We bet you never thought you’d hear the phrase, “Gotta catch ’em all” again.
Well, the time has come! On July 6th, Pokémon Go was unleashed to the masses and it caused a frenzy that enabled millions of millennials to relive their Pokéball-slinging youth. Thanks to Niantic, Inc. (The creators of Pokémon Go), you’re likely to come upon a swath of twenty-somethings in a park, at the beach, or on a street corner with their smartphones extended as they encroach together on an unsuspecting Pokémon.
Perhaps Pokémon brings back memories of sitting on your grade 5 steps at recess, nose to screen, celebrating the hard won evolution of your wee Charmander into the powerful and mighty Charizard. Or maybe you remember using your child’s Pokémon Gold game as the perfect bribery tool for good behavior. Or maybe you don’t know what any of this means.
However your nostalgic memory manifests (or doesn’t), the resurrection of the early 2000s game is upon us. But this time, it’s without the Game Boy – this is Pokémon in real-life.
So what does this all mean for your restaurant? If used correctly, it could mean a swath of new customers at your establishment. Here’s a basic rundown of Pokémon Go and how you can use it to your advantage.
Pokémon Go 101
The basics: Pokémon Go is a virtual game played in the real world, also known as augmented reality. Players - known as “Trainers” in Poké-speak - point their smartphones at the world around them in order to try and catch Pokémon. The game populates Pokémon all over your city. Players can catch them using Pokéballs. The catch (pun intended) is that you have to walk around at different times during the day to capture different types of Pokémon, some rare, some more common. When players catch’m, then can then train them to become stronger and prepare them to battle other Pokémon.
Key Poké-jargon Defined
PokéStops: These are specific locations in the real-world where you can collect free Pokéballs - the red and white orbs needed to catch more Pokémon. You can buy Pokéballs anywhere and at any time with Pokecoins. In and around PokéStops, businesses can buy and set up “lures” to attract Pokémon to specific locations. Essentially, this means that during the time the lure is active, there will be an influx of Pokémon, ripe for the picking, in that designated area. Thus, when Trainers stock up on their Pokéballs at PokéStops, there’s a host of new Pokémon to catch in that area. Lure modules can be purchased within the game. They allow business owners a chance at increasing traffic at their location for 30 minutes by attracting that influx of various Pokémon… and hungry, thirsty Trainers.
Gym: Gyms are a real world place where players go to battle other teams in order to gain control of a specific location. The goal here is to take control of the gym in the name of one of three Pokémon teams: Mystic, Valor, or Instinct. While lures are no good in gyms, a creative approach to marketing can make the gym work in your favor. We’ll talk about this more below.
Strategies restaurants employ to use Pokémon to their advantage
We asked our customer community about the creative ways they’ve been using Pokémon Go to their advantage.
“We have a lure right outside the cafe, so I have people walking through all of the time.”
–Naomi Bush, Cahoots Coffee Cafe
“We are a PokéSpot so people are always walking in and refilling.”
–Ryan Kahl, Pacific Standard
“With kids and adults pounding the pavement to catch their beloved Pokémon, more adults have ended up in the bar before, during, and after their hunts.”
–Jared Ey, Bears Restaurant
So, first things first, download the game and familiarize yourself with it. Poke around and see what PokéStops and gyms are around you, or if your restaurant is lucky enough to be one. Then monitor who the controlling teams are.
If you are or are near a PokéStop, set up a lure module
Even Yelp has recognized the consumer demand the app is inspiring; they just released a Pokémon Go filter, which will direct players to restaurants with a Poké Stop nearby. The key to capitalizing on the PokéStop? Setting up a lure.
You can determine whether or not your restaurant is near a PokéStop by looking for the blue cube. As you approach it, it turns into spinning circles.
If you’re by a PokéStop, consider yourself Poké-blessed. Set up a lure by tapping on the PokéBall icon within the game. First, you have to buy Pokécoins (Pokémon money) and then you can purchase your lures. A lure module costs 100 coins (99 cents). Of course, the more you buy, the cheaper the Pokécoins and modules get. You can also buy a pack of eight lure modules for around $7.
For those wary of the cost, INC.com broke down the investment for you:
“What's even more incredible is just how affordable luring is. Let's do the math. With $100 netting, you get 14,500 Pokécoins and an eight-pack of Lures costing 680 Pokécoins:
14,500 Pokécoins / 680 = 21 eight-packs of lures
(21 * 8) / 2 = 84 hours
$100/84 hours = $1.19 per hour
For a little more than a dollar an hour, you can bring virtually guaranteed crowds to your business. The ROI here is ridiculous, so if your business is anywhere near a PokéStop, this is something you absolutely have to try.”
When you’re ready for the influx of Trainers, visit and tap on the PokéStop and set up your lure.
You can either choose to set up lures all day or in spurts. If you’re taking more of scheduled approach - which will allow you to prepare if there’s an influx of people - advertise the time you’ll use your lure on your social media platforms so that your followers and new followers know when to arrive.
Another strategy to attract new customers is to look for local PokémonGo meetup groups and post the time you’ll be throwing down your lures and any associated promotions on their messaging board. This way eager players can adjust their schedules, and tastebuds, accordingly.
If you are near a Gym
While you can’t put down lures at a gym, you can take advantage of the influx of players battling in it - your approach just has to be a bit more creative. Here are a few ways restaurants can capitalize on gyms:
By providing discounts based on the team players are on.
By appealing to the winning team! Since gyms are changing hands constantly, consider offering a celebratory appetizer deal to those on the winning team.
If you’re not near anything
Worry not, Pokémon can appear everywhere! Use your social media profiles to showcase the Pokémon hanging around your establishment. One approach would be to offer a deal to players who’ve posted the Pokémon they caught at your establishment to social media.
Pairing your efforts with deals and promotions is the best way to convert players into diners, so go forth and catch ’em all: customers and Pokémon. Just don't do this.
Here’s a few real world examples of restaurants using Pokémon Go today:
About the Author
Andrea is a Content Marketing Specialist and Editor at TouchBistro where she writes about restaurant and dining trends, restaurant management, and food culture. A self-affirmed food geek, Andrea devours cookbooks and food blogs. She also knows how to make a killer kale salad.More Content by Andrea Victory