Mike and Marian Ilitch opened their first Little Caesars restaurant in Garden City, Mich. in 1959. Photo via fb.com
The greatest single sales catalyst for the pizza industry this year will be Super Bowl XLVII.
When North America's most watched and revered TV sporting event kicks off Sunday, millions of Americans will spend their money on pizza while watching the Baltimore Ravens and the San Francisco 49ers battle for the Vince Lombardi Trophy.
Super Bowl Sunday is the busiest day of the year for pizza restaurants, according to Fox News. Popular pizza chains Domino's, Papa John’s and Pizza Hut are expected to sell twice as many pizzas as they do on any other day, Fox reported, with Papa John’s saying it hopes to sell more than 1 million pizzas on Sunday, a total of about 8 million slices.
The larger Domino’s chain is anticipating orders nationwide for more than 11 million pizza slices and 2.5 million chicken wings during the Super Bowl, marking an 80 percent overall increase from a typical Sunday, according to the company. Domino drivers will see a 50-percent increase in driving that day, making the equivalent of more than 300 round trips between the two teams’ hometowns — San Francisco and Baltimore.
Domino’s also anticipates that stores in the winning team's hometown will likely see an increase in sales near the end of the night during post-game celebrations.
In Grand Rapids, local chains say they'll also be feeling the pizza rush.
“It’s one of the busiest weekends of the year,” said Pizza Hut spokesman Brian Cronkrite, vice president of marketing at Trigo. “We spend weeks prior to the Super Bowl planning staffing and making sure everything goes as smoothly as possible.
"It’s all hands on deck," he said. "We encourage people to order early. Actually, you can order online right now for Super Bowl Sunday.”
Sarah Olmstead — store manager of the Little Caesars at 1245 Leonard St. NW — said her store will be doing a special deal of a pizza and bread sticks with sauce for $6.99. Special deals are common on Super Bowl Sunday, she said, which is essentially seen as a holiday for pizza chains.
“We sell about 300 to 400 pizzas on Super Bowl Sunday,” Olmstead said. “I have to put an extra person on staff. It’s just busy until the game starts, and then we’re pretty slow. It’s like any other busy holiday.”
Smaller chains, like Georgio’s Gourmet Pizza at 15 Ionia Ave. SW downtown, will not be hitting such major numbers on Sunday, said Georgio’s General Manager Chris Wooldridge.
Georgio’s Super Bowl Sunday sees maybe double the business of a typical Sunday, he said, but even that is only half of the business Georgio’s normally gets on Friday and Saturday nights.
“We want to increase our delivery, but, for whatever reason, people view us as a place that doesn’t deliver, even though we do," Wooldridge said. "Our delivery range is about five miles.
"We’re trying to tear down that wall one customer at a time," he said. "That’s something we’re going to be focusing on this year, doing whatever we can to get our deliveries up.”
Georgio’s Super Bowl traffic might be related to fact that Georgio’s is not as spread out locally like larger pizza chains, Wooldridge said. It could also be that there is little downtown foot traffic at that time on Sunday, he said, which hopefully will change with arrival of the upcoming Downtown Market.
Wooldridge added that it will be interesting now having a Buffalo Wild Wings on the corner across from the store.
“St. Patty’s Day and ArtPrize, we’ll clean house," Wooldridge said. "Any event downtown where people are partying, we do well. As the condos pop up, we’re seeing a direct relation to sales. The more events, the more business for us. We will grow with the city.”
As an outsider looking in on Super Bowl Sunday, he said, it seems like the chains have the day cornered.
However, the Business Journal’s Facebook page recently posted a question, asking people which of the many chain stores they'll call on Super Bowl Sunday. People quickly commented with votes for several independent local pizza places, referencing Georgio’s, Nantucket Bakery, Brick Road Pizza and Fratelli’s.
Where, if at all, will you order pizza from for the Super Bowl — and why?
Pizza facts to share Sunday
- 94 percent of Americans eat pizza regularly
- Pizza is America's fourth most-craved food, behind cheese, chocolate and ice cream
- Pizza accounts for more than 10 percent of all food service sales
- Approximately 3 billion pizzas are sold in the U.S. each year, plus an additional 1 billion frozen pizzas
- On Super Bowl Sunday, pizza delivery drivers can expect $2 tips to sometimes soar as high as $20
- Domino's delivery drivers will log about 4 million miles on Super Bowl Sunday
- Delivery sales of pizza spike the most during close Super Bowl games
- There are approximately 61,269 pizzerias in the U.S. These pizzerias represent 17 percent of all restaurants
Sources: FranchiseHelp, USA Today, How Stuff Works