National Football League fans gather in downtown Tampa ahead of Super Bowl LV during the COVID-19 pandemic on January 30, 2021 in Tampa, Florida.
Octavio Jones | Getty Images
Super Bowl Sunday is a big day for soccer and dining.
But the channels that will likely benefit the most from feeding hungry fans have already seen their sales skyrocket during the coronavirus pandemic.
According to the US Department of Agriculture, only Thanksgiving surpasses Super Bowl Sunday as the biggest food festival. The big game drew over 100 million viewers last year. Non-football fans tune into the NFL Championship for engaging commercials, an entertaining halftime show, and food on display on watch nights.
For Yum Brands Pizza Hut, Super Bowl Sunday is the busiest day of the year. Domino’s Pizza typically delivers around 2 million pies that day, up 30% from a typical Sunday. Fat Brands, which owns Hurricane Grill & Wings, Buffalo’s Cafe, and Buffalo’s Express stores, sells half a million chicken wings on Super Bowl Sundays. For Wingstop, it ranks among its top five selling days per year.
Pizza and chicken wings have been staples of Americans’ quarantine diets throughout the pandemic. Both are known to travel well, and the biggest players in the categories have been striving to make their food more convenient for years.
In the fourth quarter, Pizza Hut reported US same-store sales growth of 8%. Domino’s reported double-digit U.S. same-store sales growth in its second and third quarters. And Wingstop, which was already outpacing the rest of the industry’s sales growth before the crisis, said its same-store sales climbed 25% in the third quarter.
“If what we’ve just been through over the past 12 months is any indication – beating the industry in terms of sales – we expect that to continue this Sunday,” said Brian Gies, global director of marketing for Church’s Chicken.
Church’s Chicken, which serves boneless chicken fillets and wings, kicked off their Texas Tenders’ N Shrimp meal in time for the Super Bowl this year to capitalize on that demand. The menu item was created to appeal to patrons who observe Lent, which does not begin until February 17th.
Wingstop CEO Charlie Morrison said through a spokesperson that the company still expects strong sales for the big game. Compared to previous years, however, the Wingstop chain chicken may receive more orders and a lower average check due to the small size of the gatherings. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has recommended minimizing guest lists for surveillance nights and having celebrations outdoors or virtually.
“I think it’s going to be a really big weekend for us, and I think sales will be off the charts,” said Andy Wiederhorn, CEO of Fat Brands.
Supply chains under pressure
The pandemic has also created supply chain issues for restaurant businesses waiting for a loaded Super Bowl. Mozzarella cheese prices are on the rise, which will affect the profits of pizza chains. For the first week of February, Wisconsin wholesale prices for a pound of mozzarella cheese hit $ 2.70, according to a US Department of Agriculture report released Wednesday. In February 2019, prices for mozzarella were on average around $ 2.15 per pound.
The chicken wing chains are under even more pressure. Wholesale prices are on the rise and restaurateurs are reporting shortages.
Wiederhorn said the company sees a limited supply at this time of year anyway.
“The only time it wasn’t a battle was when McDonald’s got into the chicken wing business, like seven or eight years ago, and it failed miserably. They threw all the wings on the market because they had to get rid of it, “said Wiederhorn.
As a result, Fat Brands is starting to plan its wing orders for the Super Bowl a year in advance. But the supply problem is particularly severe this year, driven by outbreaks at meat processing plants and higher demand for chicken wings driven by high delivery sales for the category. Fat Brands is bringing frozen chicken wings to complement its usual offering of fresh wings.