There are probably a few sports fans feeling a little football hangover. But fortunately, the season of snacking is just getting underway. With tournament basketball tipping off in about three weeks, and somewhere around 10 million basketball fans in the mix, keeping the party going for hungry (and thirsty) consumers is a slam dunk.

Football festivities culminate on one supersized Sunday, but there’s no one-day limit in hoops. The biggest basketball tournament in the world takes place over the course of three consecutive weekends — meaning restaurants are able to put on a full-court press throughout the month of March.

It’s a mad dash with marketing, promotions, and specials helping to keep crowds running the floor for more grub. So, let’s bracket a few alley-oop sales opportunities.

1. Brackets Baby vs.
8. Shots, Shots, Shots…

Our first matchup is a jump ball between the bracket-style nature of the tournament and high- percentage bar opportunities.

Get folks in the door with bracket promotions. The price of entry could be one purchased drink or app, with the overall winner receiving a complimentary meal. Or do a bracket featuring 8 of your most popular sides and apps — with the winning top selection offered at half-off for the month of April. The same concept could apply to specialty cocktails or the creation of a newly named LTO. Fans love the competition!

Get easy buckets with a team shot promotion. Tally ordered shots by school on a big board. So, even if their team doesn’t cut down the nets, they can still be crowned the Top Shot Caller. Or have your regulars form their own shot teams for the month. The team that purchases the most drinks receives branded mugs or discounts for a night of their choosing.

2. Dippity Do’s vs.
7. App Squares

Next up is a battle of loaded flavor. Basketball legend Wilt Chamberlain’s nickname was the Big Dipper because his size reminded people of the famed constellation. Today, gameday apps and shareables turn all hoops fans into dipping superstars.

Get guests started with a fastbreak on versatile pizza dip — all the layers and cheesy goodness of your pizza offerings in a skillet along with crunchy garlic bread slices. Or help them sea the action better with a shareable plate of spicy crab dip, featuring Empire’s Treasure® Jumbo Lump Crabmeat, heated up with fan-favorite Contigo® Hot Sauce For Seafood.

A flight of dipping sauces provides unique taste with any dunk: consider decadent West Creek® Craft Beer Cheese Dip or Village Garden® Hot Bacon Honey Mustard paired with spicy wings. The alternative to dips could be a baked appetizer square LTO. Load up a doughy sheet with nacho and guac toppings, cheesy potato skins, or pile on the cheeseburger fixins.

Even breakfast for lunch or dinner would be a good play — eggs, bacon, and hash layered on toasty squares with your preferred hot sauce to drizzle. It’s a dish that can feed a table without putting too much stress on your kitchen staff.

3. Superstar Duo’s vs.
6. Great Giveaways

Put a little bounce in takeout/delivery offerings with 2-for-1 side deals and an entrée purchase. Maybe that’s loaded fries and your specialty collard greens alongside an order of ribs? How about your house-breaded fried chicken with specialty mac ‘n’ cheese and delicious pie double packs. Fans get a deal on sides and can’t-miss desserts, while you rack up the sales. Ready-made frozen desserts provide bakery quality with crucial labor savings.

If fans are intrigued by package deals, then boosting your brand is also a winning move. Spread the word and create good vibes with t-shirt and coozie giveaways for a particular purchase. Enter guests into a gift card raffle or offer complimentary breadsticks and wings when a family orders three or more pizzas during the exclusive March window. The more you can get your name and logo out there, along with deals consumers love, the more your brand has the potential to grow.

4. Stuffed vs.
5. Slider Sammies

The last head-to-head is the handheld entrée category. More and more consumers are interested in items they can grab with their hands while enjoying a cold beverage, or in a portable item they can crush while standing around a tv in the backyard.

Fried outer shells or pastries packed with craveable fillings fit all kinds of favorites, whether it’s pizza, Hispanic, or Asian-inspired. Heat-and-serve options, like beef, chicken, or cheese empanadas from Contigo offer the ability to be creative with custom sauces, toppings, and dips, while you save labor time.

And traditional apps like tots or mozzarella sticks have been supersized, so that fans can eat their favorites like a full meal. Products such as Entice® Jumbo Stuffed Tater Kegs give consumers the rich flavors of bacon, cheese, and Buffalo chicken packed into irresistibly golden-brown tots, that can be smothered with housemade toppings as well. Or consider the creative possibilities with 5” handbreaded Roma® Heritage Mega Mozzarella Cheese Logs. The epic stretch alone will cause a stir on social media.

The other tasty, cost-effective alternative is a take on slider sammies. Play around with pre-cooked smoked BBQ, cheesesteak-inspired sliders, and saucy Italian squares. These classic choices can help expand your innovation when it comes to toppings. Eye-catching additions like Delancey Street Deli® Pickled Red Onions give a nod to the rising fermented/pickling movement with outstanding crunch and color that attracts attention. And housemade slaw from fresh fruit and veggies can add fresh pop and a tangy complement to these savory winners.

Before March basketball tips off, consider experimenting with these eight, elite ideas to help you serve fans at a championship level.

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