U.S. seafood restaurants bait football fans

Restaurants are boosting their seafood appetizer and entrée sales with special football-related promotions.

McCormick & Schmick's Seafood Restaurants recently debuted a new "Game Day" bar menu, with items starting at USD 2.25 each. Appetizers include cocktail shrimp, tempura shrimp, fried oysters and oysters on the half shell. Entrées include wings, burgers, Baja shrimp tacos, grilled fish tacos and sushi — a new item for McCormick & Schmick's.

The Portland, Ore., seafood chain, with more than 80 restaurants nationwide, is tying a College Football Sweepstakes into the new Game Day menu and its regular menu. On Saturdays, restaurant patrons can enter to win a trip to their choice of college bowl games.

Maryville, Tenn.-based Ruby Tuesday, which is sporting a new menu heavily focused on seafood, is using the National Football League in its marketing this season. It recently added high-definition televisions and DirectTV's NFL Sunday Ticket to more than 700 locations.

"We recently introduced a bar menu that includes a new line-up of appetizing tacos, along with several ‘craveable' dips, perfect for sharing while watching the games," said Mark Young, senior VP of marketing for Ruby Tuesday.

Ruby Tuesday's new mini tacos on the bar menu include a choice of spicy fish, fried shrimp, chicken or steak. The chain has also launched a special RT Athletics e-mail list, which provides special offers to sports enthusiasts.

A host of smaller chains and independent restaurants are also using Sunday football games to boost sales of their seafood items. For example, the Quarterdeck Seafood Bar and Neighborhood Grill, which has six locations in South Florida, is offering "two for one" on all of its beers every Sunday.

Many restaurants are also offering free Wi-Fi, so sports fans can check on their fantasy football leagues during the games. Restaurants that are not running Sunday specials and NFL-related promotions should be, said Darren Tristano, executive VP of Chicago foodservice consulting firm Technomic.

"NFL games have become very fan-friendly, social opportunities for restaurants. With the rise in fantasy football participation, both men and women are enjoying tracking their favorite players and teams, while spending quality time socializing with friends rather than hosting parties," said Tristano.

"Restaurants are wise to take note of marketing opportunities that attract fans to their venue. These typically include discounted drinks, small plates and shareable combinations that satisfy social occasions," he added.

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