Rival Restaurants

Rival Restaurants Chef Strandees
Rival Restaurants cover photo

Gourmet cooking, unorthodox business practices, and culinary sabotage

These three factors perfectly sum up Rival Restaurants, an action-packed restaurateur game for 2-6 players published by Gap Closer Games. The aim of the game is to obtain 20 popularity points by cooking various recipe cards. To do this chefs will need to collect the necessary ingredients by visiting various market shelves and might even get into a bidding war to obtain them!

Rival Restaurants Game Setup
Player and main board setup

How to Play

To start this restaurant competition, designate one player to be the Head Chef. They’ll move the the game from phase to phase and control the timer. Rival Restaurants includes a sand timer to be used in the Buy and Barter phase. For those who prefer a digital timer, Gap Closer Games has a Apple or Android app available for free download.

Chefs should take a moment to familiarize themselves with their special Chef ability that can be used during a specific phase. They just need to announce when an ability is being used to others.

Rival Restaurants takes place over multiple days (rounds), and each day consists of three phases: Money and Move, Buy and Barter, then Cook and Counter.

Money and Move

Chefs gain daily income and decide where to shop. First, gain at least $300 from the bank (upgrade your restaurant for more income). Then each Chef uses their movement wheel to secretly select a destination market to visit for the day. After movement dials are revealed, chef standees move to locations shown on the dial, to stand upon their most desired ingredient.

If multiple Chefs want the same ingredient, a Bidding War commences. The minimum bid is always the market price, and whoever bids the most wins the ingredient. Chefs who bowed out of the auction must choose another ingredient instead.

Fruit Stand: avocado, sweet fruit, tomato
This Chef wants the tomato at the Fruit Stand

Buy and Barter

Buy and Barter is a timed one minute phase, where Chefs simultaneously buy and trade ingredients. Everyone can purchase as many faceup ingredients as they can afford from their market’s counter, or from the market’s facedown deck known as the shelf. They may barter for money, ingredients, action cards, garbage, recipes, upgrades or favors. However, all chefs must have one Basic and one Gourmet recipe at all times, and only one of each upgrade restaurant is allowed.

Once time has run out, Chefs move standees back to their respective restaurants.

Rival Restaurants phone app showing a large number 36

Cook and Counter

Cooking recipes is how Chefs score popularity points. In no particular order, a Chef announces they are cooking, and discards matching ingredient cards to gain popularity points. If the Chef has any garbage tokens, subtract 1 popularity point per garbage. Gain cuisine bonus points if the Chef’s restaurant matches the recipe cooked. Then perform the following:

  • Take garbage tokens according to the number of icons on the recipe card
  • Flip over the cooked recipe
  • Draw a new recipe of the same type
  • Perform a level up bonus when points reach 3, 7, and 12.
Cooked Chicken Parmigiana earns 5 popularity points plus 1 extra point for being an Italian dish! Chef also gains a bonus action card for passing the Rising Dough bonus on their board.

After Cooking, it’s time to restock the Counter and reset the Markets. First, the oldest ingredient in each market will “expire”. Then slide any other ingredients down and fill the empty slots with new cards.

After resetting, the day is now complete. Play as may days as it takes for a Chef to reach 20 popularity points. That Chef is declared “The Wiener!”

The Island

The Kitchen Island is one of the most coveted destinations in Rival Restaurants. As an all-purpose supplier, it allows Chefs to:

  • Buy Action cards
  • Buy restaurant upgrades
  • Dispose of garbage tokens
  • Sell chocolate ingredient cards for cash
Spend some dough at The Island to upgrade your restaurant and toss your trash!


Looking for a game to play with friends and family that has a some serious action going on? Rival Restaurants will be your blueberry jam! Gameplay is fast paced and sometimes chaotic. It does simulate the restaurateur experience very well.

Artwork and components do not disappoint. I loved the foody humor peppered all over the game.

Garbage dumpster in Rival Restaurants
Who doesn’t love a storage tray that’s actually useful in the game?

Rival Restaurant‘s fun factor is even better at higher player counts, thanks to player interaction through bartering. Competition is fierce for ingredients and the bidding system resolves any ties.

Bring To A Boil

Without action cards and chef powers, Rival Restaurants would endlessly simmer. But the action cards offer instant gratification: steal money, reduce ingredient costs, and block other action cards.

Chef Powers are extremely useful benefits; like Mortimer Sleazeburger, is a dirty dealer. He gives away his garbage to an unsuspecting chef.

Gaining restaurant upgrades from the Island are critical to success in the Rival Restaurants. Upgrade income early to increase cash flow so you can purchase multiple ingredients. That extra dough is also useful for outbidding other Chefs during an auction.

Good Food Isn’t Cheap

The whole premise of creating garbage after cooking a recipe is brilliant! Chefs gain Popularity points, but also have to mitigate refuse generated by recipes. This adds a Euro-game like feel to the game.

Garbage needs handling, or else the next recipe cooked loses points (1 point per garbage token possessed). Garbage disposal isn’t cheap at $100 a bag!

Banh Mi recipe with two garbage tokens
Cooking Banh Mi awards 3 popularity points and creates 2 garbage.

A chef’s kiss goes out to Gap Closer games for creating an app that is not only a timer for the Buy and Barter phase, but also a reference tool to help progress through each phase. But it’s not necessary to play the game – you can simply use the included sand timer instead.

Stinky Cheese

The only limburger found in the game is the two player mode. Having NPC chefs to disrupt both opponents and assist with extra purchases just didn’t taste as good as the higher player counts did.

Game flow is fine, but without all the player interaction, it feels too mechanical.

Rival Restaurants does require a bit of setup, so factor than when plating for a game night.

The Final Course

Rival Restaurants will make the cut for folks who enjoy fast-paced gameplay with lots of interaction and dash of take-that. It makes for a perfect gift for any foodie you know and would slot perfect into a themed game night with other culinary games see our recommendations below). The 10+ age range is about right; planning and negotiation skills are crucial to play.

Find a freshly cooked copy of your own on Amazon or anywhere Gap Closer Games are sold.

More food games?

Interested creating a multi-course food game night? Check out these other food inspired reviews:

Gap Closer Games provided a promotional copy of Rival Restaurants to The Family Gamers for this review

This post contains affiliate links, which do not change your price, but help support The Family Gamers.

  • 9/10
    Art - 9/10
  • 7/10
    Mechanics - 7/10
  • 7/10
    Family Fun - 7/10


Age Range: 10+
Number of Players: 2-6 (best at 3 or more)
Playtime: 45-60 minutes