For sports fans, the end of summer signals a start of the best season of all—college football season. For operators, this time of year can provide a traffic boost, as diners meet up with fellow fans at bars, restaurants or campus dining locations to watch the games.
To maximize this opportunity, operators should focus on offering foods consumers crave at game time, such as bar bites, wings and popcorn chicken. Sixty eight percent of full-service restaurants offer breaded protein as an appetizer, for instance, according to Technomic’s 2016 Snacking Occasion Consumer Trend Report, powered by Ignite—and chicken options on menus are continuing to grow.
According to Technomic’s 2017 Center of the Plate: Poultry Consumer Trend Report, 47% say they eat chicken as a snack at least once a month, up from 43% in 2015. Among younger diners, that trend is even stronger, with 59% of consumers ages 18-34 say they eat chicken for a snack at least once a month, compared to 52% two years ago.
Here’s how operators can use sports-fan favorites to boost game-day sales.
Offer healthier options
In the same way that they look for indulgent foods at the ballpark, consumers may not be looking for the healthiest thing on the menu when they gather to watch a college football game, and game-day classics such as wings or strips generally fall on the indulgent side of the spectrum.
However, operators can still appeal to guests looking for better-for-you choices with lighter chicken options. Chicken bar bites, for example, can be marketed as a better-for-you, high-protein option, and they’re also popular because of their perceived value.
Focus on dips and shareables
Shareables such as wings and breaded chicken are the most popular types of chicken appetizers/snacks, with 54% of consumers ordering them at least occasionally, followed by 48% of consumers who order bone-in wings (boneless wings are only slightly less popular).
Other iterations of chicken small bites that are popular include chicken nuggets (which about 50% say they order occasionally), chicken quesadillas (37%) and popcorn chicken (34%).
One way that operators can pique diner interest is by offering new and exciting dips. For breaded chicken bites, barbecue, honey mustard and ranch are the most preferred dipping sauces, whereas barbecue, ranch and buffalo sauce are the most popular for wings.
Operators can branch out, though, offering unique and ethnic options as well, such as Sriracha ranch or sweet Thai chili dipping sauces. In fact, 57% of consumers say that they would like a wide variety of dipping sauces to be available at restaurants, according to a recent Technomic Flavor Consumer Trend Report.
Innovate with classics
Menuing something new and unique can be a successful way to sell more chicken. Because consumers are familiar with chicken, they may be more likely to try out something different. Here’s a list of chicken bites from current menus:
- 57’s All American Grill, a casual dining restaurant in Flushing, New York, offers Southwest Spring Rolls, filled with chicken, cheese, spinach, black beans, corn and jalapeno and served with chipotle mayo.
- Andalus Pizza & Café in Brighton, Massachusetts serves up a twist on the potato skin appetizer. This quick service restaurant’s Buffalo Skins are potato skins stuffed with buffalo chicken, cheese and bleu cheese dressing dip.
- Aubree’s Pizzeria & Grill, a chain with locations in Michigan, has Coconut Grove Chicken Sticks on the menu. This dish of chicken breast, cut into sticks and coated with a coconut crust, is served with mango chutney and sweet chili dipping sauces.
This post is sponsored by Pierce Chicken