Dallas, Texas (NAPSI) - You can score an instant touchdown with your party guests during football season-or at any time-by offering a hot baked potato bar fully loaded with fan favorites and some new players. Unlike watching the big game on the screen, a hot potato bar is anything but a spectator sport.

Encourage guests to engage in “full contact” with your potato bar, where they can customize their spuds with toppings of their choice.

“If dressed properly, baked potatoes with toppers are hearty enough that they can serve as an entrée,” explained Fred Williams, EVP Concept Development for Buffets, Inc. “This fun and interactive party idea caters to various tastes and ages.”

Dish up the ingredients buffet style, so guests can serve themselves, experimenting with whatever winning combinations work for them. A buffet setup leaves you free to mix and mingle with your friends. Just remember to keep hot items in warming dishes, cold items on ice, and refresh the buffet occasionally as necessary.

First, make sure you have the right spuds. Williams suggests using russet potatoes, which are great for baking. He recommends baking over microwaving, as the potatoes will maintain their natural flavors and have a consistent texture.

Select potatoes that are the same size, so they cook evenly. Remember to scrub potatoes clean under running water and pat dry before baking. After they’re cooked, slit the potatoes lengthwise and keep them warm in a chafing dish, so guests may grab and load.

“Top This”

Build the base of your potato bar with simple and classic favorites such as butter, salt, pepper, sour cream, cheese, green onions and bacon bits. These ingredients are great on their own but can also complement other toppings.

Next, spice up the offering with savory toppings such as vegetarian or meat chili, shredded cheese, salsa, sliced jalapeños and pico de gallo.

For the more adventurous guests, offer these delicious and less traditional toppers:

• Shredded chicken with barbecue sauce

• Baked beans and sausage

• Tuna tossed with creamy peas

• Crab with an Alfredo sauce

• Coleslaw

• Chicken salad.

The beauty of a potato bar is that guests can splurge or go for a little garden variety, healthful options:

• Steamed vegetables such as broccoli, green beans or asparagus

• Roasted peppers and onions

• Goat cheese and sautéed spinach

• Kernel corn

• Black or red beans.

Don’t forget to try baked sweet potatoes on your potato bar. These can become especially sweet when topped with cinnamon and chunky warm apple sauce.

If you need more inspiration for your hot potato bar, you can visit a Buffets brand restaurant-Ryan’s®, Country Buffet®, Fire Mountain®, Granny’s Buffet®, in addition to HomeTown Buffet® as well as Old Country Buffet®-to check out the “Top This!” setups throughout the restaurant. While there, you may care to top off your potato with a wide selection of options, then pair with a terrific partner-the new thick-cut Rancher’s Select® Sirloin.

For more information, visit www.Ryans.com, CountryBuffet.com, FireMountainBuffet.com, GrannysBuffet.com, HomeTownBuffet.com and OldCountryBuffet.com.