Sponsored by Frank’s RedHot® Sauce
This football season is shaping up to be more competitive than ever, and not just among the teams. Foodservice operators are developing game-day promotions with a focus on shareable foods with bold, on-trend flavors and sauces. Chicken wings remain at the center of most game-day menus, and restaurateurs are adding other appetizers that fans are craving.
Make it shareable
Cincinnati-based Buffalo Wings & Rings showcases chicken wings that are “swimming in sauce,” with such flavors as Buffalo, Garlic-Q and Sweet Thai Chili. In addition, the chain recently revamped other menu items to make them more suitable for game watching. “We see a lot of success with items that are shareable,” says senior marketing manager Linsey Case.
For example, the Southwest Cheesy Bread, which features Mexican panela cheese, toasted garlic bread, chipotle lime sauce, cilantro and avocado, initially consisted of large pieces of bread. “People were using their fork and knife to cut them up,” Case says. “So we reformulated it into shareable bite-size pieces.”
Wings are still the ultimate shareable football food, says Matt Friedman, CEO of Atlanta-based Wing Zone. Offering a variety of flavors encourages consumers to order more. “Not everyone enjoys spicy, so we have dry rubs; we have sweet, and we have spicy,” he says. “People are going to try different things.”
For the current football season, Wing Zone launched new menu items including Chipotle BBQ wings, enhanced salads and wraps, a new line of quesadillas, and new sides such as fried pickles and gourmet onion rings.
Wing spread, to go
Wing Zone offers various packages including the $25 Mega Deal, which is 25 wings, an appetizer, and ranch or other dressings “These have been very successful for us, especially during football season,” Friedman says. “People are 'homegating,' which is the exact opposite of tailgating. They are entertaining at home, watching their big fancy TVs.”
At Hickory Tavern in Charlotte, N.C., the Charred Wings are a big hit at restaurant locations and in Tailgate Takeout Packages. “We want to provide the same awesome food our guests love in our stores to our guests’ homes or tailgate parties,” says marketing manager Christina Bledsoe.
The selections for the Tailgate Takeout Packages include 40 Wings in two flavors, served with celery and ranch or blue cheese dressing, or 40 Chicken Tenders with Honey Mustard or BBQ for dipping. Other tailgating options include sliders, chicken quesadillas, chips and salsa, chips and queso, or spicy BBQ meatballs. “It’s about creating a shareable experience, allowing everybody to be centered around food,” Bledsoe says.
Try something new
Dry-rubbed wings have seen success at The Works Kitchen, the new chef-driven restaurant at the entertainment and dining concept GameWorks, which has locations in seven states. “The big flavor trend is dry rubbing wings,” says corporate chef Tony Leitera. “We perfected how to get the most out of wings.”
The wings are coated in a flour blend and then fried twice. The dry rub flavors include Widow Maker — which is extra spicy — Steak House, Lime n’ Herb, and Salt + Pepper. The sauce selection includes Buffalo, spicy Asian Chili and Garlic, Korean BBQ and others.
Fans need fuel, but like athletes, they need to pace themselves. “We look for portions that are not so heavy that you can’t sit through the second half and enjoy another beer,” says Gregg Nettleton, president and chief operating officer of the Casual Dining division of FAT Brands Inc. “That’s important for our guests. You don’t want to be so full and uncomfortable that you get up and leave.”
Buffalo’s Cafe, one of the chains within FAT Brands, recently launched a football season menu that includes:
- New Korean BBQ Wings topped with freshly chopped peanuts and a secret sauce.
- Sweet Chickadee Sandwich, a hand-breaded chicken breast served atop a layer of sweet potato fries.
- Buffalo Chicken Sandwich, a new take on the classic Buffalo chicken wing.
Meanwhile, Hurricane Grill & Wings, another FAT Brands Inc. brand, launched a football menu that includes Kick'n Chicken Tater Tots, which includes classic Buffalo chicken wings and tater tots, and also Korean BBQ Wings, served in a bulgogi sauce. “Korean is a trending flavor profile,” Nettleton says. “It gives us an opportunity to attract a new audience, and offer them a new way to try wings.”
Variety and competitive pricing can help encourage repeat visits during other days of the week. At BoomerJack’s Grill and Bar, with locations in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, the wing sauces include Ghost Pepper, Mild, Cajun, Honey BBQ and others, but Buffalo is still the crowd favorite. “People try a new flavor just to try it,” says CEO Brent Tipps. “They are intrigued by new flavors, but then they go back to original Buffalo.”
To get people to visit on non-football days, BoomerJack’s offers 79-cent wings on Tuesdays and 25-cent boneless wings on Wednesdays. “Those have done really well,” Tipps says.
Operators looking for more ways to attract football fans can sign up for the Frank's RedHot® King of Wings program. The promotions include wing and beer pairings, recipes such as Carolina Apple Cider Wings or Buffalo Baconator Wings, customizable merchandise such as t-shirts and hats, and the chance for fans to win a trip to the College Football Championship. For more information, visit www.frankskingofwings.com.
Football season is a great time to launch new menu items that can be shared by a table of hungry fans. Whether it’s wings or another food with bold flavors, innovative shareable appetizers can encourage people to dine in or take out whenever a game is on.