This Sunday, Feb. 5, marks the busiest day in the pizza business. And as the Super Bowl kicks off in Indianapolis, pizza companies have their teams ready for action.
The National Restaurant Association estimates that 48 million Americans will order takeout or delivery food from a restaurant while watching Sunday's game between the New England Patriots and the New York Giants. In addition, 12 million are expected to visit a restaurant or bar to watch the big game.
New NRA research also shows that pizza and chicken wings, as well as salsa/dips/spreads, are considered the biggest must-have foods at game day parties. Sixty-three percent of respondents said they will serve chicken wings for the game, while 61 percent said they'll serve pizza. These items are outpaced only by salsa, dips and spreads, at 69 percent.
"Sporting events and great food go hand in hand, so it is no surprise that millions of Americans will incorporate restaurants into their plans for watching the professional football championship game this year," said Hudson Riehle, senior vice president of the Research and Knowledge Group for the NRA.
Chains step up their game ahead of the event
In preparation for the Super Bowl rush, many pizza chains have stepped up their game plans.
Papa John's, the Official Pizza Sponsor of the NFL, is hosting the Super Bowl XLVI Coin Toss Experience, which includes a free large one-topping pizza and 2-liter Pepsi MAX for those enrolled in the chain's rewards program. The giveaway is good only if fans correctly call the Super Bowl coin toss.
Papa John's recruited Super Bowl champions Peyton Manning and Jerome "The Bus" Bettis for its marketing blitz leading up to Super Bowl XLVI.
Last year for Super Bowl XLV, Papa John's set a single-day sales record by selling more than 1 million pizzas. Papa John's is in the second year of a multi-year sponsorship with the NFL.
Pizza Hut is raising the bar even higher, predicting sales of more than 2 million pizzas (or more than 16 million slices) on Super Bowl Sunday, boosted by the chain's $10 Any deal.
"There's no question that football's biggest day of the year will be the busiest day of the year at Pizza Hut," said Kurt Kane, Pizza Hut CMO. "Drivers, cashiers and cooks at more than 6,000 Pizza Hut restaurants are prepping for the madness of game day. With our famous $10 Any deal in place, we're prepared to sell more pizzas on Feb. 5 than any day in Pizza Hut history."
Pizza Hut reintroduced its popular $10 Any Pizza deal – any pizza, any crust, any size for $10 in early January.
Domino's Pizza is predicting the sale of more than 11 million pizza slices for the Super Bowl. This equates to an 80 percent increase in sales from a typical Sunday for the chain.
Domino's anticipates almost 60 percent of pizza orders will be for pepperoni pizzas, with sausage being the second most popular topping for the big game.
"Every night in a Domino's store is a dress rehearsal for big days like Sunday," said Chris Brandon, Domino's Pizza spokesperson. "As friends and family gather around the TV to cheer on their favorite teams, it's a perfect occasion for Domino's to deliver pizza, pasta, sandwiches and wings. Our team is ready to tackle the anticipated rush with smart hustle and precision. We're poised and ready to deliver a great game day meal to millions of football fans nationwide."
Throughout the years, Domino's has observed how certain game day scenarios seem to affect sales. For instance, sales tend to increase when the game is close and viewers are glued to their TVs. Also, while both the New York and Boston Domino's stores will see high sales at the beginning of the game, the city of the winning team will likely see higher sales at the end of the night.
Pizza Patrón has rolled out four new party paquetazos (combos) that each include chicken wings and pizza, just in time for those planning events and parties for the Super Bowl.
"Over the years, we have discovered that our customers often times make two trips for their parties or game-watching events — one for pizza and the other for wings," said Andrew Gamm, brand director for Pizza Patrón. "This promotion is designed to remind customers that we have fantastic wings, and that Pizza Patrón is the one-stop shop for wings and pizza for their next party."
- Party Paquetazo 1 includes 30 wings, two 5-piece orders of QuesoStix, two large pepperoni pizzas, and 3 dips for $34.99.
- Party Paquetazo 2 includes 45 wings, two 5-piece orders of QuesoStix, two large pepperoni pizzas, and 4 dips for $44.99.
- Party Paquetazo 3 includes 60 wings, four 5-piece orders of QuesoStix, four large pepperoni pizzas, and 6 dips for $64.99.
- Party Paquetazo 4 includes 90 wings, four 5-piece orders of QuesoStix, four large pepperoni pizzas, and 8 dips for $84.99.
The chain has purposefully rolled out the combos in time for the Super Bowl, but they will be available throughout the year.
Other limited-time discounts and promotions
Little Caesars is keeping prices low through Sunday, with its limited-time $5 large hot-and-ready pizza.
CiCi's Pizza is currently featuring a deal where customers can get three medium pizzas to go for $9.99.
Pizza Inn is selling a large, crispy thin crust pizza with up to three toppings for under $10 for a limited time.
Naked Pizza has stepped up its social media marketing ahead of the game. Fans can win a "Naked Super Bowl Party" by posting a photo on the company's wall or tagging the company in an uploaded photo showing the (clothed) customer "living Naked" (being active, living green, eating healthy, etc.). The winner gets five free large pizzas, two salads and two orders of 'stixx for the game Feb. 5.
Topper's Pizza is featuring a limited time MyWay promotion, or three MyZas for $6 each. Those who add any single order and a 2-liter pay just $6 more.
Gianni's pizzeria, in Red Bank, Little Silver, Ocean and Colts Neck, N.J., expects a boost specifically because the nearby Giants are in the game, according to MyCentralJersey.com. Vinnie's Pizza, in Freehold Township, N.J., also expects to be busier. Owner Anthony Russo said, "Especially when a New York team is in the Super Bowl, it gets to be a really good day."
Massachusetts pizzerias are also preparing for their home team Patriots. WWLP.com reports that Chicopee, Mass.-based John's Pizzeria will call employees in Sunday morning to prepare for the rush.
One Long Island, N.Y.-based pizzeria has gone a step further in its home team support. According to MyFoxNY.com, Joe's Pizza in the Holbrook neighborhood has rolled out a blue pizza and blue garlic nuts to support the Giants. Owner Phil Donofrio said the blue pizza is a standard white pizza with blue food coloring added to the mix. The pie is ringed with pepperoni for the red in the Giants team colors. Joe's is also selling a football-shaped pizza for customers who may be apprehensive about the unique blue offering. If the Giants win Sunday, Donofrio said he'll try to create pizzas in the shape of the Vince Lombardi trophy.
Read more about marketing and promotions.
Alicia has been a professional journalist for 15 years. Her work with FastCasual.com, QSRweb.com and PizzaMarketplace.com has been featured in publications around the world, including NPR, Good Morning America, Voice of Russia radio, Consumerist.com and Franchise Asia magazine.