As a bar, there is more that goes into running a trivia night than just finding a quizmaster and writing some (great) questions. You need to advertise, figure out the logistics, find appropriate equipment, and more. At the end of the day, your ultimate goal is to make a profit. Whatever you do, you don’t want to be at a loss after paying your employees and purchasing all the essentials.
Trivia night economics boils down to figuring out a budget and sticking to it, but that’s not simple either. Sometimes, it’s hard to predict buyer behavior. Besides, some activities can be viewed as investments and are therefore worth spending some extra money on even if you don’t see a return right away. Is pub trivia one of them? Let’s find out!
Why Do Bars Run Pub Trivia?
Everybody likes to have fun, but the obvious answer here is profit. With a good turnout and a rowdy crowd, the bar can double or triple its sales in one night. That is, of course, if the trivia night is successful! A successful trivia night has certain prerequisites, such as loyal customers who are willing to spend money not only at the door, but also on food and drinks, and lots of them!
Pub trivia offers other benefits that all inevitably lead to increased profit. For starters, quiz nights can make your bar a destination rather than a stop along the way. Instead of relying on foot traffic, you can bring the customers to you. When you have a trivia night, people will come specifically to your bar, while on other nights they might just stop by on the way to the club.
You can hold people for longer with a pub quiz in session. Not only are you guaranteed one or two hours that constitute the duration of the game, but people also like to stick around for a few drinks afterwards. If one of the prizes you offer is unlimited beer for the night, you best believe the winning team will stick around to collect the prize. So it’s worth it to keep an eye on the prize, so to speak, and come up with some fun and unique ones to catch people’s attention!
Trivia makes your bar special. It’s not just a local watering hole; it’s a place with entertainment. Even if that entertainment is just once a week. Take a group of people out on the town, looking for a fun time. They would probably choose a trivia night over a boring old pub with no trivia.
Trivia nights attract larger groups of people. You could be used to singles or couples, and they’re great customers, but you need quite a few to break even for the night. Trivia attracts groups of around six people. If you’ve secured a few groups, you’ve got yourself the money to keep going for tonight! Your singles and couples don’t have to leave the bar. There’s beer for everyone!
Finally, you can acquire new loyal customers along the way. If you keep organizing fun events, people will keep coming. Once you get to this stage, you don’t even have to focus on trivia anymore. Have some fun with it; invite a live band or offer a karaoke night. Eventually, your customers will like you so much that they’ll come back outside of entertainment hours. Either way, trivia events offer a great way to attract customers and build lasting relationships.
What’s Involved in Running a Trivia Night?
Running a trivia night can be broken into several steps. For a detailed overview of the steps, check out this article. In short, you have to take care of the venue, equipment, questions, host, marketing, and prizes. There is more to it, but these are the essential steps that your trivia night cannot go without. A themed trivia night also requires decorations, and relevant questions and categories.
Trivia bar systems or trivia night companies can take most of these responsibilities off your hands. They can provide the questions, hosts, hardware and software, and so on. Trivia bar systems make running a trivia night much easier. If you already run a bar, the only thing left on your end is the marketing. Some companies can even take care of the marketing for you!
Look into cooperating with a trivia night company in your area. If you’ve already got a decent following on social media and have some regular clients, advertising the event won’t be that hard.
How Much Does it Cost?
At the moment, most trivia night companies offer virtual events, as well as regular live events. Online trivia is great for when you can’t invite people to your venue to play in person. Prices vary depending on location and services. Quiz Coconut in Canada, for example, offers 60 to 75 minutes of virtual trivia for between 750 and 1500 Canadian dollars, which is between $600 and $1200. This package includes all the questions and interactive challenges, along with a host.
In this case, you are expected to take care of the marketing. One of the reasons for that is that marketing is very individual and there is no ballpark. You can run your whole marketing campaign on social media entirely for free, or invest thousands. Spend as much or as little as you want on it.
There are other companies on the market that are willing to take care of everything, including marketing. King Trivia, for example, will take it off your hands. In some situations, you can negotiate with the company regarding the price. The newer companies just want to get more exposure, so they’ll agree to charge you less or even split the profit at the door. Other than that, all you need to know is that the trivia night company is usually in charge of everything. If you don’t have the necessary equipment at your venue, the organizer should be able to take care of it.
You can run a trivia night by yourself too, without the help of a trivia night company. That might actually save you some money, but only if you have the extra time to invest in it. The average cost of running a trivia night by yourself varies largely based on where you live, how large your venue is, how many rounds of trivia you want, and other factors.
Provided you already have the equipment and venue, and you’re willing to host the quiz yourself, you’ll only need to spend on the questions, prizes, decorations, and marketing. For questions, you can go the simplest route and buy a trivia kit. Those retail for as low as $20! Alternatively, you can write your own questions or get some free ones from Trivia Bliss. You will find all kinds of questions and categories on the internet. Just pick the ones you like.
As far as the rest goes, it’s entirely up to you. You can spend as much on marketing as you like. Some people find it sufficient to post an Instagram story for free, and spend a few bucks on printing posters and hanging them around the neighborhood. You don’t have to decorate your venue if you don’t want to. Some people neglect decorations altogether, while others spend hundreds of dollars on thematic decor.
Don’t cheap out on the prize! Find something that will satisfy the whole winning team, not just one person. Generally, a voucher is fine. You can even offer the winners free drinks for the night at the bar. If you make the right choices and focus on cutting costs, you can plan your own trivia night for free. The difference is that you won’t have a guarantee that it will be as good as with a professional trivia night company, but it could also turn out great! At least you’ll have nothing to lose and lots to gain.
Calculating if it’s Worth it for You
Companies like Trivia Tryst and Geeks Who Drink promise large increases in revenue from regular trivia nights. Of course, they are working on their own revenue too, so their numbers are not entirely accurate. As a bar owner, you can expect an increase in sales between 30% and 65%. That’s a more realistic and achievable number that you can work with.
Still, each bar is different and there are factors at play that we cannot account for. To calculate if it’s worth it for you to run a trivia night, you need to write out your own budget. Figure out all of your expenses first. How much would you be paying the trivia night company? What else would you have to take care of? If it’s marketing, how much would you be willing to invest?
In order to make a profit, you need to cover all the expenses for the night and make a little (or a lot) extra. As a bar, you make most of your money through food and drinks. You need to know exactly how many customers you need to serve that night and how much each customer should spend for you to break even. This calculation will be specific to your bar, so don’t rely on any averages you find on the internet.
If you spend $500 on the trivia night company, $200 on food and beverages, and $100 on the prize, you need to make $800 to break even. All of these expenses are variable. More is more, and hosting a trivia night just to break even is no fun. It might work at first to get you on the radar, but you have to start making a profit eventually. If you spend more than you earn, it’s not a good business model.
How Frequently Should You Run Trivia?
There is no recipe for success. Everybody does it differently, and different things work for different bars. If you’re planning to make trivia a part of your weekly routine, go for it! If you have a trivia night on the same day every week, people will start to remember you. Some bars like to provide lots of entertainment, so they offer quiz nights multiple nights a week. That’s a different strategy and it won’t work for any bar. But if you can draw a crowd every night, why not?
You can also add a trivia night to spice it up once in a while, like once or twice a month. You can use trivia as a filler for nights when nothing is going on. Others make trivia their thing and run trivia nights multiple times a week. It can also be a special treat that is only served on special occasions and holidays. The strategy you go for is entirely up to you. As long as people show up and enjoy their time with you, you’re good.
How Does Trivia Do vs Karaoke or Live Music?
We already know that people like trivia. What’s not to like, right? It’s a competitive game that you can play sitting down with a drink in hand. What more could you possibly want from a game? Trivia’s biggest competitors are live music and karaoke. All three can draw a big crowd.
The benefit of live music is that not as much preparation is needed. The band doesn’t need to interact with the audience all the time. A karaoke machine is an investment that keeps on giving and you don’t need to hire a special person to operate it. Both can keep the crowd entertained for hours without much interference from you.
Your guests don’t need to engage with the band or karaoke machine if they don’t want to. You can keep your regular customers that come by just to have a drink and a chat with friends. At the same time, you can enjoy new customers that come specifically for the karaoke or live music. There is no pressure to draw a huge crowd and get your money’s worth, as these events don’t cost as much as a trivia night (depending, of course, on the size and fame-level of the band that you’ve booked!). At the very least, you will spend much less time preparing.
Finally, people love karaoke and live music! These additions to your program can make your bar a great destination for a fun afternoon. The payoff is just as high as with trivia, but with a fraction of the stress and preparation. Ultimately, the result will depend on what your loyal customers and locals enjoy the most. Try all three and see which night draws the biggest crowd.
The Bottom Line
At the end of the day, trivia can be profitable if you do it right. Your job is to figure out exactly how much money you can spend and how much you need to earn to make it all worth it. Regular trivia nights can give you more than just money for one night. You can increase your customer base, get great Yelp reviews, and make your bar more than just a local watering hole.
The calculation will be different for everyone. Take the amounts in this article as a ballpark and do your own research for a more specific calculation. Once you’re confident that trivia night is a hit for your bar, you can take the next steps to kick it up a notch. Afterward, don’t forget to let us know how it went!