The weeknights typically are slow at the Backpocket Dubuque Taproom, but on a recent Tuesday, the place was packed.
It wasn’t a holiday, and there wasn’t any special sale. What was being offered were trivia questions that needed answering.
“We’re currently averaging about 20 to 25 teams per night, which is about 100 people,” said Jacob Simmons, owner of Backpocket Dubuque. “It fills up pretty good.”
Simmons has hosted a weekly trivia night at Backpocket for the past four years, and the event has grown in popularity. Every Tuesday, people come to the taproom, form teams at tables and put their brains together to answer a variety of pop-culture-themed questions.
Most importantly, they also order food and drinks.
“It’s a great way to boost sales on the weeknights,” Simmons said. “Trivia is very effective. We have people who come back week after week.”
Backpocket Dubuque isn’t the only local business turning trivia nights into a business opportunity. Throughout the area, businesses are hosting trivia nights to draw in customers who typically wouldn’t think about spending money at a bar or restaurant until the weekend.
“It’s an event to attract a different crowd,” said Austin Millius, assistant store manager of the Hy-Vee on Locust Street, which has hosted a trivia night on Wednesdays for the past six years. “We have a lot of regulars that come in and enjoy it.”
For the Locust Street Hy-Vee, trivia nights help introduce people to its dining options, whether that be Market Grille or Wahlburgers at Hy-Vee. The Dodge Street Hy-Vee also hosts a trivia night on Thursdays at the store’s Market Grille Express.
Millius said both locations hold their trivia nights after 6 p.m. as a way to bring in customers after the store’s dinner rush tends to die down.
“It’s mainly the trivia crowd in there by that point,” Millius said. “They can still eat there, and we offer half-off prices on bottles of wine.”
Many local businesses aren’t running trivia night themselves. Instead, independent entertainers host events on behalf of businesses, also providing them a new source of income.
Bob Slattery, owner of Fun N Games Co., typically works as a DJ on the weekends, but about 12 years ago, he started hosting trivia nights for local businesses on weekdays to bring in extra cash.
He now hosts trivia nights four days per week.
“It’s a good fit for me,” Slattery said. “I’m a good emcee, and there is typically music involved. It allows me to do this job full-time.”
Slattery said his trivia nights prioritize not putting too much pressure on any one person and ensuring that no one feels incompetent. Participants are encouraged to form teams, and about 70% of the questions are answerable by almost anyone.
“I make those remaining questions a little tougher to separate out the teams,” Slattery said.
Devising a multitude of trivia questions every week for participants requires extensive preparation, Slattery said. While some questions come from the internet, he said he writes many of them.
“It’s a lot of work to keep questions fresh,” Slattery said. “My questions are heavy on pop culture because I’m very familiar with music and sports and movies. I just try to pay attention to what might be a good question to ask.”
During the time he has hosted trivia events, Slattery said they have only continued to grow in popularity. What started as an experiment for local bars has expanded to a regular event held by a variety of organizations.
“I do trivia nights for nonprofits, sports teams, booster clubs, schools and churches,” Slattery said. “Companies have hired me for corporate events. Trivia is a good team-building and bonding experience.”
Simmons said local businesses always seek to test different methods of drawing in customers, and trivia nights have proven to be a success.
“We’re always trying to pair up entertainment with eating and drinking,” Simmons said. “Trivia is a great way to bring that entertainment aspect into the fold.”