The arcade-bar/video game night has seen a boom in popularity and a lot of it has to do with timing. For those of us whom grew up with video games, we are now at the age where we can appreciate a good drink at a nice bar surrounded by friends. This is where the two melds together perfectly, creating the arcade-bar, the restaurant industry’s latest trend.

The theory within the bar arcade or video game nights is simple: People have something fun to do while eating and drinking. Games are fun and will  transfer into people staying longer and spending more. And if it’s just fun enough, your guests will come back week after week and then boom! Successful game night.

Video games and board games can blend seamlessly through different sections of your bar. Think stations. People can find an open station and start there before rotating though other game stations as they open up.

Did a group of friends show up and some people are on the Wii Bowling station? Suggest that they play Jenga until Wii Bowling opens. Waiting on Mario Kart or Super Smash brothers? Your guests can play some Cards Against Humanity. Through these steps you should be able to seamlessly transition into hosting a game night or even including a gaming section in your bar for every night of the week.

Your guests play when the pros play

video game nights are a great way to get sports fans to stay at the bar

Set up Madden tournaments during the NFL season, FIFA during the World Cup. Does the NFL game start at 1pm? Have the tournament begin at 11am and play until NFL kickoff. Keep paper brackets (or digital, if you’re fancy) to keep track of the tourney.

You can further incentivize the tournament by giving the winner a free meal and offer all players a discounted drink when the tournament ends. They’ll be more likely to stick around and watch the NFL games at your sports bar.

As one season ends, another begins

Video games are a great way for sports bars to boost the slower seasons

Plan a month-long competition with a sports or non-sports related game at the moment. Make it timely to whatever’s popular at the moment. Right now, that’s Fortnite. One game night a week for a whole month can mean guaranteed money and excitement around your business.

Again, if you want to go the extra distance, have some prizes for the winner and best performers of your tournament.

Turn on your “off nights”

Improve slow bar nights by giving patrons a reason for visiting

Tuesdays particularly slow? How about Sunday? Schedule a Mario Kart tournament for a gift card. Easier games like this allow more people to be involved and generally are fun to. You don’t have to be a “gamer” to pick these up, play them well, and have fun right away!

Use game nostalgia for greater accessibility

Restaurants & bars shouldn't overlook the video game nostalgia angle

While choosing the super popular games of the moment can be a solid way to temporarily capitalize, older & easier games engage a much larger demographic of people. The Mario Karts, Super Smash Brothers, GoldenEye 007, Guitar Hero, Mortal Kombat, etc. Those old school games are slightly more accessible (and maybe nostalgic) and will do just fine. 

Multiplayer is mandatory

Sports bar hosting video game nights must have multiplayer options

Without the ability to have multiple players at once, it completely negates the purpose of having video games available as an option at your bar (unless there are multiple options/stations to play). Not that many people go to bars to drink alone during a game night, so be prepared to accommodate several people who want to play the same game at once.

Make sure your WiFi works. Very well.

Make sure your restaurant's WiFi is top-notch for video game barcade nights

A vast majority of video games these days are played over an Internet connection. If you do not have a solid wi-fi connection, the game will lag or glitch and be frustrating to your players. These lags and glitches can be the difference between victory and defeat, so be sure to keep your players happy, engaged, and well connected. 

Offer table service to gamers

Make sure your serving staff visit the gamers regularly for refills and food orders

Running low on a snack or beverage mid-round can flat out suck. Consider having an employee on to handle player requests while they are caught up in a heated match. Catering to these players heavily can keep them gaming and buying food and drink without so much as thinking about it. Remember, they’re still your guests so treat them right!

Easy-Does-It for the bars

Bar operators should consider going simple for barcade nights

If your restaurant is more of a bar and less of a restaurant, consider the older games. They are a lot easier and foolproof than the far more complex games out there today and can be leveraged to your advantage. High score gets a gift card or free drinks, etc. It’s a whole lot easier for someone a couple of drinks into operate as well. We’d always suggest someone playing Galaga over trying to operate an Xbox one controller when they are over the legal limit.

Additional profits to be made

Game nights can mean extra cash for restaurant operators

Is your game night picking up steam? Consider charging by the hour for the more popular stations or the games that need wi-fi. It is certainly not unusual to charge per person or per group in this case, so keep this card in your back pocket as things progress. Maybe even an overall cover charge if you don’t feel like gouging guests per specific game. Guests can exchange the cover for a gaming “token.” Tokens cost you nothing in actuality and will guarantee guest engagement. A good rule of thumb would be the video/PC games cost something while the board and physical games do not.