10 Essential Products for Tailgating, According to a Caterer

We've got you covered from pre-kickoff coffee to clean-up.

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October 20, 2021

Now that it's officially acceptable to get excited for fall, I can't wait for colored leaves and cozy traditions (PSL, anyone?). My favorite fall tradition of all is tailgating for football season. There’s nothing better than cuddling up in a camping chair with a can of your favorite drink, enjoying the crisp air and an even crispier hot dog.

Despite the actual reason for the tailgate (the big game) we all know the real reason for a tailgate is the party. The food, the drinks, the games, the music. What's not to love? When the weather behaves (and even if it doesn’t) a fall Saturday (or Sunday) spent at the field with my friends is one of my favorite things to do at this time of year, whether we actually make it into the game or not. With so many of tailgates, plus years of running a catering business, under my belt, I know what it takes to throw a great pre-game party. I’ve rounded up everything you’ll need, from the perfect paper plates to the best rolling cooler to a trusty portable grill.

So no matter how your team shows up, at least you and your fellow fans can walk away from the tailgate feeling like winners.


You don't want to get caught in the rain or find yourself with a sunburned face before the game even starts. Invest in a solid pop up tent that you can hang out under while sipping mimosas. Just make sure not to use a grill under the tent.

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Setting up a tailgate that’s as perfect as an at home dinner party is easy when you have the right equipment. We like these cozy, lightweight and durable chairs that are perfect for relaxing before a game.

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Year after year, what I remember most about football tailgates is the food. Your team lost? At least there were hot dogs. Each tailgate has a few essentials that are an absolute must-have for success. Let’s start with the grill. If you’re looking for something portable, easy to clean and easy to pack up, we like this durable, foldable grill from Flat Pack. The stainless steel construction folds up for easy transport.

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Looking for something more advanced? This Traeger Tailgater 20 Portable Wood Pellet Grill is ideal for smoking meats before the big game. This smaller-size smoker can handle a pulled pork, finish off some ribs or even add some smokey flavor to burgers and hot dogs.

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They go perfectly with a hard top table that makes prepping and serving food a breeze.

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Don’t forget a heavy duty cooler to haul it all down to the field. Try a rolling cooler like this one from RovR. Each cooler is made with puncture resistant tires and comes with a prepping board, dry bin and a soft wagon bin.

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Don’t forget to pack a multi tool like this one from Victorinox; you never know when you’ll need a bottle opener, a scissor or a corkscrew. This one is a medium sized pocket knife with up to 33 different functions.

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The key to hosting a good tailgate is to get started early. In order to do that you’ll need, among other things, coffee. Grady’s New Orleans Style Ice Coffee offers the perfect cold brew kit for game day. The Grady’s Spouch is brilliant for a crowd – just drop the coffee filled bags into the "pour and store pouch" and add cold water. Soak overnight and wake up to a supply of cold-brew perfection! The kit is completely reusable, doesn’t need electricity and the individual bean bags are fully compostable when you’re finished brewing.

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The next thing you’ll need is a morning beverage. Most fields don’t allow glass, so finding delicious canned beverages is a must. My choice? A pink mimosa made with Sans Wine Sparkling Rosé and a splash of grapefruit juice. And a mimosa just isn’t the same without a champagne flute, so make sure you pick up some stainless steel insulated "glassware" to keep your boozy beverages crisp and cold. We like these stemless flutes. They’re perfectly practical for a tailgate and are chic enough to use at home. Don't forget to stock up on beer, too.

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Finally, make sure to keep the party going with a portable Bluetooth speaker, preferably one that is convenient and compact like the clip on JBL Clip 3. If you're at a college game, be sure to download your school's fight song before kickoff.

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