Super Bowl Sunday is Big Business
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Super Bowl Sunday is Big Business

Super Bowl XL’s story lines are certainly intriguing. Pittsburgh Steelers running back Jerome Bettis returns to his hometown of Detroit, and Seattle Seahawks coach Mike Holmgren can become the first NFL coach to win two Super Bowls with two franchises.

What do these story lines mean to the restaurant industry? Business, and lots of it.

According to the National Retail Federation, consumers will spend $5.3 billion preparing for or executing Super Bowl-related activities. The survey said 47 percent will throw a party, attend a party or watch the game from a restaurant. That’s good news for Stan Friedman, executive vice president for Wing Zone, who is expecting $350,000 in gross sales Sunday.

“It’s the biggest day of the year for us,” Friedman said. “It’s a day we prepare for.”

Friedman said the difference between a normal day and Super Bowl Sunday is the same as “the difference between a spring shower and a tsunami. We will go through more than 700,000 wings on Sunday.”

Wing Zone’s average ticket price is $14 and deliveries average 19 minutes. On Sunday, the Atlanta-based company expects to sell 15,000 gallons of sauce, and delivery cars will be prepared by 9 a.m. According to the National Restaurant Association, chicken wings are the second-most ordered takeout food for Super Bowl watchers.

To ensure maximum manpower, Friedman said the company triples the staff.

“It’s like New Year’s Eve in New York; there’s not an NYPD cop with the day off. Well, anybody on Wing Zone payroll is at work on Super Bowl Sunday,” he said. “And we wouldn’t have anybody working on Sunday who wasn’t a seasoned cook, manager or driver.”

Super Bowl preparation

Each Wing Zone operator has access to the company’s Super Bowl manual.

“Any of our operators can access the manual any time via company intranet,” Friedman said. “We’ve learned a lot of lessons over the years and so have our operators, and we do a good job sharing our ideas in these manuals.”

One of those ideas was increasing sales through very basic customer education. Friedman said many who order delivery or takeout are not sure how many wings to order.

“If wings are the focal point of the food, our employees are trained to recommend 10 wings for the customer. If the customer wants the wings for an appetizer, we recommend about five,” Friedman said. “A lot of times, customers double their orders after learning the average wing portions.”

Another Super Bowl lesson learned over the years is encouraging advanced orders.

“For big orders of 100 or more, we tell our customers to order a couple days in advance,” Friedman said. “For smaller orders, we recommend customers order one or two hours in advance.”

Scott Huffman, manager of the Pittsburgh Wing Zone, said sales slip promotions have already contributed to 30 advanced orders.

“This is Pittsburgh, and people here love wings to go with their football and beer,” Huffman said. “We’ve been putting up flyers and telling our customers to order in advance, because it will be crazy come Sunday.”

Friedman said the company emphasizes overstocking inventory for the big game.

“On Super Bowl, we traditionally sell more hot wings than our 24 other flavors, so we make sure our franchises have properly ordered,” he said.

Last year during the Super Bowl, Wing Zone’s POS terminal went down for three hours in the company-owned Marietta, Ga., store.

“That’s a nightmare on any day, but it really hurts during the Super Bowl,” Friedman said. “For a few hours, we were running around like we were in 1950, writing paper tickets. You couldn’t ask for a worse day of the year for that to happen."

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