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March Madness 2023: Scoring Profits During the “BIG DANCE”

With the nation’s sports fans glued to the tv during the NCAA Men’s basketball tournament, March Madness presents a huge opportunity to score big profits. Second only to the Super Bowl when it comes to restaurant delivery, the “Big Dance” draws huge crowds to online menus. But capitalizing on the brackets requires a winning game plan to get customers to your website and a targeted menu to keep them coming back game after game.

With 68 teams in the running, there’s bound to be a team that your customers support. With selections being broadcast live this Sunday, the first rounds happening next week, and the Sweet 16, Elite Eight, and Final Four just a few weeks away, now is the time to put your game face on.

The 2023 men's NCAA tournament for March Madness starts with the First Four games in Dayton, Ohio, and continues through to the 2023 Final Four in Houston.

Get a printable 2023 NCAA bracket here.

Let’s get the dates straight:

First Four: March 14, 15 -- UD Arena (Dayton)

First and Second Rounds

First round: March 16, 17 -- Legacy Arena (Birmingham), Wells Fargo Arena (Des Moines), Amway Center (Orlando), Golden 1 Center (Sacramento), MVP Arena (Albany), Nationwide Arena (Columbus), Ball Arena (Denver), Greensboro Coliseum (Greensboro).

Second round: March 18, 19 -- Legacy Arena (Birmingham), Wells Fargo Arena (Des Moines), Amway Center (Orlando), Golden 1 Center (Sacramento), MVP Arena (Albany), Nationwide Arena (Columbus), Ball Arena (Denver), Greensboro Coliseum (Greensboro)

Regional Semifinals (Sweet Sixteen) and Finals (Elite Eight)

Sweet 16: March 23, 24 -- T-Mobile Arena (Las Vegas), Madison Square Garden (New York), T-Mobile Center (Kansas City), KFC Yum! Center (Louisville)

Elite Eight: March 25, 26 -- T-Mobile Arena (Las Vegas), Madison Square Garden (New York), T-Mobile Center (Kansas City), KFC Yum! Center (Louisville)

Final Four

National Championship: April 1, 3 -- NRG Stadium (Houston)

Put On Your Big Dancing Shoes and Score Big Profits

Host a tournament bracket contest

Even those that aren’t fans of basketball fill out brackets every year. To win points with customers, host a bracket contest with prizes ranging from a free meal to a team jersey to give them the incentive to get in on the action. Invite online customers to fill out a bracket on your website and encourage in-house guests to fill out a paper bracket. Not only will this forge authentic interaction between your staff and existing customers, but it will also introduce your brand to new ones in a fun and creative way.

Create a menu bracket contest

Using any bracket template, create a bracket using the menu items featured on your March Madness Menu.

  • Fill in the first round with the items you’d like to see go head to head from your menu and decide on fun prizes and incentives to offer along the way.

  • Make copies to hand out to your customers and have them make their picks for their favorite menu items, fill in their contact details, and submit them to be entered to win

  • Sit back and track the winners of each round week by week as the NCAA tournament progresses. Not only will your customers enjoy getting in on the family-friendly game, but you’ll collect valuable data on your menu trends.

Beyond the brackets

There is a multitude of other March Madness contest ideas. Try these:

  • Hashtag contest: Have customers use a special hashtag along with a photo of how they are celebrating the game and enjoying your restaurant’s offerings. The customer with the most likes wins a free meal.

  • Mad Prizes: Create March Madness prize ideas that invite customers to come back at a later date, such as a coupon for a free appetizer or dessert with the purchase of an entrée.

  • Buzzer Beater Specials: Have customers vote on which one of your top two appetizers will have the most sales during March Madness. Everyone who enters receives 15% off their next order. Then announce the winning item on social media.

Support local teams

Decorate your dining room and your website with one or more local teams in the tournament. Put flags, banners, and signs in your restaurant’s storefront to attract passers-by, and decorate the inside of your business with coordinating streamers or balloons to create a fun, March Madness-themed atmosphere.

Get in the Game with Creative Menu Offerings

Show your customers you’ve got game by creating menu specials that entice customers to watch the games at your restaurant or order delivery during the televised events. From a simple special on craft beers and appetizers to full special menus with themed items, there’s no limit to the ideas.

  • Basketball Court Seven-Layer Dip

  • Basketball burgers

  • Basket (Meat) balls

  • Basketball Sliders

  • Basketball Fried Mozzarella

  • Mini Basketball Quesadillas

  • Three-point-three-topping basketball pizza

Get Social

Whether you’re serving $3 cocktails throughout the tournament or hosting a bracket contest, don’t attempt a buzzer-beater marketing strategy. Getting the word out to customers on social media early lets your customers know about your menu specials and March Madness events. Post contests and winners on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook and tie in a few stories showing your support for your local team to keep your customers engaged. Consider running ads on social media as well, especially as Final Four-weekend approaches.

Keep your customers updated with what games you will be showing and what specials you are running as often as possible. Social media gives your business an open line of communication with customers 24/7, so why not use it to your advantage?

Bring on the Beer

March Madness and beer go hand-in-hand, so if your restaurant delivers spirits, be sure to stock-up on the brewskies. If your restaurant caters to the millennial or college crowd, definitely consider offering a selection of craft beers and adding them to your special online menu.

Getting your restaurant ready for “the Big Dance” means suiting up, getting the word out, and capitalizing on delivering a winning March Madness message. No matter who wins this year, incorporating some of these ideas will be a slam dunk for your restaurant’s bottom line.

By Eileen Strauss


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