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The Quarterly Canadian Restaurant Intelligence Report

The Staying Power of Integrated Experiences

Sports partnerships and tabletop technologies are increasing cheque size and building loyalty for bars and restaurants.

Over the course of a year, an individual may visit restaurants for convenience, celebration or to find community. Of the many reasons consumers patronize one establishment over another, the greatest opportunity for growth may lie in their desire to find community and engage in shared experiences. Consumer tastes may be fickle—feeling burgers on Tuesday and sushi on Saturday—but their craving for shared, emotional experiences has the ingredients to increase spend and visit frequency and build loyalty.

The positive relationship between sports experiences and restaurants has long been recognized and enshrined in familiar and hybrid formats: the local pub, the sports bar, the full-service-restaurant-sports-bar. Food and drink remain central aspects of the restaurant and bar offering, but the importance of the experience itself is rising to the top of the consumer value array and operators and brands are collaborating to find new ways to refresh and expand on the sports experience in bars and restaurants.

The team at Molson Coors has long doubled down on sports, favouring a fan-side brand position. The connection between their products and sports spectatorship and cultural events has long been established and they continue to offer and grow creative and exclusive partnerships and on-premise programs for restaurants. “In terms of restaurant experience, our sales team leads these conversations and support,” says Sophia Lal, Sr. Manager, Molson TM and Miller Lite. “We know our brands can be additive to that “special” restaurant experience—whether that’s unique pouring and serving rituals like a perfect Blue Moon pint served with an Orange wheel, embracing partnerships and promotions like NHL teams with Molson or F1 racing with Heineken, or specific brand activations like Movember and Hop Valley IPA, or Pride Month and Vizzy Hard Seltzer.”

Jeff Weber, Sr. Manager Strategy and Execution at Molson Coors, is a big believer in the value of sports programs for restaurants. “Restaurants are a key avenue for us to be able to reach sports fans in the moment it matters, and where we can craft experiences (prizing, giveaways, watching rituals) that can improve the consumer experience that is both reflective of our brands and the restaurant. It’s always been a key part of our strategy and will continue to be!” He points out that Molson Coors brands benefit from exposure and adjacency through sponsoring special programs and events, which in turn increase the time consumers spend in the location and the opportunity restaurants have to offer special menu items and promotions.

“We know the value of sports as a passion for consumers and getting close to the consumer on how they’re watching and their rituals is our focus,” Lal says. “We have seen venue sales increase as much as +40 per cent when the local hometown team is on a winning streak or extends their season by an additional game or round. Establishments that build strategies and activations to piggy-back on the local excitement are bound to reap major benefits! We saw some great consumer engagement in our recent Boston Pizza “Call The Shot” program (www.calltheshot.ca) that ran through the recent NHL playoffs. Looking forward to 2024, we will be looking to bring similar exciting activations to life with other outlets across Canada.”

Molson Coors is also looking for ways to repeat its success with powerful digital experiences. “In the coming months, we will be expanding our digital solutions toolkits, so restaurant/bar/pub patrons can enjoy engaging digital experiences that entice them to stay for the entire game,” Lal shares.  “Promotions and activations won’t just be limited to the sports world though, they could also relate to local music events, venue celebrations, or brand specific engagement activations.”

The Molson Coors team encourages Canadian operators to take a look at the brand’s partnerships and explore their potential to add value to their customers. “We have some amazing small, medium, and large scale partnerships across Canada, and we love nothing more than when local restaurant, pub or bar partners hop on board and bring relevant promotions and activations to life,” says Weber. “Stay tuned for exciting promotions and activations for the 2023/24 hockey and football season and more!

As Molson Coors innovates to engage consumers emotionally, the Canadian tech company Oongalee is enhancing consumer engagement through exclusive streaming and advertising promotion on their tabletop devices, and their robust Oongalee Interactive Restaurant Assistant. “I feel that we’re the centre point that connects sports and restaurants,” says Amrit Sagoo, Oongalee founder and CEO. “Our technology sits on every restaurant table, and we can deliver sports broadcasting and even betting based on the consumer’s interest, which makes their experience better. We can also use the technology so that, for example, The Toronto Blue Jays can interact with fans in Vancouver, Edmonton or Calgary. We can really push a unified brand experience.”

Oongalee’s tabletop device features a high-resolution screen that streams Rogers-represented ads along with restaurant menus and specials. It also doubles as a device charger. Custom, real-time restaurant menus and promotions can even be uploaded to consumer devices via QR code. With the Oongalee Interactive Restaurant Assistant service (available for an additional fee), guests can use the “Excuse me” feature to notify their server they are ready to order, or would like to order another round or the bill request feature when they’re ready to settle up. The unique “Happy Hour Countdown” feature increases engagement with time-based promotions and specials driving incremental revenue.

The company’s devices are in place in over 7,000 screens across Canada including Denny’s, The Canadian Brewhouse and Boston Pizza. “At Boston Pizza and Denny’s, we’ve seen up to 13 per cent increase on bill spend and the story is even bigger for desserts,” says Sagoo. “Some of the Boston Pizza locations have seen a 600 per cent increase on dessert sales. We were expecting an increase, but 600 per cent is massive. Integrating eye-catching visuals has helped increase sales and promotions servers might miss or that can’t be captured by a tent card. Now restaurants can use real-time, unlimited creativity with their own menu items and add on cool sports activations and promotions while saving on print and operations costs.

Sagoo is excited about Oongalee’s new partnership with Rogers Sports & Media to bring live sports engagement opportunities to restaurant tables, from enhanced fan experiences to live game streaming to integrated sports betting and custom brand offers. “We’re in the restaurants and bars where people are going to watch sports, and we can help bring some of those arena environments into the on-premise,” Sagoo points out. “For example, every time the Blue Jays hit a home run, all our screens on every single table, in every sports bar across Canada, start lighting up. Now that sports betting is a big thing, Oongalee enables betting companies to partner with restaurants and bars, which increases engagement and cheque spend. We find ways to personalize the experience and engage the customer. We’re on every table and that space is very intimate.”

Oongalee screens also offer opportunities for real-time brand integration and co-branded promotions Sargoo says. “A company like Molson Coors has an array of different products from beers to seltzers. They can display and promote these products on the tabletop instead of producing expensive coasters. Now, you’re not only streaming the game, you’re able to watch it with a big, juicy burger in your hand and promote bar and menu offerings or to new products. We’re the gateway between all partners.”

To learn more about Molson Coors sports programs for restaurants, contact your local rep.

Learn more about Oongalee’s solutions for restaurants at: oongalee.com

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The Quarterly Canadian Restaurant Intelligence Report