Restaurants Are Cashing In on Pokémon Go Madness

Restaurants Are Cashing In on Pokémon Go Madness photo

A Doduo appears at Huge Cafe in Atlanta, GA.

“It’s a beautiful day for retail—and for Pokémon,” said Derek Fridman, group creative director of Huge Atlanta, a digital agency that happens to run a public-facing coffee shop (Huge Cafe) in a perfect location…across the street from two Pokémon Go PokeStops.

If your feeds haven’t been blowing up with adults going bonkers for a new smartphone-based, virtual reality-esque new Pokémon game called Pokémon Go, you are lucky. The rest of us have not been able to escape friends looking down at their phones and taking the least inefficient footpaths from point A to point B just so they can collect items at designated PokeStops and eventually catch ’em all.

A pokémon, Krabby, appears at Le District in New York. Photo: Wajeeha Ansari

But Fridman and Michael Koziol, president of Huge, aren’t mad about it. Instead, they are eagerly awaiting today’s lunch rush, when a gaggle of workers from the 13th floor of the bank across the street will drop by, catch some Pokémon at the cafe, and probably leave with a few extra coffees and pastries.

Fridman and Koziol paid $49 in real currency to buy in-game “coins” and traded those in for 40 in-game “lures,” in-game modules that serve as a smoke-signals to attract Pokémon and users. They attach those lures to the PokeStops across the street—each Lure works for 30 minutes, attracting rarer and more powerful Pokémon to the area. Where the hard-to-find Pokémon go, Pokémon Go players go for glory (and buy things). “We’re expecting a good turnout today,” Fridman said.

This weekend, the runaway success of the reboot of the Pokémon franchise became a big boon for IRL businesses worldwide, especially when those restaurants, bars, and coffee shops are conveniently also PokéStops. Flying Saucer Pizza in Salem, Massachusetts had the good fortune of being designated by the Pokémon Go-Google Maps game as a PokeStop (specifically at a life-size Star Trek Locutus of Borg mannequin decorating the sci-fi-themed restaurant)…that also enables customers sitting in one of the booths to hit three other PokeStops in one go.

“We’ve had a non-stop flow of people coming in, and sales are through the roof,” said Nicole Spirito, the pizza restaurant’s general manager, who was not comfortable sharing exact numbers (though some reports have indicated Pokémon Go has increased sales as much as 10 percent). “So we’ve embraced the craze.”

In case you needed another reason to stop by for lunch, RTM is swarming with Pokemon! #loveRTM #EatMorePork #PokemonGo

A photo posted by Tommy DiNic's Pork & Beef (@tommydinics) on

Flying Saucer is incentivizing players to drop by. If a customer catches a Pokémon in the restaurant, posts that picture to social media, and tags Flying Saucer, they’re automatically entered into a daily raffle that yields gift cards to the restaurant. There are team-specific promotions, too. Today is “Yellow Day” and anyone on the game’s Team Yellow gets 10 percent off their bill. What’s good for the players is good for business.

But restaurants are only as engaged as their staff. At Flying Saucer, Spirito said that as much as 95 percent of the staff at the restaurant has been actively playing the game since its launch last week. And at Huge Cafe, the owners excited because the staff is on board.

Management at Palmer’s Fresh Grill in Lexington, Kentucky is less thrilled. On Thursday, it put up a sign saying “No Pokémon Go Players” to deter non-paying customers from stopping by just to catch Pokémon, take up space, and not buy anything, a manager at the restaurant told us.

“It’s not that they won’t be let in,” she said. “But we’ve had a lot of people just coming to stand around on the patio to catch Pokémon. It’s crazy that we even had to put up a sign like that.”

Indeed. Although, at least for this week, Pokémon Go cannot be ignored. As far away as Australia, restaurants are aligning themselves with the phenomenon while it’s hot, saying that new variations on old dishes have “evolved.” Sydney’s KIN by us. may not be a PokeStop, but it let Instagram users know that its “Waffle Belly” evolved into “Mega Belly”.

So, when—not if—you see people clustered outside of a restaurant, looking at their phones with increasing excitement, you’ve found it: You’re at a restaurant (or bar or coffee shop) that doubles as a Pokémon Go PokeStop, and you’ve hit the jackpot.

Less into Pokémon Go, and more into lingering at cafes with your laptop? Follow this etiquette guide to make sure you’re not a loitering jerk.

Or just avoid the Go-ers altogether and stay home.

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