Burger and a Beer – The Chicago Way of Life is More Than Just Pizza

18 May

When one thinks of the Chicago dining scene, pizza comes to mind. After all, Chicago is proclaimed the pizza capitol of the nation.

While Chicago has more than its share of pizza places, the fact is that the predominant full service restaurant in the metropolitan area is the local bar and grill. Nearly 12% of all full service Chicago area restaurants are classified as a “bar and grill”, meaning that they generate a significant portion of their revenue from the sale of alcoholic beverages. The Chicago area is dotted with sports bars, microbreweries, and pubs; boasting a much higher percentage of them than New York or LA (3.5% and 2.5%, respectively). Chicagoans spent almost $550 million in bar and grill establishments last year .

These establishments, as a rule, are quite small. About 78% of Chicago area bars and grills have annual revenues of less than $500,000. But being small hasn’t meant much to their survival. Nearly 80% of Chicago’s area bar and grills have been in business for more than five years.

Why Chicagoans prefer their local pub n’ grub to other restaurant types is subject to speculation.  Certainly, the allure of a bar and grill establishment is probably more about the beverages than the food. It is likely that many patrons’ frequent places that are close to home or work. The atmosphere of your local pub can definitely be more relaxing than other establishments. In many cases, a bond with a particular employee or the owner of an establishment results in frequent visits due to camaraderie and loyalty. It is not at all unusual for patrons to stop in virtually every day.

At any rate, what better way to watch the game or enjoy times with friends than having a beverage and a sandwich on your favorite bar stool? In the Chicago area, it is the thing to do.

Because of the preponderance and diversity of the bar and grill market in the Chicago area, marketing to them can be challenging. Cathy Kearns of CHD Expert, a Chicago based food service marketing firm, noted “Our clients are always looking for ways to reach the Chicago area sports bars and pubs. They are spread out and usually small in size but they represent a large part of the Chicago market, so you really need to get to them somehow”.

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