Ribfest organizers in Naperville are looking to attract more guests this year in an effort to increase revenue, especially from food and beverage sales.
The hope is that more than 100 Chicago-area bars and taverns are going to help to make that happen.
“We sat down with the folks from Miller Beer, who are one of our biggest sponsors, and we asked how we could work together to sell more of their product as well as get more people to come to Ribfest,” said Ray Kinney, who has served on various Ribfest committees. “We came up with the idea for a bean bag tournament, which we would run starting at noon on both Saturday and Sunday during Ribfest.”
Kinney said the marketing plan is for 100 to 150 bars and taverns throughout Chicagoland to host their own bean bag tournaments, with “one or two winning teams” moving on to final competition during the Ribfest weekend. Winning teams would receive free passes to Ribfest, Kinney said, and hopefully bump up attendance “during the slower periods of the day.”
“Our feeling was if someone is in a tournament, chances are good he is going to bring his wife and kids and maybe friends to watch, and maybe we can increase attendance by 2,000 people or so over the two days of the tournament,” Kinney said. “We don’t know if it will work, but we figure this is worth a shot.”
There will be separate tournament championships held both July 5 and 6, beginning at noon each day. Winners will receive passes to Ribfest 2015 as well as a “Best of Naperville” package, Kinney said, which includes complementary dining at some area restaurants.
Sal Rumoro, vice president of sales for Euclid Beverage, which locally distributes Miller products, said the big Ribfest sponsor sees this as an opportunity “to enhance what already is a good cause.”
“We plan to start the local competition by the end of this month and we’re looking to utilize our ‘Beer and Bags’ promotions that we run,” Rumoro said. “We’ll be giving away shirts and hats and sunglasses at the local competitions, and I know that Ray [Kinney] and others are still finalizing the list of prizes that will be given away to the champions each of the days.”
Kinney said beer sales have fallen off the last few years at Ribfest for a number of reasons that include standing in line too long to get one to choosing other beverage options. New soft drink and water beverage tents are being added in the north park food court this year to offer guests an option to use their beverage tickets in another way.
“A lot of time, people are standing in line for a beer and all they really want is a pop or water in order to get something to drink,” Kinney said. “Since we moved away from cash sales for beer to beverage tickets, which allow you to buy anything to drink, we think having extra beverage tents that don’t serve beer will help serve people better.”