August 7th, 2020
For Long Branch Restaurants ‘Trivia Nights’ Hold Serious Benefits
When future historians analyze how Long Branch restaurants survived the Coronavirus pandemic, Trivia Nights will figure largely in their reports.
Such Trivia Night events, to be sure, have been held at restaurants and bars around the country for some years now. The concept is straightforward. A host asks teams of players all sorts of questions, often tied to a theme or a season. Competing teams mull it over, and then send in their responses anonymously. The team with the most points at the end of the night wins a prize.
In short, it’s pretty much like Jeopardy except that instead of happening on T.V. it takes place over dinner or a drink in a bar or restaurant. At least, that is the way it works in normal times. In Long Branch over the last few months, which have been anything but normal, Trivia Night happens online over Zoom.
In Long Branch, until late April, Trivia Nights were an unknown thing within the business district. It was also in April, after the initial weeks of shutdown stretched into months, and restaurant earnings took a nose dive, the need for innovative marketing became obvious. Desperately so.
In response, marketing expert Catherine Rytkonen (her work in the area is supported by MHP and Montgomery County) suggested area restaurants hold online Long Branch Trivia Nights, both to attract more customers and to build a sense of solidarity with residents. Her ad campaign cut to the chase: “Order carry-out or delivery; RSVP at triviaRSVP.com; Play with your local community; SAVE our local small businesses.”
Rytkonen’s gamble payed off. On April 30 the first Trivia Night was held. Ninety people signed up. They had a blast. What is more, attendance at the following trivia nights, all five of them, has remained strong, with many participants returning repeatedly.
So far, participating restaurants include Samantha’s, Veronica’s, El Gavilan and El Golfo Restaurants. For several of these fine Long Branch restaurants the positive impact on sales has extended beyond just the day of the event. A number of participants have turned into repeat customers.
And there are other spin-off benefits. The participants’ interactions with one another have led to surprising and entirely welcome results.
As Annie Tulkin told the Newsletter: “We love Trivia Nights and have made some interesting [social] connections. For example, Josh announced on the first Trivia for Long Branch that he was looking for wine bottles. People came through and Josh now has embarked on a glass cutting project making vases and glasses!”
Max Johansen, the charismatic host of all the Long Branch Trivia Nights, deserves, to be honest, a separate write-up of his own. A child Jeopardy prodigy, he was already at the age of 12 a champion player on the famous TV program. When he turned 20 he was invited back to the TV show for a reunion round. He won the top spot and, as an added bonus, met his future wife, who was another Jeopardy participant.
Max Johansen is the popular host of the Long Branch Trivia Nights (depicted both with and without beard).
Johansen told the Newsletter that he is impressed with Long Branchers. “Everyone is very smart; they’re interested in playing, and they like talking with each other.”
Johansen recalled how, one night, after the game concluded, an informal group conversation continued for quite a while. “They told funny stories, and then there was a long discussion about the ethics of deer hunting [a topic that got raised by one of the Trivia questions],” Johansen said. “Everyone had strong opinions, but everyone spoke very kindly and respectfully. It’s really unusual.”
The connections Trivia Night participants are making extend beyond meeting new people and trying out new and tasty Long Branch foods. Trivia Nights are now also happening on Bonifant Street in historic Silver Spring (also sponsored by MHP), so now players in both neighborhoods are discovering new eateries and new people — to the benefit of everyone. It’s sort of like people are discovering Long Branch (to coin a phrase), and Bonifant …
Sign up here for the next Trivia Night!