When Pizza Hut President Artie Starrs was at last year’s Super Bowl, he felt guilty that he was having a good time with his family and colleagues from the chain, owned by Yum Brands (YUM), while his company’s 150,000 employees were toiling away on their busiest day of the year.
“I decided that next year we need to have one of our employees in the field come sit in these seats and have this experience,” Starrs said in an interview with CBS MoneyWatch.
Pizza Hut then launched a six-month contest in which entrants with the best customer satisfaction scores were given a chance to attend the big game on the company’s dime. Starrs drew the name of Vickie Weaver from a glass bowl. She has been with Pizza Hut for more than 20 years and oversees about a half-dozen restaurants in the Huntsville, Alabama, area. She’ll be attending the Super Bowl, where tickets are currently averaging $4,744, with her husband Bill. Starrs will be working in Weaver’s stores during the big game.
“I don’t think they have ever been to an NFL game,” said Starrs, who described himself as a “huge” football fan. “It’s super-inspiring for her to come. I think this is something that we are going to be doing going forward. It’s a new tradition.”
While he’s in Alabama, Starrs, who has run Pizza Hut since April 2016, will speak with customers and recognize workers who are doing a good job. He’ll also be helping out where he’s needed, doing everything from folding boxes to making and delivering pizzas. Starrs knows his way around a pizza oven, learning the craft at a local pizza joint when he was young.
“I can hold my own,” he said, adding that Pizza Hut’s general managers are better than he is at making pies because they do it more often. His favorite Pizza Hut menu item is the pepperoni-stuffed crust.
Starrs will head to Houston, where Super Bowl LI between the New England Patriots and Atlanta Falcons will be played, later this week for business meetings and will greet Weaver and her husband when they get to town. He plans to arrive in Alabama on Sunday morning.
“I will probably be rooting for Atlanta to win because the consumers that I am going to be with that day are likely Falcons fans, so hopefully they will be happy,” he said, adding “I am mainly rooting for a good game.”
So will many other businesses.
According to Nielsen, football fans will spend $1.2 billion on beer, $594 million on wine, $227 million on potato chips, $89 million on popcorn and $82 million on chicken wings during game-day festivities. The National Broiler Council estimates people will consume 1.33 billion wings on Sunday -- enough to circle the earth three times.