- Darren Rovell, ESPN.com Sports Business reporter
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A group of burrito franchisees gave away nearly $500,000 in business as part of a promotion that rewarded fans of the University of Connecticut's basketball teams.
In a "If UConn wins, you win," promotion, the 17 Moe's Southwest Grill restaurants in the state lowered the price of burritos as the men's and women's teams advanced in the NCAA tournaments.
When both teams made the Sweet 16, the price of burritos, normally about $8, was reduced to $5 for the day after their wins. A trip to the Elite Eight made burritos $4 the next day. The price was reduced to $3 for the Final Four and getting to the championship games. And after both teams prevailed, all 17 restaurants lowered the price of their burritos to $1 for a day.
"On Wednesday, they were 150 deep at our Storrs location from 11 a.m. when we opened to 10 p.m. when we closed," said Matt Rusconi, co-owner of seven of the stores.
Rusconi said that the 17 stores -- which are official sponsors of the UConn athletic department -- sold a total of 20,000 burritos at $1, which is below the cost of the product and labor, and about 100,000 burritos total throughout the March Madness promotion. Taking into account the discounts over the normal margins the stores pull in, Rusconi said UConn's dual championships resulted in the businesses giving up $435,000.
"It was worth it because it showed our connection to the program and introduced some new customers to our brand," Rusconi said. "There's a lot of competition in our space, and I think we stood out here."
As the UConn men and women kept advancing and prices kept dropping, the stores scrambled to make sure they would have enough for everyone who showed up at their doors.
"We had a big team of people transferring cheese, meat and jalapenos all throughout the state to make sure we could keep up," Rusconi said.