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Tailgate fare is mostly the domain of barbecue, burgers, and buns, but in these times when food consumers embrace fusion and experimentation, any restaurant can transform their offerings to appeal to football fans.

small business loan apply nowThe two keys of breaking into tailgate catering are portability and recognizability. When you’re designing your tailgate menu, each item has to be easy to transport, hold, and eat, and should align in some way with traditional tailgate expectations. Take, for example, Pad Fries, which takes Pad Thai ingredients and spices and replaces the noodles with sweet potato fries.

No matter what kind of food you usually serve, it can be reimagined into a clever and tasty tailgate treat.

  1. Chicken wing flavors – Do you have a special sauce? Slather it on some chicken wings. Offer a few different choices, and combine one of them with barbeque or buffalo.
  2. Put it on a bun – Take a signature dish from your menu and transform it into a slider, sub, or even a burrito or spring roll. It’s common knowledge that when it comes to take-out, tacos don’t travel, but the taco craze that keeps food trucks in business teaches all restaurateurs a valuable lesson about hand-held delicacies.
  3. Poppers – A jalapeno popper is a jalapeno pepper that has been stuffed, breaded, and fried. Traditionally, they are stuffed with cream cheese, but there’s no end to what you can do with this spicy staple to make it your own.
  4. Reimagine macaroni/potato salad – Noodles or potatoes, plus something crunchy, plus tangy dressing, and bingo!
  5. Your own spin on cornbread – Muffins, fritters and nuggets–oh my! There are plenty of ways to personalize cornbread.
  6. Pulled pork or chicken – Pulled pork or chicken are perfect for tailgating because you don’t have to cut the meat, and the sauce soaks into maximum surface area for guaranteed moisture.
  7. Vegan choices – Every single thing on this list can be converted for vegans, including the pulled meats (spoiler alert: mushrooms) and even the wings. Vegan tailgate catering choices are rare, so don’t miss out on these underserved customers.
  8. Kebabs – Any meat or vegetable you serve can be cut up and combined on a stick.
  9. Ball it up – Mac & cheese, sausage, asian pork, really anything at all can be rolled into a ball and served up.
  10. Don’t forget dessert – This one’s easy. Brownies, pie pockets, cookies, go to town!

A few quick tips before we’re done:

  • Set the menu well in advance and have size options for how much each dish should serve (4-6, 10-15, etc.).
  • Advertise the service and  the menu in-house and on social.
  • Specify that orders must be received by a certain time (by friday for Sunday’s game for example).