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Pubs and restaurants across the UK are tapping into the Pokémon Go craze by paying to become destinations in the game so they can tempt potential customers into their premises.

With millions of people roaming the streets glued to their smartphone screens on the hunt for virtual creatures, businesses are beginning to profit from what is already being called “Pokémonomics”.

Maxwell’s, a burger restaurant in central London, said its revenues had risen 26 per cent after buying “lures”, which fill locations with Pokémon monster for players to catch. “We were probably the first to jump on the bandwagon, and it has definitely paid off for us,” said Anthony Knight, head of marketing.

The restaurant has also launched Pokémon milkshakes, and will shortly hold a “Pokémon Lure” party, with 400 confirmed guests.

The Sun pub in south London has been advertising the types of Pokémon spotted in its beer garden on a chalk board. Mark McCutcheon, assistant manager, said the monsters were attracting “more people than usual”.

The Oakford Social Club in Reading has also been advertising its array of Pokémon. “We’ve had a 5 to 10 per cent increase in footfall,” Claire Hudson, general manager, said.

Fuller’s, the pub company, said it was assessing whether to pay for lures across its estate. “It is early days but it would be fair to say we have a fascination for the game,” it said.

JD Wetherspoon said there was no centralised effort to use the app in its pubs yet, while another of the UK’s largest pub chains, which did not want to be named, said it was concerned about attracting underage drinkers.

George O’Connor, an analyst at investment bank Panmure Gordon, said blurring the real world with augmented reality was an opportunity to “influence how we spend our money”.

“Of course businesses are going to be looking at having sponsored locations inside the game, or offering rewards to people they can lure to visit their sites.”

“Smart, enterprising companies including pizza shops, coffee shops, bars, burger chains and stores like Gamestop in the US will buy lures,” said Seth Fischer, a Nintendo investor and the founder of Hong Kong-based hedge fund Oasis, who said he saw no reason why the trend would not cross the Atlantic.

Other consumer businesses that stand to profit from the craze are mobile phone operators, as users in search of creatures burn through their monthly mobile data allowances.

EE, the mobile network, said battery life was “one of the things our customers are most concerned about when playing Pokémon Go”.

There were 5.1m downloads of the game in the UK between July 13 and July 21, according to leading app analysis company Priori Data.

Pokémon Go is already the most downloaded mobile game in US history, according to Survey Monkey, the online polling company, which said on July 16 that it had more than 21m active daily users.

A high number of downloads of the game has caused its servers to crash across Europe and the US, with similar outages being experienced during lunchtimes and peak commuting times in London and the Southeast.

“It is rarely working, and when it does it freezes as soon as you catch a Pokemon,” one gamer complained in a review on Apple’s App Store.

Nintendo’s shares have almost doubled since Pokémon Go was first launched in the US less than three weeks ago. They rose another 5 per cent yesterday after the game finally launched in its home territory of Japan, where it became the nation’s most downloaded app within hours.

Additional reporting by Robert Wright

Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2017. All rights reserved.
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