The Big Game. An awkward choice for many a restaurant. Will it be a slow winter Sunday with your staff staring at each other polishing silver or a wild raucous party that may require days to clean up?

Part of the difference comes down to whether or not there are TVs on the premises, and even if you have them you may not have the clientele who will come in for a game. One could rent a wall projection TV (or buy one) and re-arrange the dining room for optimum viewing, but that’s assuming your customers are the type who will flock for such an event.

For those who do open, there are still a number of challenges. Chances are, you’re only going to do one seating. Tables will vary wildly from heavy alcohol consumption to endless refills on the soda, while the party might go on for hours or become a ghost town by half time. Staffing and stocking for such an event suddenly becomes problematic with lots of downside potential. What to do?

Sell Tickets

One way to mitigate the uncertainty: sell tickets. A general admission ticket that includes food, say a buffet, and a couple of drink tickets. Maybe even a VIP package for a table of 4 or more that offers more or better food and drink—perhaps size-scaled platters of snacks based on your appetizer menu in addition to the more public buffet. A little insurance and guarantee of a minimum of income will make the day worthwhile even if the tables clear by halftime.

Add Game Day Menu Favorites

The next problem, your menu doesn’t really lend itself to a day of noshing and cheering. No worries. A good game day spread isn’t too difficult. There really are a few must haves: chips, dips, all things fried, meat. Chips are easy, try starting with Contigo® Corn Chips. Dips are a close second. How about a queso station? Contigo queso fresco cheese, a white creamy cheese from Latin America, can be melted and mixed with cream, diced jalapeños (or something stronger), and finished with a dash of chili spices or maybe a little nutmeg or cumin. It’s a nice change from the heavier, traditional nacho dips. If your menu leans more toward seafood, maybe a crab and artichoke dip could be offered. Nor is there anything wrong with a meat-based dip, say Nature’s Best Dairy® cream cheese and Bacio® cheese mixed with with caramelized onions and some spicy chorizo sausage.

And speaking of sausage, this is a great way to satisfy the meat cravings on a day such as this. Spicy or sweet. Traditional brats or Polish kielbasa, even exotically inspired flavors like Vietnamese, employing lemongrass, fish sauce and sriracha. Sausages are quick and easy to cook, then easy to prep when served on bun with all the fixings (banh mi accoutrements work well too, thin sliced cucumber, carrots or radish, pickled or fresh). You can also serve them simply sliced into bite-size pieces with an array of mustards and dipping sauces to choose from. Roma® and West Creek® All-Natural Sausages are ideal for a platter with robust flavors and not artificial ingredients. Let customers choose between mild or hot Italian, andouille Cajun sausage, bratwurst or polish sausage.

Fried foods are probably the linchpin of any Big Game spread. Old school favorites like fried mozzarella (or even fried Bacio cheese!) and zucchini work. Cheese-stuffed jalapeños, poppers, are ever popular. Pretty much anything involving cheese and vegetables is going to be a hit, from broccoli and cheddar bites to Green Goddess-stuffed mushroom caps. Much can be easily made in-house or you can let Performance Foodservice do the work for you and with our selection of Roma and West Creek options.

With drink tickets, you might not want to open your full bar as an option although you can, and should, still serve cocktail as a cash option. Partner with a local craft brewery to purchase or even help create a special keg or two. Once the teams are set, get to work on a special cocktail or punch to serve. With all the different alcohol and mixer options these days, playing off the team colors is not too much of a challenge. A well-made punch created by combining a mid-range alcohol with a splash of liqueur for color and flavor with an appropriate mixer all prepped in bulk can result in a popular house cocktail with just the right…punch.

Don't Forget Dessert

Timing is key to avoid disappointment and unused leftovers. Plan your last big push on the food for half time. Wind down in the third quarter and roll out dessert trays to wrap things up. Most football fans will have filled up on drinks and appetizers, so don’t go overboard. Make it easy by choosing a selection of Sweet Encore® desserts alongside some Heritage Ovens® Cookies. Or if you have a good pastry chef, a football themed sheet cake can’t go wrong.

Bottom line, Big Game day is an unusual time that doesn’t quite lend itself to normal service. If, however, you can get the people though your doors, a little planning can ensure it goes smoothly and adds to the bottom line. For others, it's a very slow day that may not be worth it regardless of how well planned a party it is. If that’s the case, consider using the day as a belated holiday party for your staff, a token for all their hard work from the holiday season and the previous year. That way everyone wins.

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