions during March Madness last year.
Working with credit card companies, Womply examined data from four million business transactions during March Madness last year.

It’s hard to imagine the NCAA Tournament being anything but a boon for Wichita, but the San Francisco software company Womply says that’s not necessarily going to be the case.

“It’s strange,” says Brad Plothow, vice president of marketing and communications.

“When we look at the data, we’re constantly surprised … by how consumer behavior plays out.”

Revenue increases depend on the type of business.

If you’ve got a small bar or restaurant, Plothow says, “I wouldn’t get my hopes up.”

Working with credit card companies, Womply examined data from four million business transactions during March Madness last year.

For most bars and restaurants in cities that have teams playing in the tournament, overall sales were “pretty average,” Plothow says. There was a 6 percent increase in sales.

“You kind of have this vision of rabid fans screaming in sports bars,” he says. “You probably have a lot of folks who are piling into these bars but not spending as much money.”

Plothow says a consolation is that research found there’s very little seasonality to the restaurant business. There are increased sales on the weekends, but otherwise they’re fairly consistent.

“They’re very stable businesses in terms of the patterns we see.”

For host cities, there’s a 9 percent increase in bar and restaurant sales the day before a game, a 10 percent increase the day of a game and a 6 percent increase the day after a game.

Transportation and lodging businesses are “the real winners for the host cities in March Madness,” Plothow says.

Lodging businesses have an average of an 84 percent increase in revenue on the day before game days.

According to Airbnb, Wichita Airbnbs will have 230 guests from March 15 to 17 and earn more than $18,000.

“As a result,” a release from Airbnb says, “this weekend will represent the largest influx of guests to Wichita in the history of Airbnb’s platform.”

The release says about 40 percent of the guests are from Kansas and will be in town to see the Jayhawks play.

Transportation businesses such as taxis and shuttles have a spike of 30 percent in revenue on the day before game days.

On game days, they see a 14 percent increase.

For lodging businesses, sales that are “straight on average” after game days, Plothow says.

Depending on the outcomes of games, Plothow says, “A lot of things can turn.”

For instance, if the Shockers get on a big winning streak, “It could really bode well.”

Then again, it may not.

Last year, on Wichita State University game days, bars and restaurants were down 42 percent in sales.

“The tournament was actually hurting them last year,” Plothow says. “That was one of the things that we thought was very surprising.”

When other teams were playing, sales were down 11 percent.

Plothow says big wins, such as making it to the Final Four, don’t offer any bigger boost for a hometown team’s restaurants and bars than the team simply making it into the tournament.

The one exception? Gonzaga University. Restaurants and bars in Spokane, Wash., had an 80 percent increase in revenue when Gonzaga made it to the National Championship last year.

Here’s hoping the Shockers can have the same success – for themselves and Wichita’s bars and restaurants.

Carrie Rengers: 316-268-6340, @CarrieRengers

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