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Food and footy

Eateries thrive as World Cup draws diners

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Restaurants in Winnipeg, such as La Bamba Restaurant, have seen an increase in traffic as soccer fans take extended lunch breaks to take in some World Cup action.

WAYNE GLOWACKI / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS Enlarge Image

Restaurants in Winnipeg, such as La Bamba Restaurant, have seen an increase in traffic as soccer fans take extended lunch breaks to take in some World Cup action. Photo Store

Winnipeggers have apparently been cutting out of work early and heading to their favourite watering hole or taking extra-long lunches to watch the World Cup.

New research from Moneris Solutions, a Canadian payment processing company, says spending in Winnipeg restaurants increased 14.6 per cent during the fourth week of June, trailing only North York, Ont., at 22.49 per cent and Ottawa at 16.19 per cent.

The data compare the two-hour period of the 14 games played from June 22 to June 29 to the same two-hour window on the same day of the week from the beginning of June prior to the World Cup starting.

With two South American teams playing in the semifinals — Brazil will tackle Germany today at 3 p.m., while Argentina will take on the Netherlands exactly 24 hours later — you might want to see if Hermanos Restaurant takes breakfast reservations.

‘Our lounge is full, it overflows into the dining room. We have to turn our televisions to face the dining room so they can see it well’

"We’re bumping," said Joy Cozens, manager of the South American steakhouse in the Exchange District.

"Our lounge is full, it overflows into the dining room. We have to turn our televisions to face the dining room so they can see it well. People are dressed up in their jerseys and singing. They bring their flags and hang them up in the back of the booths."

Sister restaurants, Carnaval Brazilian BBQ and Corrientes Argentine Pizzeria, have also been jam-packed, she said.

Instead of serving tables like they usually do, Hermanos’ staff are now offering bar service.

"There are so many people and they come in so fast. They come to the bar and order their drinks and food and settle up as they go, which makes it more efficient," she said, noting the restaurant has brought on extra staff to handle the load.

A country’s success in the soccer tournament can be felt immediately at eateries serving its food. Just ask some Italian restaurateurs.

"Italy being out early (in the group stage) hurt," said Nick Zifarelli, owner of Nicolino’s in Fort Garry.

He said his restaurant and bar had a very busy June, but it had more to do with the rain than anything else.

"The rain kills barbecues and patios and makes people go inside. Rain is really good for us. We were busier than we would be without the World Cup, but it wasn’t gangbusters. It was a good little increase," he said.

Zifarelli said most fans are particular about what games they watch during the tournament’s early stages and are unlikely to take off from work to watch a random contest. That will change for the final on Sunday, though.

"People are going to watch the final because it’s the final. A billion-plus people watch it every time," he said.

Cozens said she can only imagine what it’s going to be like if Brazil and Argentina square off in the final.

"It can get so loud in here that your ears are ringing. It’s really amazing. It’s quite the experience to be a part of," she said.

The only Canadian city not experiencing World Cup fever, according to Moneris, is Montreal. During all games except two — Greece vs. Ivory Coast and Japan vs. Columbia on June 24 — restaurant spending went down.

geoff.kirbyson@freepress.mb.ca

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