Twenty years ago, a "pub trivia contest" usually consisted of a few guys competing for bragging rights at their favorite watering hole.
These days, trivia nights have become big business for restaurants and bars, helping to boost sales figures mid-week, when the crowds are normally more sparse.
Recently, the manager of the , Michael Calandrello, decided to take trivia night to a whole new level by signing on with World Tavern Trivia, an organization that gives trivia buffs a chance to compete for big cash prizes and test their skills against national competition.
"Trivia's fun, I've always liked doing it," said Calendrello, who said he had been disappointed with how his trivia night was run last year. "We just searched. We Googled 'trivia' looking for a new person to do it and this (World Tavern Trivia) came up."
Competition takes place every Thursday night at 9 p.m., with teams straining their brains to answer questions in a wide range of categories from sports to pop culture to history to politics.
The man who keeps things rolling every Thursday is Dickie Scheri. A bartender for Applebee's by day, Scheri was tabbed by Calendrello to serve as emcee for trivia night and was happy to oblige.
"I'm an entertainer, I like to think of myself as," said Scheri, with a chuckle.
Most of the questions asked are supplied through World Tavern Trivia, but Scheri said he will occasionally replace one of the six rounds with one of his own choosing. It may be seasonal, or something with a specific theme, he said.
Scheri is backed up by a team of scorekeepers, who judge the teams' answers and keep track of standings through a computer program.
In many ways Applebee's Trivia Night is similar to other places. Prizes are awarded each week to the top placing teams. Recent prizes have included git certificates to Applebee's and Red Sox tickets.
The difference is that scores are cumulative over a 13-week "season." Every time a team competes, they add to their season score. The team that finishes with the top score at the end of the Tewksbury Applebee's season qualifies to compete in the World Tavern Trivia Nationals in North Carolina for a shot at $10,000.
Calendrello says he has been pleased with how the World Tavern Trivia format has been received by patrons and said business has increased noticeably on Thursdays.