All Posts

Win Big with Martin’s {How to Host the Ultimate Football Party}

January 29, 2018
9 min. read

The pro football championship game is a big deal. For those die-hard football fans, it means cheering on your favorite team to hopeful victory (or cheering against your least favorite team if yours didn’t make it). And for those of us who aren’t huge football fans, chances are we know someone who is; it can still be fun to root alongside a friend for their team, or at least tune it to watch the commercials and enjoy great food and company.

The final football game of the season is the most watched, by fans and non-fans alike. Make it an occasion to gather with a group of friends and cheer on your favorite team (or munch on snacks). Here is your ultimate checklist for planning a great game day party:

The Theme:

Based on the nature of your guests, you can either go the competitive route by having clashing team décor, or play it safe by remaining neutral. Here are a few options:

  • Team Spirit – Have everyone wear their favorite team’s colors or jerseys (even if they’re not in the game).
  • Dueling Sides – use colors and decorations that represent both competing teams. Make sure to have an even representation and enough themed plates/utensils for both sides. You may even decide to “split” the TV room in half and decorate opposite sides with either team’s colors. Then, let your guests have their pick of decorations/utensils and which side of the room they want to sit on. Most of your guests (whether their favorite team is in the game or not) will still have a side they are rooting for.
  • Generic – Don’t want to choose sides? Go with a universal theme or neutral color that doesn’t favor either team. Another option is to just go with a basic “football” theme such as football-shaped food and props, or green turf-colored decorations.

Chili Sloppy Joes on Martin’s Party Potato Rolls, alongside football themed décor

The Atmosphere:

You’ll want to set a comfortable environment for your guests, but also stay practical in terms of preparation and clean-up. Here are some things to keep in mind:

  • Décor – Your choice of theme (above) will dictate the style and color of décor you should use, but you should still have a few essentials. First, you’ll probably want to have a disposable tablecloth for each food table, especially if you are serving messy foods (like barbecue or buffalo wings). Next, a few simple decorations can help set a fun atmosphere; consider making a DIY pennant banner in your theme colors, or these fun DIY Megaphones. Add streamers, balloons, or football props if you’re feeling extra festive!

Chicken Bacon Sliders
Chicken Bacon Sliders on Martin’s 12 Sliced Potato Rolls with football themed food picks

  • Tableware & Utensils – You’ll want to be sure to have more than enough plates, bowls, cups, napkins, and utensils for all of your guests. Paper or plastic disposables are probably a good idea to help cut down on the cleanup, just be sure they are sturdy enough for the food you will be serving.
  • Seating – Keep in mind your guest count and be sure to have enough chairs or seating arrangements for everyone. You may need to move the dining room chairs into the TV room or ask guests to being additional folding chairs. You can also provide comfy bean bag chairs or cushions for guests who don’t mind sitting on the floor. Just make sure everyone can get a good view of the TV from where they are sitting.
  • Set-up – Make sure everyone is comfortable. If the main TV room is going to be too crowded to fit all of your guests, consider having an “overflow” room with another TV and additional seating and snack tables. For serving food, it is a good idea to have a buffet-style arrangement in the kitchen or dining room where the main courses (and any dishes in slow cookers) can be served. Then you can set up smaller tables in the TV room(s) with additional snack foods, along with drink coolers, so your guests don’t have to keep walking back and forth between rooms.
  • Preparation & Cleaning – Remember to give the main rooms of your house a quick dusting, along with focal points like your TV and speakers. You may also want to rearrange furniture or store away particularly fragile decorations. Check out this article for more helpful tips on getting your house ready for the party.

The Food

You likely won’t be sitting down to a formal dining experience to watch a football game, so keep that in mind when deciding your menu and meal arrangements. Look for food items that don’t require a lot utensils (it’s hard to balance a fork and knife on your lap while watching TV). Also try to find recipes that are easy to prepare and fitting for your guest count.

Consider one or more of the below category ideas:

  • Appetizers – Go for a full menu of handheld snacks; they are typically easy to eat and offer a lot of versatility. Some great options are crostini with various toppings, bite-sized hors d’oeuvres, or dips and spreads to pair with snacks like chips or crackers.
  • Slow Cooker Meals – Slow cookers are great for guests who will be preparing a dish ahead of time and transporting it to the party. They also offer a convenient way to keep your dish hot throughout the whole event. Use them for dishes like pulled pork or buffalo chicken dip.
  • Traditional Tailgating Fare – You can always go the traditional route of offering burgers and hot dogs, as long as you have a guest willing to brave the outdoors to man the grill, (or if you don’t mind using the stovetop).
  • Sliders – Serve a variety of mini sandwiches, from traditional burger sliders to chicken nuggets or pulled pork on mini sandwich buns. For some more slider inspiration, check out our 60 Tailgating Slider Recipes blog post.
  • Rival Recipes – Perfect for the “dueling teams” teams theme above, pick specific food options to match the regional specialties of the two competing teams. New England Lobster Rolls vs. Philadelphia Cheesesteaks, anyone?


Featured Recipes – Game Day Sandwiches

Buffalo Chicken Sandwiches with Celery Coleslaw

Game day’s not complete without buffalo chicken. It’s even better when you can prepare it in a slow cooker to save you time and effort. These tangy buffalo chicken sandwiches topped with blue cheese and celery-ranch coleslaw will be a touchdown with your guests. (Hint: make sure to use Martin’s Sandwich Potato Rolls for the “big win”)!


Classic Sloppy Joes

Nothing beats a good ol’ fashioned sloppy joe on a soft, squishy potato bun. This is a great dish to serve to a diverse group of guests—you can make the main meat mixture very mild, but include a various toppings on the side like jalapenos, onions, or pickles for the more adventurous palates. This meal is easy to prepare and only takes about 25 minutes to cook; plus it’s easy to keep warm at a simmer as guests come back for seconds.


Carolina Pulled Pork Barbecue

How about a classic barbecue sandwich as you enjoy the Big Game? This Carolina-style pulled pork is prepared in a slow cooker for easy prep, but is packed full of great barbecue flavor with the help of some liquid smoke, a spice mixture of brown sugar, smoked paprika, salt, and pepper, and a vinegar and pepper based sauce. Serve atop Martin’s Sandwich Potato Rolls with your favorite choice of Carolina BBQ Sauces: Eastern North Carolina BBQ Sauce, Lexington-Style BBQ Sauce, or South Carolina BBQ Sauce.


More Recipe Inspiration:

Snacks & Apps

Dips & Spreads

Burgers & Dogs


Alternate/Supplemental Activities:

Maybe the thought of hosting a football party still stresses you out, or just doesn’t appeal to you. Maybe you have other concerns such as entertaining a diverse group of guests, or the type of food you can serve? Hopefully these additional ideas can help:

Other Activities: You may be thinking…What else is there? The point is to watch the game! But keep in mind that not all of your guests may be as into football as you are. (Let’s face it…some of us just come for the food and the commercials!) You may want to prepare another room of the house for any guests that would prefer to chat or play board games (for example) so they aren’t distracting the die-hard sports fans.

You can also add supplemental activities to your party such as: 1) rating the commercials, 2) doing something fun during halftime, 3) competing to see who can predict the score each quarter, or 4) voting on favorite food dish of the evening, where the winner gets a special prize.

Check out this list for more fun football party games ideas for both adults and kids.

Entertaining Kids: If many of your guests are parents of young kids consider asking for a volunteer, who’s not particularly interested in watching the game, to be the designated “chaperone.” You can set up a separate room of the house with kids’ toys and activities, or go as far as planning a separate game night with a theme. Another alternative is to “swap” houses with one of your guests—host the young kids at one house with 1-2 adults to babysit while everyone else watches the game at another house.

Healthier Fare: It’s true—party food can tend to be more on the indulgent side, not to mention the fact that this type of party often encourages constant snacking. If this is your concern, look for healthier options like our Cinnamon Sugar Snack Mix or these Apple Cider Pulled Chicken Sandwiches. Or check out this list of Made-Over Game Day Classics from Food Network.

Party Alternatives: If you got to the end of this post and are still thinking…I just don’t feel like hosting a party this year…consider the following alternatives:

  • Ask a friend to host! If you have a large enough group of friends, you can take turns hosting so the burden doesn’t fall on the same person each year.
  • Head to a nearby sports restaurant. There are sure to be plenty of restaurants nearby that will be showing the game. Ask around or peruse the internet for a restaurant that will suit your guest count. Make sure to plan ahead and reserve seating.
  • Plan another activity. Not into football? Get together with your other non-sport-loving friends and do something completely unrelated; have an arts and crafts night, go to the movies, or host a cards/board game night.

Our latest content, delivered straight to your inbox.

Be the first to hear about our newest recipes, tips, and company updates!

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.