Revised and updated November 1, 2019.
Bars and nightclubs in the US is a market worth $27 billion in revenues, but it’s harder to pinpoint the narrower sports bar and pub niche. One thing is clear, though – sports bars are certainly not declining in popularity. Entrepreneurs who want to get in on the action can take a closer look at these top 15 sports bar/pub franchises of 2020.
The whole approach with most concepts is to have a more open restaurant-like atmosphere for watching sports, drinking, and enjoying good food than the typical smoke-filled bars of the past. Some are family-friendly while others are definitely geared towards a more guys-only kind of vibe (with scantily-clad waitresses).
The full-service places have menus typically featuring food that’s good enough to be a draw in and of itself, whether you’re interested in watching sports or not. Hipster versions might put more emphasis on music, some cater to those interested in craft beers and microbrewing, and some are more focused on wings as its own food group.
Here are the 15 best sports bar/pub franchises of 2020:
1. Buffalo Wild Wings
Buffalo Wild Wings recently inked a deal with MGM to bring sports betting to select locations in states where it’s legal, and a new mobile app for getting in on the action. Every location of this chain has no fewer than 50 hi-def flat-screen TVs for customers to enjoy their favorite sports. When it comes to food, patrons find a huge variety of wings and 12 signature sauces, along with all kinds of appetizers, burgers, tacos, salads, and desserts. Wait staff wear jerseys with the number 82 in honor of the year the first restaurant opened.
Founded by friends James Disbrow and Scott Lowery in Columbus, Ohio in 1982 and franchising since 1991, the number of locations has continued to expand in recent years from 602 in 2009 to the current total of 1,274, of which 635 are company-owned and 55 are located outside the US.
2. Boston’s Pizza Restaurant & Sports Bar
Boston’s Pizza Restaurant & Sports Bar doesn’t exist in Boston despite its name. It was actually started in Edmonton, Canada, and the founder just wanted a name that was easy to pronounce and decided on Boston. There really is pizza on the menu, however, along with pasta, burgers, wings, and more. And every seat has a good view of a large screen for watching sports. The beer selection is both national, regional, and local.
Founded in 1963 and franchising since 1968, the number of locations now stands at 425 – 390 in Canada, 20 in the US, and 15 in Mexico. Only four locations (one in Canada and three in the US) are company-owned.
Hooters was a pioneer of the “breastaurant” concept featuring waitresses in skimpy outfits to show off their curves, and the restaurant does not apologize for making sex appeal a central part of its business model in spite of many complaints and lawsuits over the years. There are plenty of screens in each location for watching sports, a sort of beach theme, and a menu featuring mostly standard American fare.
Founded in Clearwater, Florida in 1983 and franchising since 1986, the number of locations has declined from 432 in 2018 to the current total of 412, of which 202 are company-owned and 82 are located outside the US.
4. Beef ‘O’ Brady’s Family Sports Pub
Beef ‘O’ Brady’s Family Sports Pub feels like an Irish pub, but doesn’t serve any hard liquor to have a more family-friendly atmosphere. The menu is not Irish but features typical American fare, with specials for each weekday (Burger Mondays, Taco Tuesdays, Wing Wednesdays, Fajita Thursdays, and Seafood Combo Fridays). Décor includes lots of sports memorabilia and plenty of television screens for watching sporting events.
Founded by Jim Mellody and his wife Jeanette in Brandon, Florida in 1985 and franchising since 1998, the number of locations has declined steadily in recent years from 261 in 2009 to the current total of 151, of which 24 are company-owned and all are located in the US.
5. Bar Louie
Bar Louie positions itself at the forefront of what it calls the “gastrobar” revolution. It definitely has a hipster vibe aimed at Millennials. It features an extensive menu of appetizers, flatbreads, burgers, salads, sandwiches, entrées, and desserts served up with craft cocktails and local beers. It does cater to sports fans to some extent, but not as obsessively as many of the companies on this list.
Founded in 1990 and franchising since 2006, the number of locations has expanded in recent years from 68 in 2012 to the last known total of 131 in 2018, of which 112 are company-owned and all are located in the US.
6. Old Chicago Pizza and Taproom
Old Chicago Pizza and Taproom makes its priorities clear: Beer first, food second, and watching sports a somewhat distant third. But it doesn’t serve up just any old beer. The big focus here is on craft beer, which the chain considers a way of life, not just a trend. Having a craft beer featured at Old Chicago is a highly competitive feat that few can manage, though the chain does try to spread the joy. The menu features appetizers, wings, deep-dish pizzas, calzones, burgers, sandwiches, pasta, salads, soups, and desserts.
Founded in 1976 and franchising since 2000, the number of locations inched upwards in recent years from 96 in 2011 to the current total of 109, of which 72 are company-owned and all are located in the US.
7. Twin Peaks
Twin Peaks takes the breastaurant concept of Hooters and moves it away from the beach and into the forested mountains to serve up “Eats. Drinks. Scenic Views” complete with beautiful waitresses in skimpy lumberjack outfits and lots of HD flat-screen TVs for watching sports. The chain takes great pains to pour its beer into frosted mugs at 29°F resulting in ice crystals at the top of the glass.
Founded in 2005 and franchising since 2007, the number of locations has grown in recent years from 11 in 2009 to the current total of 83, of which 28 are company-owned and one is located outside the US.
8. Buffalo Wings & Rings
Buffalo Wings & Rings reinvented itself from a man-cave joint to a much more family-friendly restaurant with a menu featuring wings, appetizers, salads, soups, burgers, wraps, quesadillas, sandwiches, sides, and desserts. It calls itself a “club-level” sports restaurant, and each location has 50+ televisions to catch a favorite team.
Founded in 1984 and franchising since 1988, the number of locations has grown in recent years from 47 in 2012 to the current total of 57 as listed on the company website.
9. Brass Tap
Brass Tap started out as just a craft beer bar, but now that craft beer has essentially gone mainstream, it had to branch out. It rolled out a snack menu, then realized a full menu would better. The full menu is much improved over its original standard offerings, with all kinds of chef-created dishes. And liquor is now offered as well to appeal to even more customers. But craft beer is still important, with dozens on tap and hundreds of bottled options. And, of course, it has HD screens for watching sports.
Founded in 2008 and franchising since 2010, the number of locations expanded from three in 2012 to 48 in 2018, but recently dropped by three to the current total of 45, of which only one is company-owned and all are located in the US.
10. The Greene Turtle Sports Bar & Grille
The Greene Turtle Sports Bar & Grille has a menu featuring the usual suspects: appetizers, burgers, sandwiches, entrées, salads, and dessert. Lots of different beers are on tap, including local craft beers. It bills itself as the community hangout place to share food, drinks, and sports with friends and family.
Founded by Steve Pappas and Tommy Dickerson in Ocean City, Maryland in 1976 and franchising since 2003, the number of locations grew slowly but steadily from 23 in 2009 to 47 in 2018, but just dropped back to 44, of which 13 are company-owned and all are located in the US.
11. Tilted Kilt
Tilted Kilt is another “breastaurant” but this time with a Scottish/Celtic theme featuring pretty waitresses in short kilts and plaid bikini tops. The menu features a variety of traditional and modern pub fare such as fish and chips, shepherd’s pie, and “Big Arse Burgers.” Lots of screens are available for watching sports, and there are in-house gaming options such as pool, darts, and Golden Tee. There are always at least 24 beers on tap along with wine, cocktails, and spirits.
Founded in 2003 and franchising since 2006, the number of locations has declined in recent years from a high of 103 in 2015 to the current total of 44 (one more than the previous year), of which two are company-owned and three are located outside the US.
12. Native Grill and Wings
Native Grill and Wings gives itself a tagline of “Big Games. Big Fun. One Big Family” because it is all about the sports. The menu consists of appetizers, wings, salads, pizzas, burgers, sandwiches, fish entrées, and desserts. It has little to distinguish it from many of the other sports bar concepts on this list, which may help explain its declining locations.
Founded in 1979 and franchising since 1993, the number of locations just dropped from its high of 36 in 2017 to the current total of 29, none of which are company-owned and all are located in the US.
13. Arooga’s Grille House & Sports Bar
Arooga’s Grille House & Sports Bar goes a bit further than most sports bar restaurant companies on this list. The others may boast 50+ screens, but each Arooga location has at least 100! These places have big footprints ranging from 6,500-9,500 square feet, and different areas are themed on different sports. Very family-friendly, with a surprisingly forward-thinking menu that includes a meat-free plant-based burger, Arooga’s is the first Green Certified restaurant in the state of Pennsylvania.
Founded in 2007 and franchising since 2010, the number of locations currently stands at 20 (11 are in Pennsylvania), of which 10 are company-owned and all are located in the US.
14. Rock and Brews
Rock and Brews is a craft beer restaurant started up by an interesting combination of people including Dave and Dell Furano (long-time rock concert tour promoters and merchandisers), restaurateur/hotelier Michael Zislis, and KISS band members Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley. The craft beer emphasis is on local brews. The food is reimagined American comfort food for the 21st century, all with a heavy rock-n-roll emphasis in the décor as opposed to sports.
Founded in 2010 and franchising since 2012, there are now 18 locations (two less than the previous year’s total of 20), of which six are company-owned and one is located outside the US.
15. Stacked Pickle
Stacked Pickle is quickly becoming Indiana’s go-to place for sports, wings, burgers, and beer. Also on the menu are lots of starters, main events (tacos, fish and chips, chicken dishes, pasta, etc.), salads, flatbreads, sandwiches, wraps, rice bowls, sides, and desserts.
Founded by former Indianapolis Colts football player and Super Bowl champion Gary Brackett in Indianapolis, Indiana in 2010 and franchising since 2017, there are now 10 locations, all of which are company-owned and in the US.
An Important Note About Our Methodology
The franchises on this list were ranked according to the number of units in the franchise system. If you are a prospective franchisee searching for franchise opportunities that meet or exceed certain performance benchmarks for sales, profits, and return on investment, please check out this list of America’s Most Lucrative Franchises.