When it comes to game time, comfort foods hit the spot, and whether it’s buffalo chicken wings or spinach and artichoke dip, familiar dishes are particularly popular choices during the tournament. For operators looking to entice people to join them throughout the NCAA tournament, promoting these familiar flavors as game-day exclusives can be a great way to get folks in the door.
Appetizers and shareables offer a great opportunity for operators during games, as these dishes allow diners to order a variety of different options—potato apps, chicken apps, sliders, etc.—to share with everyone at the table. If certain dishes are particularly popular, some customers may even choose to order additional rounds of them. To boost game-time app orders, consider creating appetizer options that are only available during the games—combo plates or an array of dips designed specifically to showcase variety. By making some appetizers game-day exclusives, operators can gain valuable insight into what diners are craving, as well as what items could prove effective as permanent menu additions.
Another successful option is menuing flavors and combinations that lean toward the unexpected. For instance, most customers expect to see chicken wings or tenders featured on an appetizer menu, but BBQ Bacon Smokeys—mini smoked sausages wrapped in bacon and glazed with Sweet Baby Ray’s Honey Barbecue Sauce—offer an enticing and unique option that may sound too good for customers to pass up.
Looking for menu options that stay in-step with current trends? Look to hot sauce (+63%) and wing sauce (+8%), the fastest growing condiment choices for sandwiches with chicken, or sriracha (+157%), which is the fastest-growing ingredient for all chicken entrees, according to Technomic’s 2017 Center of the Plate: Poultry report. Additionally, keep in mind that consumers are more frequently seeking out spicy barbecue chicken dishes—looking for options that offer an enjoyable balance of heat and sweet.
Including these sauces and flavor profiles can also provide a wide range of options for menus beyond typical game foods. The Lucky 8 Chicken Salad, for example, is a salad that blends eight ingredients (cabbage, sprouts, onions, three kinds of bell peppers, rotisserie chicken and Sweet Baby Rays’ Sriracha Wing Sauce) for customers who might want something a bit lighter than typical game-day fare. Or, restaurants can lean in to the comfort food fad by menuing Honey Hot Chicken Sliders, featuring Sweet Baby Ray’s Honey Hot Wing Sauce & Glaze, chicken fritters, roasted red pepper sauce and bread and butter pickles.
Other options include incorporating these highly desired sauces into classic favorites. For example, serve Sriracha Chicken Grilled Cheese Sandwiches or offer them in a smaller portion size as an appetizer. Try drizzling Sweet Baby Ray’s Kickin’ Bourbon Molasses Wing Sauce & Glaze over fried chicken breasts, and then pile them onto King’s Hawaiian bun rolls and top them with cheddar cheese, smoked bacon slices and sweet potato fries.
For many hungry sports fans, discovering dishes with exciting flavors and profiles can be a true slam dunk on game day, whether they come to life as unique small bites, diverse sauces, or offerings using beloved traditional barbecue flavors. And if you need help menuing these new and unexpected appetizers and riffs on classic entrees, consider utilizing the wide variety of flavor options available from Sweet Baby Ray’s lineup of sauces and glazes, which range from classic barbecue to sweet teriyaki wing sauce, citrus garlic mojo wing sauce, Korean barbecue sauce, and beyond. For a full lineup of flavor, visit www.sbrfoodservice.com/products and start figuring out your game plan for the tournament now.
This post is sponsored by Ken's Foods Inc.