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As March Madness begins, restaurants make a mad dash to snag fans

Menu specials and deals are in the works to boost sales both on- and off-premise during the NCAA tournament.
Buffalo Wild Wings sauces
Buffalo Wild Wings introduced two new sauce combos for the 2023 March Madness NCAA tournament./Photo courtesy of Buffalo Wild Wings.

Super Bowl is a big day for restaurants serving wings, pizza and nachos—but it’s only one day.

Less than a month later comes college basketball’s NCAA tournament—the sports spectacular known as March Madness that stretches more than three weeks.

That’s a lot of opportunity to lure fans with food, drink and themed promotions.

Buffalo Wild Wings made a mad dash to be first out on the court. The first games of the tournament are March 16-17, but the Atlanta-based chain, which calls itself “the official sports bar of March Madness,” on Wednesday launched two new wing sauces and an immersive pop-up experience.

The limited-edition Buffalo Ranch, a spicy, tangy sauce, and Honey Garlic, a sweet and savory choice, are both extensions of BWW’s combo line, a selection that offers blends of iconic flavors from the brand's 26 signature sauces.

With its wall-to-wall TVs, shareable wings and apps and extensive cocktail and beer menu, BWW’s goal is to keep butts in seats to binge watch games. Toward that end, the chain just debuted BnB-Dubs, a pop-up located inside its Houston restaurant. The space is outfitted with big screen TVs, an elite locker room mockup, themed artwork, banners, trophies, a sauce bar on tap and game-day activities. Not to mention beds.

One fan and their guest can win a chance to stay overnight at BnB-Dubs during the first round of March Madness, plus get free tickets and accommodations to the NCAA Final Four in April. BWW posted entry forms Wednesday at bnb-dubs.com; the winner will be chosen on NCAA Selection Sunday, March 12.

BnB Dubs Pop-up

Fans can enter for a chance to stay overnight in the BnB-Dubs immersive pop-up at BWW's Houston restaurant./Photo courtesy of Buffalo Wild Wings.

“Buffalo Wild Wings has always been the best place to watch March Madness, but this year, we have taken it up a notch,” said CMO Tristan Meline in a statement. “Adding innovative Buffalo Ranch and Honey Garlic flavors to our lineup of signature sauces and offering a once-in-a-lifetime experience for two lucky fans further solidify B-Dubs as the ultimate destination to enjoy the tournament.”

Blazin’ Rewards members can get extra perks when a men’s or women’s game goes into overtime. If a member checks in or orders via the rewards app on game day and OT happens, six free boneless wings will be delivered to their account the following day.

Qdoba is also offering specials for its rewards members. On every visit a member makes from March 12 through April 3, both in-store and online, customers can score double points. They simply hit the “click-to-load” option and via email, will be able to use their points to unlock a free entree throughout the month.

Nacho bar

Qdoba's Ultimate Nacho Bar is geared to at-home watch parties. /Photo courtesy of Qdoba.

For those gathering for B-Ball watch parties at home, the Mexican fast casual has ramped up its catering options. Crowd favorites include the Ultimate Nacho Bar, Mega Burrito 10-Packs and the Chips & Dips Party Pack.

Deals at TGI Fridays are happening towards the end of the tournament. From March 23-26, during the Sweet 16 and Elite Eight playoffs, the casual-dining chain is offering a 25% discount on platters, party trays and family meal bundles to go. Fans need to use the code GAMEON25 at checkout for both online and call-in takeout orders.

Friday's party platter

TGI Fridays party platters are discounted during playoff games. /Photo courtesy of TGI Fridays.

Then when the tournament reaches its peak during the Final Four and NCAA Championship rounds (April 1-3), TGI Fridays is offering the same deal but with a different code: PLAYOFF25.

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