Why ‘Homegating’ is Here to Stay

When the National Football League (NFL) and universities announced that they’d be returning to full capacity in their stadiums for the 2021 season, many in the foodservice industry believed fans would be quick to get back to the tailgating scene they know and love. However, home has proven to be where people now prefer to celebrate game day. With technology making it possible for just about every tailgating essential to be delivered directly to your doorstep, groups of friends and family can now watch their favorite teams from the comfort of their residence while experiencing the new form of tailgating — “homegating.” 

At Branded Strategic Hospitality, we heavily focused on early- and growth-stage technology in the restaurant and hospitality industries. We saw “homegating” become a trend in 2020 and have concluded that because of the innovations being introduced in the space, it will continue for years to come as consumers are now accustomed to enjoying direct-to-consumer food and beverage options.

Here are few of the technology advancements that we’ve seen influence many consumers to embrace “homegating” rather than make their way back to bars and stadium. 

Variety of Alcohol Options at Your Fingertips

The pandemic closed neighborhood bars, and stadiums took precautions by not allowing fans to set up shop in their parking lots for tailgates. These obstacles ultimately forced the spirits industry to focus on selling their beverages in an on-demand ordering capacity. In fact, The Distilled Spirits Council reported that U.S. sales rose 7.7 percent to $31.2 billion while volumes were up 5.3 percent. A large portion of these increases came from online ordering through apps and on-demand drink delivery services.

Now more than ever, restaurant and hospitality brands are crafting business models to accommodate at-home customers  … 

So which platforms have football fans been turning to for their alcohol?

With market analysis firm IWSR reporting that consumer orderings at home were motivated mainly by convenience, one popular alternative has been online delivery services like Spirits Network and Drizly. Delivering beer, wine, and spirits straight to consumers’ doors, programs like these are dedicated to helping people drink better at home. Spirits Network specifically produces content and original programming to give customers insight, background, and advice they need to discover spirits they may not have tried in the past. Drizly on the other hand, which has doubled its number of online retailers, offers the widest selection of spirits online.

TapRm is another prime example of a choice football fans have used on game day to get their booze. Showcasing hyper-local beers from IPAs, sours, and stouts to canned cocktails and hard seltzer through its virtual tap room, TapRm delivers beverages that are difficult to find anywhere else. Through insights from IWSR, we’ve learned that canned cocktails and spiked seltzer, including what is offered through TapRm, will likely continue to drive home revenue this fall, particularly with consumers imbibing at home during football season. Last year, ready-to-drink cocktails were up 62.3% by volume last year, while hard seltzers were up 130 percent

Direct-to-consumer spirit consumption was up two percent last year, the biggest increase since 1990, amid closures of bars and restaurants during the pandemic, according to IWSR. We expect to see another increase this year as beverage suppliers and distributors continue to embrace technology for online sales.

Restaurant Brands Adding Subscription Services to Repertoire

A subscription model is an additional revenue stream that has proven to benefit both the operator looking for consistency and stability, and diners looking for originality. Restaurants have been experimenting with subscriptions, emphasizing to their regular eaters that they can have their favorite meals at home for a monthly price. During football season, with teams’ schedules laid out for 17-plus weeks, subscriptions through mobile apps and loyalty programs assist the consumer in planning for at-home game day festivities ahead of time.

… and are finding ways to leverage technology to tap into consumer preferences.

For example, Taco Bell recently announced that customers at participating restaurants across Tucson, Arizona can pay between $5 and $10 monthly for a “Taco Lover’s Pass,” or one taco a day for 30 days via its app. The subscription includes several taco options, making ordering simple.

Buffalo Wild Wings, meanwhile, brought back its subscription program at the start of football season offering $99 passes for 10 boneless or regular chicken wings per week during the NFL calendar. With fewer diners going to their local establishments to watch the big game, direct-to-consumer ordering and subscription services can also be a smart move for small businesses that are lacking traffic.

Now more than ever, restaurant and hospitality brands are crafting business models to accommodate at-home customers and are finding ways to leverage technology to tap into consumer preferences. Whether its food on demand for the big game or curating more customized beverage orders from local breweries and distilleries, the expansion of tech enabling e-commerce in the food and beverage space will continue to be on the rise and in demand this season.