Nothing goes better with a televised football or basketball game than some crispy munchies. So, what can restaurant operators do to lure people in the door to score a touchdown during the Big Game or get a slam dunk during college basketball playoffs? A little creativity can go a long way.
Selling shareables and samplers
Most people prefer to watch sports with their buddies—it just adds to the fun. Shareable appetizers are a sure way to boost the bottom line. One restaurant that’s tapping into that is Point & Feather in Chicago, which will be offering a special next spring called the “Tournament Tower.” It’s a three-tiered feast that includes fries, chicken and burger sliders, onion rings, wings, calamari, nachos and numerous sauces. The seasonal special, which feeds four to six, will go for $50 a pop.
Can’t pick just one? Creating sampler platter deals is another great way to entice guests to try new items. It’s also a great way to increase sales of those specific appetizers during a later visit, too.
Offer customizable portions and formats with appetizer platters so diners can order for one or for a crowd and focus on popular appetizers that consumers are most likely to order. According to Technomic’s 2017 Starters, Small Plates & Sides report, some of the top picks are mozzarella sticks (55% say they would be likely to order); French fries (52%); potato skins (46%); and chicken strips (41%).
It’s also fun to experiment. Surprise guests with new or unique flavor combinations or spicy offerings. Technomic’s report finds that 30% of consumers would like restaurants to offer more appetizers with spicy flavors, and 42% say the same about appetizers with new or unique flavors. Imagine loading up fries with pulled chicken and Buffalo sauce—a terrific alternative to chicken wings. Or, instead of pairing French fries with traditional ketchup, why not serve them up with a spicy Sriracha mayo or a jalapeno honey mustard?
Finally, get creative with presentation. Ditch the plate and showcase appetizers in cool cups, cones and baskets. Guests will appreciate the presentation, and portions can be controlled more easily, too.
Cater to the fans at home
Not everyone wants to go somewhere to watch the game. In fact, a cozy couch can be a restaurant’s worst enemy. And when its’s cold or rainy outside, fans may be even less likely to drive to a restaurant to watch the game. By offering takeout and delivery options, restaurants can keep pace with their sales goals without stressing about getting people in the door. Operators can put together packages that include game-day favorites such as chicken wings, fries, burger sliders and mozzarella sticks, creating a veritable “Party in a Box” that lets people tailgate at home. Bundle in drinks and desserts for an easy upsell.
One restaurant offering these types of deals is Ruby Tuesday. The chain is encouraging fans to order takeout with its “Gameday Bundles” of to-go meals, and diners can choose from family size bundles for four to six people or party-size packages of 10 to 12.
Introduce sports-specific promos
Everyone likes a deal, and sports-minded guests are no exception. Offering promos is another good way to drive people through the door. Take to social media to communicate the message by offering special gameday-only apps that cater to the city’s preferences or sports teams; for instance, in Philadelphia, offer mini-Philly cheesesteaks, or in Chicago, offer deep dish pizza bites.
Happy-hour discounts and offering smaller portions works, too. Shareable plates for happy hours that include smaller versions of popular entrees or other menu favorites is a surefire way to drive people to the bar. If a hangar steak is a top seller, offer a small portion or pre-slice it for easy sharing, or offer a choice of fries to accompany it to create a dish that’s easy to share with the table.
Football and basketball season will fly by in no time, so make sure to grab the glory now so there’s no need for a Hail Mary pass later.