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Game Day Operations: Don’t Wing It


Courtesy Famous Dave's

The NFL Super Bowl is a feeding frenzy not just for the football fan sitting in front of a pile of wings, but for the wing, barbecue, pizza and other brands providing that game-day grub. 

According to Cardlytics, a data marketing and white-label loyalty program provider, there is major activity all through the week of the big game. According to company transaction data, the chicken segment (e.g. wings) sees a 19 percent sales lift during the week of the big game. Wings have become synonymous with game day, but plenty of other foods see a big boost. Tacos and pizza both get a 12 percent sales bump and barbecue jumps by 11 percent. And not to be left out completely, burgers and sandwiches also see an 8 percent lift during the week. 

Matt Drewes, SVP and restaurant group head at Cardlytics, said with surges like that it might be enticing to just let the orders come. But that’s not the case, there’s a lot of shopping around when hosting. And Drewes said that means being top of mind. 

“A lot of folks back off when the surge is large; if you have the capacity in the kitchen to accommodate more, you absolutely should be getting your brand top of mind,” said Drewes. 

Turn on the TV in the weeks ahead of the Super Bowl and you’ll see a lot of those brands competing with value deals, party packs and all manner of game-day promotions. 

For Geo Concepcion, the COO of Famous Dave’s, they’re pushing a sampler platter so customers can have an easy, all-inclusive option. 

“The idea is, what is something you can just order, throw on the table and it’s ready to go,” said Concepcion. “It’s in a ready-to-serve container, we have all the finger food fan favorites along with sides.” 

He said it’s all about the execution though. The Super Bowl marks the fourth busiest day for the brand, and it sees 50 percent more sales than a typical Sunday evening. 

He said since more people opt to entertain at home, kitchen capacity isn’t that big of an issue. But the company adds significant front-of-house staff to handle the big surge in to-go and delivery orders. In fact, he said 80 to 90 percent of orders on Super Bowl Sunday are off premises. 

A prepared platter or special pack also helps simplify things for restaurants, the staff and the consumer. Like Concepcion said, the packs make for an easy choice, but at Buffalo Wings and Rings, a thematic bag and ordering ahead (to get a $10-off coupon) helps control the pickup counter chaos. 

“The preorder deal is very helpful for us so we can prepare our staff,” said Diane Matheson, VP of marketing at Buffalo Wings and Rings. “Then it’s how do we organize, our to-go area is piled with order on order on order, not only is the tote bag nice for the consumer, but it’s nice for our staff so we can line those up in a really nice fashion and orderly and keep everything hot.” 

At the Atlanta-based Wing Zone, the brand is getting a one-two punch of consumer traffic around the big game with all the visitors in town for the actual game. That’s made for some actual traffic, too, with all the closures, but cofounder and CEO Matt Friedman said they’ve largely figured it out. 

What’s harder is preparing the huge amount of wing orders. The company is promoting preorders for 10 free wings the week after the game. He said he aims for about 50 percent of preorders for the overall surge in business. 

Getting ready is a long, long process. 

“It starts about 30 to 45 days out. Really it’s working with our suppliers, you got to be able to secure your supply for a big day and make sure that we are stocked,” said Friedman. “For this particular week, we’ll bring in three times the normal supply. That becomes a bit it of a challenge with storage.”

He said they’ve gotten used to the space challenge out of the typical 1,200- to 1,500-square-foot location, but keeping up with the 500 percent order increase. He said they change cooking operations on major days. 

“In order to handle the volume we partially cook the wings, then refrigerate the wings. So it helps reduce the time and just would not be possible to put out that kind of volume,” said Friedman. 

But the big key to controlling the chaos is order pick-up times. If someone has a 100-wing order, they’ll get a 15-minute window during which they can pick it up. That’s his best advice for operators hoping to capitalize on big games like this or they'll have a massive line of miffed customers right before game time. 

“I think the key is really pushing your preorders and also creating some sort of grid or spreadsheet to dictate to customers when your slots are available,” said Friedman. “We just set those expectations, we do some things where we provide drinks for people, we’ve got chips and dip for people and people are very understanding.” 

For Topper’s Pizza, it’s harder to pull off some of these tricks. Pizza consumers like to shop around and often call a handful of concepts before pulling the trigger, especially during busy game days.

Mac Malchow, director of national marketing and menu innovation at Topper’s, said it’s just about preparing what they can. 

“It’s all pre-rush prep, making sure our make lines are stocked, cut all our veggies in house and make all our dough,” said Malchow. “We don’t do much in terms of funneling and metering, just make sure we’re ready.”

To gauge the business, he said looking at last year has been illuminating when it comes to staffing. 

“Really, it’s paying attention to historic data, with all the advances in the new tools for franchisees, we can study in the field and see that this is when the phones start ringing, we can see the call log. We can see the spike in online—50 percent of the orders are online, that’s a huge benefit for the team,” said Malchow. “Our operations team has it down to a science for when the phones start ringing, how much dough to make, how many bins of pepperoni to stock.” 

He said the marketing push this year includes free pizza for a year, enticing consumers to buy larger, more expensive single items. That keeps fewer things flowing through the oven, which speeds things along during the exceptionally busy time between the Super Bowl and National Pizza Day. 

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The latest news, opinions and commentary on what's happening in the franchise arena that could affect your business.

Laura MichaelsLaura Michaels is editor of Franchise Times. She can be reached at 612.767.3210, or send story ideas to lmichaels@franchisetimes.com.
Beth EwenBeth Ewen is senior editor of Franchise Times. She can be reached at 612.767.3212, or send story ideas to bewen@franchisetimes.com.
Nicholas UptonNicholas Upton is restaurants editor at Franchise Times. He can be reached at 612.767.3226, or send story ideas to nupton@franchisetimes.com.
Mary Jo LarsonMary Jo Larson is the publisher of Franchise Times Magazine and the Restaurant Finance Monitor.  You can find her on Twitter at




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