For serious fans, football season is tailgate season. Its arrival ushers in a pageant of miniature parking lot pep rallies replete with the savory smells of stacked grills and the sounds of pre-game merrymaking. What later transpires on the field is almost beside the point.
Anyone who’s been to a tailgate party knows how fun it is, even when the odds are stacked against your team and the weather refuses to cooperate. But few would argue that attending someone else’s tailgate party is much easier than hosting your own.
Strip away the team colors and pageantry, and it’s just a mobile barbecue or potluck surrounded by hundreds of other mobile barbecues and potlucks. Storage, seating, and space are limited. Climate control is haphazard and inefficient if there’s any at all. Moving parts abound.
It can make it hard for a tailgate host to really enjoy their own event.
Whether it’s your first or 40th tailgate party, the easiest way to make planning and execution low-stress is to let the professionals handle the cooking. Not a team of private chefs – that’s probably not in your budget. But the friendly kitchen staff at your favorite local restaurant and the speedy delivery driver who picks up your order will let you focus on making sure everything else goes right.
Ordering ready-made food from a restaurant delivery app like DoorDash will save you time and stress on game day. You won’t have to wake up at the crack of dawn to cook for a hungry army of fans. You won’t have to coordinate a literal smorgasbord of potluck contributions. You won’t need to man a grill while the rest of your group kicks back.
And letting someone else take care of the food is just the start.
Football Tailgate Party Tips & Ideas
What else can you do to pull off a pre-game party to remember? Make the most of the easy restaurant delivery resources at your fingertips with these additional tips for hosting the ultimate football tailgate party without cooking.
1. Claim Your Space Early
NFL and college team or stadium websites post detailed information about tailgating, including where it’s permitted and when it can begin.
Approved lots generally open to tailgating three to five hours before kickoff, depending on game time (weekday games may have shorter tailgating periods). Since open times are subject to change at the discretion of lot operators and municipal authorities, call a day or two ahead to confirm.
Shoot to arrive as close to the beginning of setup time as possible. If you arrive close to lot opening and there are no other major events in the area, you’re unlikely to have to wait very long to enter. More importantly, you’ll have your pick of tailgating spaces – meaning you can set up close to the heart of the home team’s section as you like.
2. Arrange Food Delivery in Advance
Schedule food delivery well in advance of your arrival at the tailgate lot, ideally at least the day before. DoorDash makes it easy to schedule 30-minute delivery windows several days in advance, removing the uncertainty from the process and all but eliminating unanticipated delays.
Before placing your order, canvass confirmed tailgate attendees to get a sense of their food preferences and dietary restrictions. Settle on a handful of menu items to order in bulk, perhaps from the restaurant’s catering menu if it has one. Bulk ordering is the surest way to cut down on per-person food costs and eliminate execution errors.
When you place your order, use DoorDash’s special instructions feature to request insulated trays or carriers to keep your food warm during the party. Restaurants with catering capabilities should have no problem swapping plastic or compostable containers for aluminum trays or padded sleeves. If you have room in your vehicle, bring heavy-duty ceramic cookware (like this three-piece nonstick set), insulated storage containers (like these oversized bags), or Sterno burners (like this wick and holder set) in case you need them.
Pro Tip: If you’re new to DoorDash, you’ll receive $0 delivery fees on every order during your first month.
3. Take Delivery Offsite & Haul in to Reduce Hassle
If you anticipate problems with delivery to the stadium, such as traffic or lot restrictions, arrange your food delivery to an off-site location and haul your spread the rest of the way.
To reduce time elapsed between delivery and consumption, task a later-arriving attendee with this duty.
4. Curate a Diverse Spread
DoorDash works with thousands of restaurant partners. In any city big enough to support an NFL franchise, DoorDash customers have dozens or hundreds of independent and chain options to choose from.
So why settle for a single catering team? Use DoorDash to seamlessly tailor your spread to attendees’ tastes, mixing and matching pre-game staples and out-of-the-box dishes as you see fit. Wings here, taco buffet over there, burgers and brats all around – you’re likelier to be limited by your own creativity than DoorDash’s ample selection.
5. Bring in Culinary Reinforcements Before Game Time
Stadium food is ridiculously overpriced, but three-hour-plus games and tight restrictions on outside food call for desperate measures. Even frugal fans can succumb to third-quarter hunger pangs.
Protect your tailgate attendees’ game day budgets by scheduling a fortifying food delivery for an hour or so before kickoff. Alternatively, include shelf-stable pre-kickoff snacks in your main tailgate order; tortilla chips and salsa or baked desserts are always crowd favorites.
6. Bring Plenty of Collapsible Seating
Seating is usually in short supply in the tailgate lot. Even if the younger, game-ready attendees don’t mind, make sure you have enough seating to accommodate anyone who needs it. Collapsible canvas chairs typically run less than $30 each at your local sporting goods shop or on Amazon. Folding metal chairs – think school cafeteria or church basement – cost even less, comfort notwithstanding.
7. Crowdsource Folding Tables
Purchasing a 6- or 8-foot folding table is a sound move if you plan to host multiple tailgate parties – or backyard get-togethers, for that matter. When flat space is at a premium, your serving table could be the most important nonhuman, nonfood item at your party.
If a table of your own isn’t in the financial cards at the moment, turn to your attendees. A well-attended tailgate party is sure to have at least one attendee on the guest list with a folding table at home. Sweeten the deal with an offer to pick up the table supplier’s food tab.
8. Get Creative With Vehicle Trunks
Given all the equipment and supplies you need, it’s imperative you have at least one pickup or SUV in your tailgate convoy.
Whether that vehicle belongs to you or an attendee who trusts you enough to hand over the keys is up for debate. What’s certain: You’ll need that vehicle’s trunk space.
Before collapsible seating and food arrive, your truck or SUV’s back end serves as a flat surface for drinks and seating for early arrivals. Later, it’ll serve as your buffet line if you don’t have a serving table. If circumstances call for outdoor climate control, reserve space for a portable heater or cooling fan. For safety’s sake, keep your generator – if you’re allowed to have one – well away from any vehicles.
Dedicate smaller or boot-style trunks to storage, such as for keeping excess clothing dry and beverage coolers off the ground.
9. Provide Weather-Appropriate Clothing & Supplies for Guests Who Forget
Not all tailgate attendees come prepared for all weather conditions. A day or two before kickoff, check the forecast and send out an email or chat message to the group outlining your apparel and accessory recommendations.
The night before, raid your closets and assemble an extras bin for attendees who still manage to forget to dress appropriately. Use your discretion. If the forecast is cold and dry, pack extra hats, gloves, blankets, and hand warmers. If the outlook is wet or snowy, bring waterproof outer layers too. Hot, sunny conditions call for caps and sunscreen.
10. Buy or Rent a Portable Heater or Cooling Fan
This may sound like overkill, but you don’t want to have to cut your tailgate party short due to dangerous heat or cold. Like a folding table, a portable heater or cooling fan is a sound investment for serial hosts. If you have access to a safe source of electricity and can limit your party to a compact space, a small outdoor electric space heater may suffice.
11. Coordinate Team Colors
Unlike inadequate climate control, inadequate team spirit never hurt anyone. But that’s no excuse to skimp on colorful displays of hometown loyalty.
If the only official team merchandise you own is an obligatory jersey or jacket, opt for the next best thing: color-coordinated tablecloths, chairs, and blankets. If your catering partner isn’t supplying plates and bowls, grab a stack of team-themed disposable plates at the supermarket. Just try to reduce your party’s carbon footprint with compostable plates and utensils.
12. Buy Water & Other Refreshments in Bulk
Tailgating is a marathon, not a sprint. Even on cool or downright cold days, it’s on you to keep attendees hydrated. Have at least 2 liters of water per person, preferably in large table jugs with reclosable spigots.
If you’re providing additional refreshments, bulk buying is your friend. Make a run to the warehouse store and compare pricing on soft drink pallets. For larger parties, opt for a beer keg instead of 30-can racks. A keg is almost always a better deal than a comparable supply of cans, though not all stadiums permit kegs at tailgate parties. Make a single large-batch cocktail at home, transfer the mix to a sturdy punch jug with a reclosable spigot, and leave the bottles behind.
As always, dispose of your empties and other compostable or recyclable refuse appropriately. And always observe local ordinances and lot policies.
Hosting a football tailgate party to remember is hard work. Outsourcing catering to a restaurant delivery app like DoorDash is the most cost-effective way to significantly reduce the time and stress involved in planning and executing the big day. And don’t forget that you’ll receive $0 delivery fees for the first month.
Beyond that, knowing when and whom to ask for assistance goes a long way. Every football fan knows that victory is a team effort. No one player, not even the quarterback, can ever claim all the credit. So use your “team” of guests wisely – that’s what it’s there for.
What’s your secret to hosting the ultimate football tailgate party?