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Pizza operators go to 2-minute drill for Super Bowl Sunday

Super Bowl Sunday is the equivalent of a nationwide quarterback blitz for the pizzeria industry.

As the clock winds down to kickoff to Super Bowl LI, the orders for pepperoni and vegetarian pizzas rush in like defensive linebackers from different angles.

Some football fans call in their pizzas to mom-and-pop shops. Others order from national chains online. A few venture to leave their TV screens to pick it up themselves.

It will likely be the most intense three or four hours pizza industry workers will face all year.

“At 2 p.m., it starts going bananas. You have to burn on all cylinders,’’ said Steve Sharp, 41, a Domino’s manager of corporate operations who oversees seven stores in Henderson. It will be Sharp’s 18th Super Bowl Sunday for the fast-food pizzeria chain.

Coach Sharp has his players — dressed in their black and blue Domino’s outfits — well-prepared for the rush at the store on Marks Street. About 200 white, folded pizza boxes stand roughly six feet high against a wall that is also lined with about 300 2-litter bottles of Coca-Cola, Sprite and Dr Pepper.

Sharp will have at least 10 drivers at most of his seven locations for the peak hours. That compares with three to four drivers on a Sunday when there are no football games.

The seven Domino’s locations under Sharp’s command will make anywhere from 350 to 750 pizzas each, about 20 percent to 25 percent more than last year. While that may not seem like a big increase, most of the day’s orders have to be made in just a few hours.

“These three ovens will be full from 2 p.m. until 4 p.m.,’’ he says. ‘’The pizza just goes and goes and goes out our door.’’

DEEP INTO PREPARATION

Nearby in Henderson, Metro Pizza, a Las Vegas chain, is deep into preparation for the blitz.

Owner John Arena, 62, says he may sell as much as 2,500 pizzas at his five locations on Super Bowl Sunday, about double the average. He will have seven to eight people on the pizza line at his store in Henderson compared with three on a regular day.

“It is not just the volume, but the intensity that is the real challenge,” said Arena. “You have to double the amount of pizzas you make on a daily basis, but do it all in about two hours.”

And it’s not just the pizza makers that are under pressure. Arena adds more cashiers and those answering calls.

“The phone starts ringing off the hook Sunday morning. Everyone wants that slot 30 minutes before kickoff.”

Arena opened his first pizzeria in 1980 and hasn’t watched a Super Bowl game since. He works at the location that is under the most pressure that day to meet orders.

“It is all hands on deck,” Arena said. ”We have no time to watch the game on TV.”

Arena orders some necessary supplies weeks in advance. His workers will begin shredding about 3,000 pounds of cheese on Saturday night.

The 1,500 pounds of chicken wings are ordered just days before the game to keep them fresh. The wings are in such demand that wholesaler prices have risen $14 per case to $109, costing Arena an extra $1,400 that he can’t pass on to customers.

Arena and Sharp agree that one of the biggest problems for pizza makers on this day is space management. Metro Pizza will need more than 3,000 pounds of dough and cheese to make 2,500 pizzas. As most will be for deliver or takeout, that means just as many boxes.

”That all has to be put somewhere,” said Arena. ”It is really a challenge in the small stores. Your orders double, but your space size doesn’t.”

CLOSE GAME BETTER

Just how many pizzas Domino’s and Metro make will depend in part on how the game unfolds. The closer the score and more exciting the game, the greater the sales. If it’s a blowout, sales taper off.

‘’We are hoping for a close game. I want overtime,’’ Sharp said with a laugh.

But Sharp knows this day is no laughing matter for the potential growth of his businesses.

Many people will be ordering Domino’s for the first time on Super Bowl Sunday, he says.

”It is a great opportunity to grow in the area,” he said, adding the Marks Street store has been open just one year.

Managing the order flow is key to a successful day. Sharp says Domino’s receives a lot of Internet orders — generally for two pizzas with drinks — early in the day with specific delivery times.

Those timed orders have to be properly managed with the elephant-size orders for $500 or even $1,000 of pizza that can come in at any time from groups at casinos.

“They don’t give us as much of a warning sometimes,’’ says Sharp, referring to the casino orders. “It can get chaotic. The key is to stay organized. Once you get disorganized, the wheels can fall off.”

Contact Todd Prince at 702-383-0386 or tprince@reviewjournal.com. Follow @toddprincetv on Twitter.

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