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Cathy Jett is the business editor at The Free Lance-Star, and specializes in covering the area's retail scene. You can email her at cjett@freelancestar.com.

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Chicken wing sales soar during Super Bowl

The owner of a Stafford County sports bar started negotiating with suppliers four weeks in advance of today’s face-off between the Baltimore Ravens and the San Francisco 49ers.

The Super Bowl is what John Smith likes to call “the Christmas Day” of wing sales, and he wanted to lock in the best price for the fresh bone-in and boneless chicken wings that his staff at Wings & More Sports Bar on U.S. 17 will fry, sauce and serve.

“As it gets closer to the Super Bowl, the prices go up and up and up,” he said. “It’s almost like buying your house. You want to buy before the price goes up.”

Smith clearly knows what the National Chicken Council has dubbed “wing-onomics.” He paid $80 per case for nearly 40 cases of fresh chicken wings and tenderloins, which he sells as boneless chicken wings. That’s at least $15 less than they’re going for now and about $10 less than he paid last year when he waited longer to place his order.

“Chicken prices normally run $65 to $68, then jump $30 to $35 around the Super Bowl,” he said. “Right after the Super Bowl, they’ll fizzle down to the $65 mark.”

Customers started placing takeout orders several weeks in advance, and Smith expects that Wings & More will sell about 4,000 of them today. They’ll be among the more than 1.23 billion wing portions that are expect ed to be consumed on the biggest weekend of the year for wing sales, according to the National Chicken Council’s 2013 Wings Report.

To put that into perspective, the report said that if 1.23 billion wing segments were laid end to end, they would stretch from Candlestick Park in San Francisco to M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore 27 times.

Super Bowl Sunday is also the second-biggest eating holiday of the year, ranking right behind Thanksgiving. The National Restaurant Association estimates that about 48 million of us will order takeout or delivery today.

Shawn Biggar who owns five of the six area Domino’s franchisees, said that Super Bowl Sunday is the biggest day of the year for both wing and pizza orders. Last year wing sales went up 400 percent compared to a normal Sun day.

“That tells you the demand for wings on Super Bowl Sunday,” he said.

Nationally, Domino’s is expecting to sell 2.5 million chicken wings today, along with 11 million slices of pizza. Biggar said demand at his locations will be highest from about five hours before kickoff until half-time. Some locations will turn out about 100 pizzas per hour during that period, including the new pan pizza.

“All the team members are required to work on Super Bowl Sunday,” he said. “Essentially, we’ve been training for this all year long just like the Super Bowl athletes. This is our Super Bowl.”

Biggar said it will be “controlled chaos” inside the store as phones ring, food is prepared and drivers hustle out the door.

“Everyone knows what they’re required to handle,” he said. “It’s almost like a little beehive in there with drivers running in and out. It’s amazing to watch. It really is.”

The Buffalo Wild Wings in Southpoint II in Spotsylvania County expects to be so slammed that it, too, will have its entire crew on duty today. The cook staff will turn out traditional and boneless chicken wings as fast as they can from 10 a.m. until the rush there finally begins to slow minutes be fore the 6:30 p.m. kickoff.

“No one is allowed to take off on Super Bowl Sunday,” said general manager Tonya Royston.

Customers started calling two weeks ago to place takeout orders, which will make up 80 percent of today’s sales, she said. The rest will be bought by either customers placing takeout orders today or those eating at the restaurant as they watch the big game on its more than 50 TV screens.

“The sound is piped into the kitchen so the cook staff can listen, and everyone out front is definitely involved in watching the game,” Royston said. “We’re all about the Super Bowl. That’s what we prepare for the rest of the year.”

Wings and pizza aren’t the only things that will be in high demand today. So will the beer that fans will use to wash them down. Anheuser–Busch’s two newest brands, Budweiser Black Crown and Beck’s Sapphire, will make their national television début during the game.

J.F. Fick Inc., an Anheuser–Busch Budweiser & Bud Light wholesaler/distributor based in Spotsylvania, started gearing up for promotions at area restaurants in mid- December. Super Bowl Sunday is one of the biggest days of the year for on-premise sales, said Bud Black, sales director.

“Brock’s [Riverside Grill at 503 Sophia St. in Fredericksburg] is one of the big ones. They’ll be doing aluminum bottles, and Bailey’s [Bailey’s Pub & Grille in Central Park] is doing buckets,” he said.

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