Sports bars and restaurants need more than a few good high-def TVs and specials to get people through the door, especially these days with patrons desiring a more well-rounded menu to go along with a multifaceted drinks list and top-of-the-line entertainment systems. David Maini, vice president of food and beverage for the Fox Sports Grill chain (with locations in California, Seattle, Arizona, Texas and Atlanta) knows this firsthand. A chef by training who’s cooked all around the world, Maini says his customers demand the same homemade, all-natural, even local and sustainable foods and drinks they do when dining out at a more traditional restaurant.
“We want to be the type of place where you would come in to have lunch or dinner, without even thinking about sports. But we also want to be a great place to come for the Super Bowl,” he says.
That means not just offering a diverse menu to fit different customer demographics, but also balancing the food items with either the 25 signature drinks, 18 to 24 drafts or 35 to 38 bottle beers that are offered at Fox Sports Grill. Maini is in the process of working on a new Fox Sports Grill menu once again with a 65-item overhaul including grilled shrimp with mango with a curry dressing added for the summer months; the menu will be changed out during the winter. Drinks, too, are often seasonal. Maini says that Margaritas are big sellers during the summer months while more people order Martinis in the fall, yet beer is always popular at Fox Sports Grill.
Maini says Fox Sports Grill depends on these menu changes to keep the multiple establishments fresh, on top of trends and constantly evolving. “What we’re trying to accomplish is to give our guests a huge amount of variety. Because we have so many regulars in each restaurant we don’t want people to get bored with us, and we’re trying to be smart.” The new menu, which debuts in September at all Fox Sports Grill locations, is going to be more seasonal with local and better products.
Seasonal dishes include nachos that are dressed up with homemade tortilla chips and guacamole using fresh Mexican Hass avocados, topped with crumbled, authentic Mexican queso. Hand-sliced potatoes are used to make chips and are topped with applewood-smoked bacon and a strong Maytag blue cheese, which is paired with Fox Sports Grill’s Ketel One Martini. When it comes to burgers, Fox Sports Grill uses all-natural Black Angus and Kobe beef with local bakery buns, paired with the Fox MVP Martini, and the locations even offer a vegan-friendly option with seasonal veggies and exotic spices.
In fact, these seasonal products transcend just the food menu. Garnishes consist of local fruits, and the draft beer selection incorporates local breweries s including Firemans Brew, located in Woodland Hills, Calif.
“The landscape is truly changing,” Maini says. “In many ways, we’re more like a traditional restaurant than a sports bar. Our customers don’t just want a chicken sandwich or wings; it’s very common to be asked, ‘What type of beef is this? Do you have anything free-range? Is the fish wild, or is it farm-raised?’ This is the 21st century – we see much more sophisticated diners, regardless if they’re spending $10 or $100.”
With food and drinks, like sports, it’s important to stay ahead of the game and have a solid strategy to make your business stand out. Maini found a way for Fox Sports Grill to get out of the shadows of its competitors, especially in the niche sports market, by welcoming a diverse clientele that appreciate good pub food fare and a vast beverage selection while watching the big game.