Sports Bars Offer Food And Fun For The Whole Family

A family-oriented bar? Imagine children playing and laughing as football games are broadcast on big-screen TVs, while parents and patrons have a cold one. It's not as strange a concept as you might think.

The franchise industry, always one to adapt, has opened its arms to a number of different "bar" concepts throughout the years - sports bars, brew pubs, bar and grills. And today, one popular segment is serving up family-friendly atmospheres with those frosty mugs. Buffalo Wild Wings, Beef 'O' Brady's, and Indigo Joe's just to name three.

"We've been doing this since 1981," says Lee Sanders, senior VP of development and franchising for Buffalo Wild Wings. "We have a broad appeal - we're not just for men." Indeed, the company strives to attract a variety of patrons from women to children. Ladies will find a host of salads and sandwich wraps on the menu, while kids are kept satisfied with the perennial staples like mac and cheese, according to Sanders.

Buffalo Wild Wings has more than 350 locations nationwide, and each 6,000 square foot facility has around 200 seats split between a bar area and dining area. Kids get crayons, coloring books and paper hats, while adults can view sports on more than 30 TVs at each location.

Beef 'O' Brady's is "a casual, neighborhood family-oriented sports pub that serves great food," says Nick Vojnovic, president of the Tampa, Fla.-based franchise. Vojnovic says the company appeals to families because they sponsor so many community events, from little league to schools to other local fundraisers. The stores' walls are adorned with pictures of local sports teams and customers. Like others in the segment, Beef 'O' Brady's menu caters to families (kids eat free on Tuesday nights), and the bar does not serve hard liquor or provide dartboards and pool tables. This discourages the sports bar crowd says Vojnovic. "Instead, we have a video game room where kids can have fun while mom and dad have a chance to relax."

Indigo Joe's Sports Pub & Restaurants also markets itself as a family-oriented restaurant that just happens to specialize in sports. The franchise has positioned itself as a quality family restaurant first with a menu that creates a place far away from the typical male dominated, smoke-filled environment historically associated with sports bar concepts. And an enclosed kid's game room makes Indigo Joe's an attractive place for everybody in the family.

But don't think these franchises have neglected the sports aspect of the sports bar while creating a family environment. Most of these sports bars and restaurants provide state of the art sports viewing environments. Buffalo Wild Wings not only has more than 30 TVs at each location, but at least 4 or 5 of those are big screens. The franchise is also the largest customer of NTN, the National Trivia Network, allowing kids and adults alike to compete in trivia games while dining. Beef 'O' Brady's feature 20 TVs in each location, and two big screens. Indigo Joe's even has a "coaches wall" with autographed pictures of some of the most prolific sports figures in the public eye.

Want to catch the big game and be with your family at the same time? Try one of these family-friendly sports bars.

Published: September 27th, 2005

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