If someone would have yelled “Pikachu” in a Fresno restaurant a month ago, chances are the other diners would have said, “God bless you.” Now, it could cause a small-scale riot.
“Pokémon Go” was an instant success when it hit the mobile gaming market on July 6, with some estimating more than 30 million downloads in its first two weeks. Hundreds of Pokémon-hungry trainers have hit the streets of Fresno every night since it was released. Corporate chains like McDonald’s have started to collaborate on marketing opportunities with the game’s creators.
A few local businesses have climbed aboard the “Pokémon Go” train, but others appear to be on the fence about the latest trend.
Milano Restaurants International, the Fresno-based parent company of Me-N-Ed’s Pizza, Piazza Del Pane and Blast 825 Pizza, dove in headfirst. All Fresno Me-N-Ed’s location are offering a large Pokémon Pizza for $11. The pizza is half pepperoni and half cheese, with a row of olives splitting each portion. Piazza Del Pane is offering half off gelato and 10 percent off all to-go orders, and the Italian restaurant asks its players to share their Pokémon capture pictures on social media using the hashtag #PanePokeStop.
Piazza Del Pane and at least three Fresno Me-N-Ed’s locations – Shaw Avenue near Brawley Avenue, Ventura Avenue near Cedar Avenue and the Tower District – have Pokéstops placed nearby. These digital “Pokémon Go” landmarks provide in-game items every five minutes and can be used to attract wild Pokémon, so players tend to congregate near them rather than walk on a blind search.
Milano executive assistant Vanessa Waltz said that sales at all Me-N-Ed’s locations – especially the three Pokéstops – have increased since launching the promotions. Piazza Del Pane also has seen an uptick in sales, particularly at its walk-up gelato station.
The Fresno Grizzlies will host a Pokémon-related promotion for the upcoming Sunday home game. Tickets will be $5 for anyone who shows the box office their Pokémon. A tweet from the team’s official Twitter said that Chukchansi Stadium has five Pokéstops, but players should note that these are all located either at the front gate or near the left field foul pole.
Rio Açai Bowls, which opened earlier this month at the former Iron Bird Cafe location on Fulton Street, is encouraging players to visit its Pokéstop – even if they don’t plan to buy anything. Rio’s Bakersfield location is also nestled between two Pokéstops.
“We’re new. We don’t mind people just hanging out there,” owner Justin Cummings said in a phone interview. He added that his children and employees encouraged him to do something after the game was released.
Rio is not offering any discounts or promotions for players. Poké bowls are deconstructed, Magikarp-free (the fish Pokémon) tuna sushi rolls. Despite the name, they have nothing to do with Pokémon.
Like the Milano restaurants, Cummings said both Rio locations have seen an uptick in business since posting about “Pokémon Go.”
Other local entities still are working out their official stances on “Pokémon Go.”
Valley Children’s Hospital in Madera County is home to several Pokéstops and gyms, where trainers battle their Pokémon. Spokeswoman Zara Arboleda said the hospital’s leaders still are discussing whether to embrace the game.
It could possibly be used for things like motivating patients rehabilitating from surgeries to get out of their beds, Arboleda said. On the other hand, some of the Pokéstops are located in the hospital’s parking lot, and officials worried that these may be dangerous for players – especially children.
732The number of shares the Me-N-Ed’s Pokémon-related promotional post received on its official Facebook page. Posts made before and after it were shared two and 15 times, respectively.
In Old Town Clovis, another popular player hub, businesses along Clovis and Pollasky avenues do not appear to be offering any discounts or incentives. Scoops, Soups & More on Pollasky had a sign inside warning that Pokémon training was “for customers only.”
The city of Fresno has no official stance on “Pokémon Go,” but officials within its parks and recreation department are a little worried about the game’s effect on Woodward Park – perhaps the largest nightly player hub in town.
“There’s been a lot of litter, but it’s not a massive concern yet,” PARCS manager Tony Hernandez said. “It’s taken a few extra man-hours to clean it up each day – similar to what we see after a busy weekend.”
Hernandez added that if this extra daily cleanup continues to be necessary, it will become a concern for the city.
“The bigger concern is this: People in vehicles are stopping in the middle of the roads (throughout the park) to catch Pokémon,” he said. “That’s a major safety concern.”
Hernandez also noted that the private security company the city contracts to clear out the park when it closes at 10 p.m. has also had its hands full since the release.
“They’ve chased out up to 30 vehicles inside the park in one night.”