This past Saturday, after months of hype and weeks of unceasing off-color trash talk, American boxing legend Floyd Mayweather Jr. finally raised his fists and played opponent to Irish mixed martial arts champion, and boxing novice, Conor McGregor. The fight itself was much maligned as a shameless ploy to make both men much richer. After all, McGregor had never boxed professionally, while Mayweather had never lost in his 49-fight boxing career.
As one of the most highly-anticipated sporting events of the year, the fight presented a tremendous opportunity to bars and restaurants. This fight wasn’t the only cultural phenomenon to inform the way bars did business this month. In fact, if there’s one lesson to be gleaned from the month of August, it’s that there’s no escaping the outside world.
Buffalo Wild Wings screened the Mayweather/McGregor fight in half of its more than 1,200 locations across the country. This was no doubt an expensive endeavor, as bars paid a fluctuating fee for the fight depending on guest capacity, rather than the flat price viewers paid to watch at home. The upside to ponying up was obvious. Paying for the fight meant filling the bar with people more willing to pay a cover to watch than pay $99 themselves. Once through the door, they would continue to spend on food and drinks during the fight.
Buffalo Wild Wings was hardly the only bar that viewed the fight as a goldmine. Dave and Busters screened it at all 100 locations and Hooters screened it at 200, or about half, of its locations. It’s a formula that’s worked before. Wingstop CEO Charles Morrison said during an earnings call last year that the company’s “strong performance in  was partially due to the boxing match between Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao.”
Smaller bars also benefited from screening the bout As one bar manager in Moorhead, Minnesota told her local ABC affiliate, “We started out taking reservations, and that just became a bit of a headache.” Snookers in Providence, Rhode Island paid “somewhere in the thousands” to screen the fight and charged a $25 cover to guests in hopes of packing the house. “This fight is going to be a part of our history,” owner Steve Goulding told the Sun Chronicle in advance of the fight. “I’m hoping for a good match and an even better night at Snookers.”
The Chicago Tribune reported earlier this week that two Chicago bars—both owned by the same person—have decided to not air NFL games this season. The decision, they say, was made to show support of free agent quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who many suspect is being blacklisted by the league for his decision to kneel during the national anthem in protest of systemic violence against minorities. Said one bar in a statement detailing its stance, “The Bureau Bar will be supporting Colin Kaepernick’s cause and will not be showing NFL games until something changes.”
As Texans braced themselves for Hurricane Harvey, a number of San Antonio bars vowed to stay open, and even offered Hurricane-themed specials. According to the San Antonio Current, the Bexar Pub was offering $6 16-ounce Hurricanes; Chisme hosted a hurricane watch party; and Cured let loose its sense of humor in the face of tragedy by serving “Harvey Wall Bangers” at the bar.
Especially as it relates to culturally-divisive issues and tragic events like Hurricane Harvey and Colin Kaepernick, it’s important for bars to be cognizant of their motivation behind leveraging these things to boost business. People like businesses with perspective; they don’t like when businesses capitalizes on serious issues to line their own pockets.