Sponsored by the maker of Tyson Red Label® Wings

Since its expansion to the field of 64 in 1985, the Men’s College Basketball Tournament has become one of the most popular and successful sporting events in the nation. Now with four additional play-in games, the 68 teams play a total of 67 games over the course of three weeks. The hype and fever surrounding the tournament is infectious, spreading to office pools, friendly wagers, and campus rallies throughout the country.

For bars and restaurants, this can represent a steady stream of revenue in an otherwise slow time of year. Professional football has recently wrapped its season up, while professional basketball and hockey are playing out their final regular weeks before the playoffs begin. The excitement around the basketball tournament fills this gap and can bring in a slew of new guests.

Building the Ultimate Basketball Tournament Experience

Build a great NCAA basketball viewing experience

The tournament alone will bring the people to you. With so much of that leg work out of the way, you can focus almost entirely on guest experience. How will you fill their bellies and your tills while the games are on? How do you get them to keep coming back, even after their bracket gets busted mere hours into the first day?

Like the teams on the big screen themselves, a lot of your success will depend on speed. The ability to keep food flying out of your kitchen and onto tabletops — without sacrificing quality — is paramount, particularly during the outset of the tournament. The first round games will undoubtedly be some of your busiest days of the year; shortcuts and timesavers that keep your cooks out of the weeds can make the difference between repeat business and a one star review.

Prep Your Menu for High Volume

Tyson Red Label Wings

You know your best-selling items. They will continue to be big movers during these games, just at even higher volumes. In most sports bar settings, these are going to be nachos and chicken wings. Nachos and chicken wings are not usually time-consuming to prepare, but they can quickly become a problem when your rail is full of tickets for the same items.

How many wings can fit in your fryers before food quality starts to suffer? If you can only fit eight orders of nachos in your ovens, that ninth order has to wait. With that many orders fired at once, it may be impossible to even prep the next ones. Obviously a second set of hands on each station can alleviate some of the logjam, but do you really want to double your labor on each order sold when there are other, more cost-effective methods?

Look for Time Savers

Pre-firing orders is a sure way to throw out food, but pre-prepping, on the other hand, can be an extension of your cook’s mise-en-place. If you know you’ll sell two dozen orders of nachos within the first few minutes of your doors opening, a speed rack full of orders ready to go in the oven will save countless minutes. Rather than piling chips and cheese one order at a time as the tickets are ceaselessly spit out, you will be able to pull an order ready from the oven instantly. The time saved may only be 30-60 seconds per table, but it adds up quickly.

Build a ‘Wing Bar’

Tyson Red Label Wings

You may also consider setting up a “Wing Bar” in your dining room. Think of it as a salad bar, but full of your best tasting wing options. Not only will this free up valuable kitchen resources, but it will also set you apart from competitors. Tyson Red Label® chicken wings can be an incredibly versatile asset in this effort. Tyson Red Label wings come in a wide variety of flavor options, 2-3 hour safe holding times, and both bone-in & boneless options. This means you can have a large number of wings held in chafing dishes on the dining room floor with one attendant to sauce and finish them to your guests’ specifications.

Let your guests choose between styles and flavors – such as Golden Crispy and Applewood Smoked bone-in wings or Hot ‘N Spicy and Starch Coated boneless wings – to build their ultimate wing experience.

Don’t Forget About the Bar

The same can be said behind the bar. While most of your beverage sales will be beer during the tournament, there are plenty of guests that enjoy hoops without hops. One or two special cocktails geared toward the games will be a bright spot for your non-beer drinkers. These drinks should be easily “batchable” so that your bartenders can pre-make pitchers at a time, allowing them to serve drinks just as quickly as pouring an IPA from the tap.

Incentivize Your Guests

NCAA college basketball fans

After the initial madness of the opening days, you may need to entice your guests to make a return trip. That’s where the brackets come in. Correct game picks that add up to gift certificates, percentage points off from food, or complimentary items will keep your guests coming back round after round.

Vendor swag is another easy giveaway; contact your reps to see if they have any gear specifically branded for college basketball. A t-shirt is just a t-shirt to them, but to your guests it can serve as a permanent reminder of how much fun they had watching a Cinderella dance through to the quarter finals at your bar.

Remember to keep things simple and speedy and you’ll see full seats from the play-ins all the way to the final game on April 8th.