It's the middle of the week and a working day and yet most sports bars, restaurants, pubs and breweries across the country are sold out, thanks to the big cricket match between India and Australia today.
Outlets such as Underdoggs Sports Bar & Grill, Social, Striker Pub, TGIF, Irish House, United Sports Bar & Grill, TAP Sports Bar and others in cities including Gurgaon, Mumbai, Chandigarh and Bengaluru have got a large number of reservations from corporate executives, many of whom plan to skip work to watch the second semi-final of the ICC Cricket World Cup.
"In Gurgaon, we've got four to five large corporate groups coming in early tomorrow. One of them will have 50 people," says Surender Rawat, operations head at Underdoggs. The sports bar, which has outlets in Gurgaon, Delhi and Chandigarh and usually opens at noon, will start letting people in at 8:30 am for the match, scheduled to start at the Sydney Cricket Ground at 9 am IST.
At Gurgaon-based Striker Pub, most bookings have come from large groups. "There are people from companies like American Express and Grant Thornton who have booked with us. Another large group is coming in from a startup based in Gurgaon.
Many executives are bringing their bosses along and treating the seniors for allowing them to be out of office on a workday," says Hemant Nautiyal, general manager at Striker.
A Mumbai-based company wanted to host the entire office, about 150 people, at the Irish House in Parel. "But it could not happen because of logistical issues," says Harjeet Singh, general manager of Global Kitchens, which owns the brand. The Irish House is sold out for tomorrow and will open early at 9 am.
Viewership on television during this World Cup has been affected because the matches were scheduled in the mornings India time. Most India games have been played during the weekends and at more favourable times of the day, resulting in higher viewership.
The India-Pakistan thriller, which India won by 76 runs, was watched by 288 million television viewers, according to official broadcaster Star India. The match was played on Sunday, February 15, and most streets were empty as people were glued to their television screens at home or at pubs, bars and restaurants.
The following weekend, when the Men in Blue took on the Proteas, 257 million watched the game.
New Zealand, which has booked a berth for Sunday's final, and India are the only two teams that have won all the matches they played at this World Cup.
"In some of the corporate bookings we have got, it's the bosses who are taking their teams out," says Ruchir Vora, owner of Score Sports Bar in Mumbai's Malad area. "We are nearly sold for the match and to accommodate the additional rush we are adding more capacity in the outlet," he says.
Riyaaz Amlani, managing director of Impressario Entertainment & Hospitality, which operates brands such as Smokehouse Deli and Social, says the three Socials at Mumbai, Bengaluru and Delhi are fully booked.
While restaurants will incur additional expenses to open early, Rohan Jetley, chief executive officer of TGI Fridays India, says it is only marginal compared to the additional business they are likely to get. "The amount of time people spend will certainly go up," he says.
Rawat of Underdoggs says people who come in at 9 am won't go out before the match ends and the bar is prepared to meet the demands. "During the India-Pakistan game, people were walking in at 8.30 am."
United Sports Bar and Grill in central Mumbai is expecting a footfall of around 150-200 people tomorrow and will also open early at 9 am.