KC businesses adjust, hope for some Super Bowl bump amid pandemic

For Kansas City bar and restaurant owners Andy and Chris Llewellyn, having the hometown Chiefs in last year’s Super Bowl made all the difference for their businesses on game day.

“In years past Super Bowls, if the Chiefs weren’t in it, it’s the slowest day of the year,” Andy Llewellyn said. “But for the Chiefs, it’s a full house.”

Last year, with the Chiefs in the Super Bowl for the first time in 50 years, Kansas City bars and restaurants flourished. The Chiefs are making their second consecutive appearance in the Super Bowl this year, but with the service industry reeling from the pandemic, Sunday will be celebrated under very different circumstances.

A National Retail Federation survey found fewer Americans plan to go to bars and restaurants to watch this year’s game, and overall spending around the Super Bowl is projected to decline by about 19%, to $13.9 billion.

The Llewellyn brothers own Charlie Hooper’s Bar & Grille, The Well Bar Grill & Rooftop and Lew’s Grill & Bar. Those businesses have reduced occupancy and anticipate a decline of sales from last year’s Super Bowl weekend.

“Even though all of our tables are full for the Super Bowl, we don’t have as many due to social distancing,” Andy Llewellyn said. “We could fit another 50 to 60 people in here, if not more.”

Despite the challenges, Andy Llewellyn anticipates an increase in consumer spending for this special occasion, and all of the brothers’ sports bars will be open for business throughout Super Bowl weekend.

‘Another level’

As bars and restaurants remain hopeful but brace for slower Super Bowl sales than last year, grocery stores are anticipating steady business. According to the National Retail Federation survey, despite the decline in people planning to watch the Super Bowl at bars and restaurants, 77% of respondents still plan to spend money on food or beverage for Sunday’s game.

Scott Smith, a customer service director for a Hy-Vee grocery store in Olathe, Kansas, said local grocers and markets in the area will be in high demand. He said consumer spending increases on Super Bowl weekend, and it is even greater in the Kansas City area when the Chiefs play.

“We always make big plans for Super Bowl weekends, and having the Chiefs playing in the Super Bowl for our stores in Kansas City takes it to another level,” Smith said. “From cooking, to baking, to even having a catering department, Hy-Vee plans for a busy Sunday yet again”

Beyond scheduling enough staff to keep up with demand this weekend, Smith said, Hy-Vee will not change its operations.

“I don’t know if there’s anything that is the same from last year to this year,” he said of conditions during the pandemic. “Would I say we are doing anything different (for the Super Bowl), though? No. The overall answer is no.”

Hy-Vee has seen high interest in Mahomes Magic Crunch, a breakfast cereal the grocer created through a partnership with Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes. A portion of all sales goes to the 15 and the Mahomies Foundation, which is dedicated to improving the lives of children. The product has already raised over $100,000, Smith said.

Uncertain economic benefits

Michael Davis, an economics professor at the Missouri University of Science and Technology in Rolla, co-authored a 2010 study that found areas with winning professional football teams tend to see slight increases in sales, consumption and productivity.

“Our research actually showed that it was based on the number of wins during the regular season with where you saw the boost to the economy,” Davis said. “The way I describe it often is that if the football team has a good season, the kids end up with a better Christmas.”

However, he said the pandemic could change that dynamic.

“If the team wins, the fans are happier, they go out to eat more,” he said. “But they may be reluctant to do that because of the COVID.”

Fans packed the Kansas City Power & Light District’s KC Live plaza for last year’s Super Bowl. This year, the venue has posted physical distancing guidance. | Via KC Live/Facebook

Davis acknowledged the economic challenges that the pandemic poses for businesses that rely on crowds.

“Certain places aren’t going to do as well as they did before,” he said. “Somewhere that’s hosting a watch party, or a bar with a huge area for people to watch the game, isn’t going to do as well.”

Last year, the KC Live plaza in Kansas City’s downtown Power & Light District drew huge crowds that packed the space hours before kickoff. This year, the venue said it is enforcing a variety of health and safety precautions, which include “physical distancing practices including physically-distanced queues and physical barriers.”

Supplemental staff, Super Bowl specials

Although traffic will be slower for some venues that thrived during last year’s Super Bowl, demand remains high for other game day staples.

Connor Klause, assistant manager for a Minsky’s Pizza location in Overland Park, Kansas, said the Chiefs’ success has provided a boost.

“It’s definitely positively impacted our business,” Klause said. “It’s increased our sales. The way I’ve seen it is, it’s also increased our business even just during the regular season, because so many more people are more attentive towards the Chiefs with them being a winning team lately.”

That uptick in business has meant a bigger need for staffing, according to Klause.

“We do have to staff a lot more heavily on game days,” he said. “Especially the Super Bowl, of course.”

Minsky’s brought back the Kelceroni pizza — named for Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce — that was a top seller from last year’s Super Bowl. The local pizza chain will donate $1.50 to Travis Kelce’s Eighty-Seven & Running Foundation for every Kelceroni that’s purchased.


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