KANSAS CITY, Mo. — What were once the worst of times have gone to the best of times for Kansas City restaurants. It’s the tale of one city hosting the AFC Championship every single January for five years in a row.
Two-hundred-seventeen Kansas City restaurants just wrapped up Kansas City Restaurant Week this past weekend.
“Everyone I talked to was busy, it was hard to get a reservation,” Bill Teel, Greater Kansas City Restaurant Association Executive Director said.
It’s an event that started 14 years ago. The week in January was picked because it’s usually the slowest time of year for bars and restaurants between New Year’s Eve and Valentine’s Day.
“Of course 14 years ago the Chiefs weren’t that good,” Teel said.
Friday night Johnny’s Tavern in the Power and Light District was filled with fans of the visiting Jacksonville Jaguars. Each playoff game brings in more visiting fans sampling Kansas City barbecue or other delicacies and reasons for Chiefs fans to get together and celebrate.
“We have locations now from Raymore to Topeka and so every weekend the Chiefs advance it’s great being in the sports bar business this time of year with the success Chiefs are having,” Kyle Witherspoon, Johnny’s Tavern Partner, said.
“We’ll get a lot of people from out of town but a lot of people like to go to a bar or restaurant and hang out with their friends and watch the game,” Teel said.
For restaurants that means a lot of planning right now, working on staffing plans and making sure they have enough food and drinks to fill all those orders this coming weekend.
The five straight times hosting a conference championship are unprecedented, but so is what’s on tap for Kansas City sports bars and restaurants.
“Knock on wood we get a couple more weeks out of this Chiefs after this weekend then Big 12 then 2 weeks after that we have a NCAA Basketball Regional Final and then the NFL Draft. There’s a lot going on in KC this spring people are excited about it,” Witherspoon said.
Sunday’s AFC Championship could have been a neutral site game if the Bills won and not the Bengals because of the unusual Damar Hamlin situation.
There’s speculation the NFL could go the route of neutral site conference championships in the future. It seems the preference of most in Kansas City would be to keep those games in the top seed’s home stadium.
“They should let those towns that have championship teams host those games in their cities I think,” Teel said.