Football fans are not the only ones counting down the hours to the big game Sunday.
Many people who work in pizzerias across Buffalo Niagara began to slice, dice and knead their way through the week as they prepared for Super Bowl Sunday, their busiest takeout day of the year.
“It’s just total mayhem for five hours straight from 3:30 to 8:30,” said Mark Biletti, owner of Buzzy’s Pizzeria in Niagara Falls.
Biletti, like other pizza makers questioned, urged people to pre-order their food.
“We can make 40 pizzas every 15 minutes, and 5:30 p.m. Sunday is the time when most people want to pick up their food,” he explained. “Once 5:30 p.m. is full, we put them in 15-minute brackets earlier and later. If we didn’t do that, we would not be able to have fresh pizza out of the oven and to the people. We don’t want pizza hanging around.”
Buzzy’s, located at 7617 Niagara Falls Blvd., began taking time pre-orders Monday, said Biletti, who compared the five-hour Super Bowl takeout sprint to a Saturday when the business is steady and stretched over 11 hours.
“You condense a Saturday to five hours and that’s why Super Bowl Sunday is so crazy,” Biletti noted.
Bella Pizza, at 3330 South Park Ave., Lackawanna, is using a new strategy to help the flow of business this Sunday. For one, the pizzeria will restrict the takeout items that can be ordered from 5 to 8 p.m.
“We won’t sell certain things from 5 to 8,” said manager Daniel Surdyke, “including calzones, specialty pizzas, any pasta, flat bread pizza. It’s just too busy.
“We also offer specials to be picked up before 4 p.m.,” Surdyke said. “We try to lure them with a discount. It’s only 50 cents off, but we’re experimenting to see what works. A lot of people last year were unhappy. They had to wait for takeout food. Super Bowl Sunday is totally different than any other day.”
According to pizza.com, the top four pizza sales days after Super Bowl Sunday are: New Year’s Eve, Halloween, Thanksgiving Eve and New Year’s Day.
How hungry are Super Bowl fans?
Domino’s Pizza expects to dish out 11 million slices to the nation’s football fans, an 80 percent increase over the typical Sunday, according to the chain’s website. And Pizza Hut expects to bake 442 miles of pizza on Super Bowl Sunday, enough to finish 17 New York marathons, the company said in a sports-minded press release. Eighty percent of those pizzas will include pepperoni, which adds up to about 14 billion pieces of pepperoni – enough to circle the earth 13.5 times.
At Just Pizza, 300 Elmwood Ave., owner Rudy Alloy Jr. plans to use 300 pounds of Margherita stick pepperoni “sliced to the thickness of a nickel.”
“We’re starting now,” Alloy said Friday morning as he stood in his shop. “It’s grinding extra cheese. It’s a ton of extra sauce. We go through 50 gallons of pizza sauce, 1,800 pounds of mozzarella cheese, 1,400 pounds of chicken wings and 25 gallons of hot sauce.”
David Benkelman, 27, has delivered pizza for eight years, the past five for Just Pizza. He estimates that each week he puts 300 to 350 miles on his Ford Focus.
“I get 30 miles per gallon,” he said. “You have to have a smaller car.”
Benkelman also has prepared for Super Bowl Sunday, making sure his compact car has a full tank of gas, enough washer fluid and at least two levelers.
“A lot of cars don’t have a flat back seat so the pizza will sit slanted,” Benkelman said. “The toppings will slide off, and nobody likes that.”
To remedy the slide factor, Benkelman makes his own leveler from a chicken wing bucket.
“It helps to create a flat surface so things don’t slide around,” said Benkelman, who will have some company on the roads.
More than 57,000 Pizza Hut delivery drivers will be working Sunday covering more than 7,000 miles, the company said.
According to pizza.com, pizza delivery drivers can expect the usual $2 tips to sometimes soar as high as $20.
“That sounds about right,” Benkelman said, explaining that usually his tips range from $3.50 to $5. “People love football, and they love eating pizza and wings. On Super Bowl Sunday, almost everyone is gracious. Some people pay with exact change, but you have to take the good with the bad.”
When he’s not on the road, this week Benkelman made extra pizza boxes and “modified” chicken wing boxes.
“I’ve been putting holes in the chicken wing boxes so the wings don’t get soggy and soft from the steam,” he explained. “The steam rises out of the box and helps keep the contents of the delivery bag hot.”
Benkelman averages two to three deliveries at a time on a normal day, but on Super Bowl Sunday he delivers to five addresses before heading back to the shop to reload. Each delivery, he added, takes from seven to 12 minutes.
Recently drivers at Just Pizza have been told to carry a shovel and road salt in their vehicles.
“The worst thing is getting stuck,” Benkelman said.