Across the U.S. this pre-Super Bowl week, restaurant owners, employees and vendors are probably popping extra vitamins — maybe even carb-loading — in anticipation of the monumental demands coming Sunday in the hours before, during and after the big game.
That's when the National Restaurant Association says that roughly 15 percent of the nation's population orders food for what the USDA says is the No. 2 food holiday of the year. Fifteen percent, by the way, is about 48 million people — all dialing, typing, talking online, phoning, or even physically going to a restaurant to order sustenance for those taxing hours of couch-surfing demanded by every Super Bowl.
There is a lot at stake, too. For instance, just last year during this same national event, Pizza Hut racked up a digital food-ordering record of nearly $12 million in sales, up from a mere $10 million the previous Super Bowl Sunday. And that's only half the story since digital orders make up only about half of Pizza Hut's typical Super Bowl sales.
And it's not just pizza in high demand as the Patriots and Falcons take to the field this Sunday, but also deliveries of everything from wings and nachos to chicken and pretzels. After all, there will be a lot of beer to be soaked up in the country's collective football-loving gut.
It is, in short, a make-or-break holiday for just about all foodservice brands that deliver or cater, but it takes well-coordinated effort and even a bit off ESP to pull it all off for any specific brand. That's why this site wanted to get a glimpse of what various chains do to prepare, as well as execute, the day's intense food service demands. So we recently fielded a few general questions to representatives of three big delivery brands about their Super Bowl strategies.
The answers we obtained — as delineated in the interviews below — give you a brief glimpse of the high demands and low tolerance food service customers have for mistakes when it comes to food and drink on Super Bowl Sunday. Included in the panel of brands who responded to our questions, are:
Q: What's the overall increase in business like for this Sunday of the year and how is it distributed between online ordering, phone orders and take-out orders in store?
A: TOPPERS' IVERSEN: In 2016, our delivery concept sold 3,274,703 pizzas, with a sales increase of 26.64 percent on Super Bowl Sunday. Toppers Pizza has historically broken their largest sales day on Super Bowl Sunday every year.
It is definitely a higher mix of pre-orders online than we have on a normal day. Over the years, we have seen our overall business has changed to more online as we’ve revamped our online ordering. On Super Bowl Sunday there is definitely a tendency of more pre-ordering online than on a typical day
A: PHILLY PRETZEL FACTORY'S TERRANOVA:Last year, we sold 330,000 party trays for Super Bowl Sunday. Our biggest growth has definitely been online orders, because it was a new offering last year. This year, we are expecting to see online ordering increase by 50 percent. Even though we are busy all day, we are the busiest from 3 to 6 p.m.
Q: When are most orders placed for Super Bowl?
A: WING ZONE'S GUILFORD:Many of our locations will receive pre-orders but it is human nature to wait until the last minute. Our most successful and best performers have about 50 percent of their sales before Sunday.
For example, our location in Bellmore will do $25,000 on Super Bowl Sunday and before the day begins there will be over $13,000 in pre-orders. Most people want their wings about 30 minutes to an hour before the game, but there are only so many that can meet that request, and people understand that.
Q: How do you prepare for and subsequently handle the resources, manpower and other demands of this potentially unpredictable day?
A: PHILLY PRETZEL FACTORY'S TERRANOVA: We advise franchisees to make a game plan and lay that out based on how many trays are made ahead of time. Also, we will assign someone a station to stay organized. Everything that can be pre-staged, is pre-staged. Everyone has their specific job and they will stick to it and then rotate to a new area.
Q: How big a portion of business is delivered and/or catered? How do you handle that?
A: WING ZONE'S GUILFORD:Super Bowl is an all-hands-on-deck day, all employees work that day at some point. Prior to that date each location lays out a position chart letting each employee now what station or what position they will play that day. To make sure that there is enough product on hand each location uses its prior year's data to determine how much inventory it will need. We’ve perfected the wing process into a perfect assembly line.
A: TOPPERS' IVERSEN:Every quarter we have a webinar shared system-wide with all of the franchisees and general managers and talk about the upcoming days for preparation. Our training team puts together suggestions on how they might revise preparation for big days or things they anticipate ahead of time to help them with scheduling. The supply chain is monitoring usage week to week or month to month, so we can make projections for what a big day is expected to look like as far as ingredients needed.
Q: How have technological advances in ordering improved, worsened or simply changed this day operationally and financially for your system?
A: WING ZONE'S GUILFORD: The introduction of ordering online has made managing this day so difficult with that feature because it allows the customer to continue to place orders within time slots that we cannot handle. Most locations find that they must disable online ordering during Super Bowl day.
PHILLY PRETZEL FACTORY'S TERRANOVA:With the added online ordering last year, franchisees were able to spread out the pick-up times on the online form accordingly to make it more manageable. By deciphering the maximum output each owner is able to set a max order for a time period.
We have noticed that some managers will create a spreadsheet on how many party trays they can make in an amount of time and limit the online orders to better allow for accommodating walk-ins to be serviced, as well.
But if there is one lesson to be learned and remembered well ahead of the big day, it's that Murphy's Law is likely to be in full effect, so a sense of humor may be one of the best commodities to have on hand in ample supply for Super Bowl Sunday, whether you're a fan, a football player or a food service server. That trait likely served one Savannah-area Wing Zone location owner very well on a recent "super Sunday" when he literally "flipped his lid," according to Guilford.
"The owner of our Savannah location, being so excited for such a busy day failed to properly secure the lid on a bowl of wings before shaking," Guilford recalls of a recent Super Bowl. "This resulted in him covering his entire head and torso in hot sauce during the biggest hour of the day."
Perhaps that is the truest manifestation of "sweating the details" on Super Bowl Sunday. All restaurateurs must do it, but perhaps some take it more literally than others.
We'd love to hear your funny Super Bowl Sunday stories. Just give us a shout on one of the social media channels listed above the headline of this story. Oh, and remember, particularly in this case, pictures are worth at least a thousand words.
Cover phot: iStock