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Let’s Dance! Draw Crowds to Your Menu During March Madness 2024 

It’s official. The teams for the 2024 NCAA men's basketball tournament have been selected, and 68 schools are getting set to square off in this year’s March Madness.

With sports fans across the nation gearing up for the Big Dance, March Madness presents a huge opportunity for those in the food game to score big profits. 

Whether out at local sports bars or at staying at home with friends, more than 10 million people watch the March Madness tournaments every year. And though the brackets differ, the players change, and  the scores are unknown, one thing remains constant: there will be food! 

Second only to the Super Bowl, March Madness draws huge crowds to online menus and food delivery. But capitalizing on the tournament requires more than great bites. A winning marketing strategy and a targeted menu will keep them coming back game after game. 

March Madness Terms To Know

Selection Sunday — The day everyone waits for, when the Selection Committee announces the tournament field. In 2024, Selection Sunday took place on March 17.

First Four: When the NCAA tournament was expanded to 68 teams, a new round was added to the format: The First Four. Played on the Tuesday and Wednesday (March 19th and 20th this year) after Selection Sunday, the First Four determines which of eight teams will advance to the first round of the tournament. 

Sweet 16 — The third round of the tournament, where only 16 teams remain. The winner of each game will play in the Elite Eight.  

Elite Eight — The fourth round of the tournament, when just eight teams remain, is known as the Elite Eight. This round is the final game for each regional, before the four winners move on to the national semifinal, known as the Final Four. 

Final Four — The fifth round of the tournament, when just four teams remain, is known as the Final Four.  

Regional — The NCAA tournament bracket is split into four regionals. The South, East, West, and Midwest.  

Seed — 68 teams earn bids to the NCAA tournament, and each one receives a seed — from 1 to 16 —that determines where the team will be placed in the bracket.  

Bubble — A team that is “on the bubble” for the NCAA tournament is one whose qualification for the tournament could go either way. They’re on the verge of making the field of 68, but an invitation isn’t guaranteed.

Cinderella — A Cinderella team is one that is much more successful than expected.  

2024 March Madness Schedule

With 68 teams in the running and tipoff for the first rounds about to begin, now is the time to put your best game face on. 

The tournament bracket consists of the 32 Division I conference tournament winners, along with 36 teams that received at-large bids from the selection committee (totaling 68.) Prior to the start of the first round, the field will be reduced to 64 teams as eight teams compete in the First Four play-in round which begins on Tuesday, March 19, 2024.

First Four: March 19-20

  • UD Arena, Dayton

First round (round of 64): March 21

  • Spectrum Center, Charlotte

  • CHI Health Center, Omaha

  • PPG Paints Arena, Pittsburgh

  • Vivint Smart Home Arena, Salt Lake City

First round (round of 64): March 22

  • Barclays Center, Brooklyn

  • Gainbridge Fieldhouse, Indianapolis

  • FedExForum, Memphis

  • Spokane Veterans Memorial Arena, Spokane

Second round (round of 32): March 23

  • Spectrum Center, Charlotte

  • CHI Health Center, Omaha

  • PPG Paints Arena, Pittsburgh

  • Vivint Smart Home Arena, Salt Lake City

Second round (round of 32): March 24

  • Barclays Center, Brooklyn

  • Gainbridge Fieldhouse, Indianapolis

  • FedExForum, Memphis

  • Spokane Veterans Memorial Arena, Spokane

Sweet 16 (regional semifinals): March 28

Sweet 16 (regional semifinals): March 29

  • American Airlines Center, Dallas

  • Little Caesars Arena, Detroit

Elite Eight (regional finals): March 30

Elite Eight (regional finals): March 31

  • American Airlines Center, Dallas

  • Little Caesars Arena, Detroit

Final Four (national semifinals & national championship): April 6, 8

  • State Farm Stadium, Glendale

March Madness 2024 Teams

  • Stetson Hatters

  • Longwood Lancers

  • Charleston Cougars

  • Oakland Golden Grizzlies

  • Drake Bulldogs

  • Wagner Seahawks

  • Morehead State Eagles

  • Colgate Raiders

  • Samford Bulldogs

  • McNeese State Cowboys

  • South Dakota State Jackrabbits

  • James Madison Dukes

  • Saint Mary's Gaels

  • Montana State Bobcats

  • Vermont Catamounts

  • Tennessee Volunteers

  • Auburn Tigers

  • Kentucky Wildcats

  • Arizona Wildcats

  • Houston Cougars

  • Howard Bison

  • Purdue Boilermakers

  • Illinois Fighting Illini

  • North Carolina Tar Heels

  • Duke Blue Devils

  • Connecticut Huskies

  • Creighton Bluejays

  • Marquette Golden Eagles

  • New Mexico Lobos

  • NC State Wolfpack

  • Western Kentucky Hilltoppers

  • Saint Peter's Peacocks

  • Akron Zips

  • Oregon Ducks

  • Long Beach State Beach

  • Grambling State Tigers

  • Grand Canyon Antelopes

  • University of Alabama at Birmingham Blazers

  • Duquesne Dukes

  • Yale Bulldogs

  • Wisconsin Badgers

  • Florida Atlantic Owls

  • Iowa State Cyclones

  • Northwestern Wildcats

  • Nebraska Cornhuskers

  • Texas A&M Aggies

  • Texas Tech Red Raiders

  • Florida Gators

  • Colorado Buffaloes

  • TCU Horned Frogs

  • Utah State Aggies

  • South Carolina Gamecocks

  • Gonzaga Bulldogs

  • Virginia Cavaliers

  • Colorado State Rams

  • Mississippi State Bulldogs

  • Michigan State Spartans

  • Alabama Crimson Tide

  • Clemson Tigers

  • Baylor Bears

  • Dayton Flyers

  • Nevada Wolf Pack

  • BYU Cougars

  • Boise State Broncos

  • Kansas Jayhawks

  • Texas Longhorns

  • San Diego State Aztecs

  • Washington State Cougars

7 Ways to Score Big Profits During March Madness

1. Host a Tournament Bracket Challenge  

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. 


2. 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. 

3. Go Beyond the Brackets

There are 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 enjoying your restaurant’s offerings. The customers with the most likes win 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.  

4. Support Local Teams

If you’re lucky enough to be in a host city or one of the local teams has made it to the dance, this is an excellent opportunity to up your odds to score big profits. Be sure to promote your menu using team colors and logos and decorate your dining room 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.  

5. Showcase 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

6. 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 Instagram, Tik Tok, 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?


7. 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.  

Take Away

Getting your restaurant ready for March Madness means suiting up, getting the word out,  and putting the right promotions in place.   

With tipoff  just hours away, March Madness is a great opportunity for your restaurant to stand out from the crowded field of competitors and create your own Cinderella story. So, regardless of which team takes home the national title, make sure your restaurant  walks away with the most important prize of all—profits! 

By Eileen Strauss


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