Pizza players prep for Super Bowl rush

Super Bowl Sunday is historically the busiest day of the year for pizzerias and this year is expected to be no different as the San Francisco 49ers take on the Baltimore Ravens on Sunday, Feb. 3. The 70,000-plus pizza restaurants throughout the U.S. are gearing up for the big day by rolling out football-themed marketing campaigns, adding staff and ordering extra supplies.

For this one day, Pizza Hut estimates it will sell more than 2 million pizzas (16 million slices).

Domino's plans to deliver 11 million-plus slices of pizza — nearly an 80 percent increase from a typical Sunday. Delivery drivers are expected to cover 50 percent more ground than they normally do.

"There are few occasions better than this one for us to deliver pizza, wings and other Domino’s favorites to gatherings across the nation," said Chris Brandon, Domino’s spokesperson.

Marco's Pizza anticipates a 25 to 50 percent surge in sales for the day, varied by location and based mostly on the weather. Additional staff for most stores will be between two to five people, according to Peter Wise, vice president of Marketing at Marco’s.

"Pizza and chicken wings and dippers have become the national food for Super Bowl Sunday. It will be a very good day," Wise said.

Chicken wings will complement pizza

Pizza won’t be the only item on the Super Bowl party menu. According to the National Chicken Council's 2013 Wing Report, more than 1.23 billion wing portions will be consumed during this year’s Super Bowl weekend.

Still, Super Bowl wing consumption is predicted to be down about 1 percent, or 12.3 million wings, compared to last year's numbers, but not because demand for them is declining.

"Chicken companies produced about one percent fewer birds last year, due in large part to record high corn and feed prices. Corn makes up more than two-thirds of chicken feed and corn prices hit an all-time high in 2012, due to two reasons: last summer's drought and pressure from a federal government requirement that mandates 40 percent of our corn crop be turned into fuel in the form of ethanol. Simply put, less corn equals higher feed costs, which means fewer birds produced," said Bill Roenigk, chief economist and market analyst at the National Chicken Council.

Wing prices always go up in the fourth quarter of the year as restaurants stock up for the Super Bowl and prices usually peak in January during the run-up to the big game. But many analysts expect that demand will hold steady even after the NFL season ends.

"Demand for wings is proving more and more to be inelastic," Roenigk added. "With the rising number of restaurants with menus dedicated to wings, the return of the NHL hockey season, the NCAA March Madness basketball tournament and then the start of grilling season, wing demand should remain hot."

But Roenigk adds that consumers shouldn't worry about any shortage of wings on Super Bowl Sunday or any time soon.

"The good news for consumers is that restaurants plan well in advance to ensure they have plenty of wings for the big game," he said.

Pizza Hut expects to sell more than 5 million chicken wings during the game.

Domino’s (which introduced its chicken wings in 1994) predicts it will sell 2.5 million chicken wings (both boneless and bone-in) for the game, which would mark a 165-percent increase over a typical Sunday.

Marco’s predicts a doubling of chicken wing sales on Feb. 3, and even a tripling of sales at some locations.

"Orders at carry-outs and restaurants for chicken wings on Super Bowl Sunday will increase more on that day than any other winter Sunday — a 156 percent increase," said Harry Balzer, vice president of the NPD Group, a market research firm.

Digital orders also expected to jump

While pizza and wing business is expected to triple in some instances, few football fans will likely be willing to leave their TVs to pick up their food. As delivery orders accelerate, the demand should also translate into a jump in digital orders by up to 30 percent compared to any given Sunday, according to Domino's. On average, that company’s digital platform makes up more than 30 percent of sales in the U.S.

"We hope customers will take advantage of our useful timed ordering feature for that big order on the big day — one of the many ways online ordering can give you one less thing to think about come Sunday," Brandon said.

Such technology features make it hard for smaller chains to compete with the "Big 4," but that doesn’t mean they aren't expecting their own Super Bowl rush.

“The technology of the large multinational pizza brands is tough to beat, but Marco’s Pizza has benefited from improvements in technology and those benefits are just coming into play,” Wise said.

Marketing efforts

Besides added delivery, in-store and digital business, Papa John’s, which was named the Official Pizza of the NFL and Super Bowl in 2010, should receive plenty of brand buzz during the game as it markets its second annual coin toss promotion. This year’s offer includes a free pizza for any fan who guesses the correct landing of the coin toss prior to kick off. Last year’s coin toss promo yielded a 1 million pizza giveaway. This year’s giveaway is expected to be doubled.

Pizza Hut is inviting fans to upload videos of their best "Hut. Hut. Hut!" call, which could become part of the brand's first user-generated commercial to air on Feb. 3, right before the Super Bowl kicks off. In addition to possibly starring in the game day ad, fans have a chance to win $15,000 in total prizes.

Domino's is partnering with Coca-Cola as it introduces its "Big Game campaign" at CokeChase.com, which includes a digital program encouraging customers to help determine the ending of its Super Bowl commercial. The ad will feature exclusive integration from Domino's, as well as promotion on Domino’s Tracker and throughout the chain’s online ordering platform.

Little Caesars is asking its social media fans to create a "sculpture" of a football or football stadium out of its pizza or Crazy Bread. Those who do can email their finished results to the company for a chance to be featured on the Little Caesars' Facebook page.

And, CiCi's Pizza is offering two large, one topping to-go pizzas for $10 for the Super Bowl. The offer is valid at participating locations and there is no limit on the number of pizzas that can be ordered.

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