Pizza Makers Prep For Super Bowl Blitz

In an undated handout photo from Pizza Hut, a pizza with Cheesy Bites is shown. Super Bowl ads are on the way. Forget about which Super Bowl team to root for. The biggest game-day decision for many armchair quarterbacks is deep dish or thin crust. On a day when pigskin partying hits its peak, Super Bowl Sunday has become a bonanza for the $37 billion pizza industry. (AP Photo/Pizza Hut)
AP Photo/Pizza Hut
On a day when pigskin partying hits its peak, Super Bowl Sunday has become a bonanza for the $37 billion pizza industry.

Competition is intense and the pace frantic, both among the large chains and the neighborhood pizza joints that still make up a large part of the market.

"When the rush comes, you get a rush," said Bill Ferguson, a Papa John's franchisee executive in Florida who rolls up his sleeves on game day to bake pies. "Your adrenaline gets pumped up."

Munching pizza is as much a Super Bowl staple as the glitzy halftime show and pregame hype, ranking it as the busiest — or among the busiest — days of the year for pizza makers.

The National Restaurant Association estimates that about one out of seven Americans order takeout or delivery food from a restaurant for Super Bowl gatherings at home. Fifty-eight percent order pizza, 50 percent request chicken wings and 20 percent choose subs or sandwiches, it said. Another one in 20 Americans watches the game at restaurants or bars.

"Super Bowl is a huge day for our business," said Papa John's president and chief executive officer Nigel Travis.

Some pizza makers time menu introductions around the Super Bowl.

"Pizza Hut always goes big for the big game with a new product launch," said Tom James, chief marketing officer for the nation's largest pizza chain.

This year, Pizza Hut rolled out Cheesy Bites Pizza, featuring cheese-filled bites that form the perimeter of a large pizza. The chain is pitching the new product with pre-kickoff Super Bowl ads featuring singer Jessica Simpson.

Papa John's has been promoting its online ordering, which enabled football fans to post pizza orders days or even weeks before the big game.

"That lets them get one part of their party planning out of the way," Papa John's spokesman Chris Sternberg said.

Louisville-based Papa John's International expects to sell more than 600,000 pizzas on game day at its 2,600 U.S. restaurants, Sternberg said. It's the chain's biggest day of the year, with sales up about 50 percent from a typical Sunday, he said.

Pizza deliverers log more miles — and more tips — on Super Bowl Sunday.

"The traffic is very light," said Dana Harville, spokeswoman for Domino's Pizza. "And people are feeling generous with tips," especially if their team is winning.