Web Exclusive | February 2011 | By Jordan Melnick

Hype Builds for Super Sunday

Dallas-area restaurants gear up for Super Bowl crowds.

With Super Bowl XLV planned for this weekend, restaurants in the Dallas-Forth Worth metroplex are preparing themselves for an influx of people, money, and energy that should provide a lineman-sized boost to their bottom lines.

The Big Game will be held at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas, on February 6. It will be the Lone Star State’s third time hosting the Super Bowl, but a first for the Dallas-Fort Worth area. While the Super Bowl is a global spectacle every year, this year’s matchup between two storied franchises—the Green Bay Packers and the Pittsburgh Steelers—has extra hype, and that could pay off for the host city’s restaurant industry.

Estimates of the Big Game’s economic impact vary. A report commissioned in March by the Super Bowl Host Committee predicts the game will generate $611 million in North Texas. Other studies and some economists suggest the figure will be much lower, possibly by as much as several hundred million dollars.

As for the influx of people, the study commissioned by the Super Bowl Host Committee predicts the matchup will attract 147,000 out-of-state visitors. Another 500,000 state residents are predicted to attend events during the week leading up to the game.

While we may not know the exact numbers until months after the game—if ever—restaurants in Dallas-Fort Worth already have their game faces on. In fact, many have been planning their Super Bowl strategies for months. Much like Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers, they are excited—and probably a little nervous—about their Big Game debut.

“This is the first time we’re hosting the Super Bowl, and that’s what makes it even more exciting,” says Diana Hovey, senior vice president of marketing at Corner Bakery Café. “This is huge for the market.”

Corner Bakery Café has 19 locations in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, including one in the lobby of downtown Forth Worth’s Blackstone Hotel, where the crew of ESPN will be staying during Super Bowl week. With the Fort Worth Convention & Visitors Bureau expecting between 50,000 and 70,000 visitors to Sundance Square, ESPN’s coverage base, Hovey says she is “already seeing traffic come in.”

Much like the Packers and Steelers, local restaurants are tweaking their normal strategies for the anything-but-normal hoopla of the Super Bowl.

“We will be increasing our staff and extending our hours in cafés that are near the heart of the activity,” Hovey says. “We have staff that are coming from other cafés in the area to Arlington and Forth Worth.”

Wingstop predicts it will sell 5 million wings on Super Bowl Sunday.

Keith Albright, COO of Paciugo Gelato & Caffe, which has 15 locations around the metroplex, says the company is “treating the Super Bowl like the Christmas crunch.”

“We’re encouraging our franchisees to staff up … and to make extra gelato in the shops in an anticipation of much higher demand than usual for a Sunday afternoon,” Albright says.

Of course, café fare and gelato are not what most people think of when it comes to the Super Bowl. For Wingstop, the day of the Big Game is by far its busiest of the year. With 475 locations nationwide, the chain predicts it will sell 5 million wings on February 6 and is trucking in an extra 80,000 pounds of chicken for its 70 Dallas-Forth Worth locations.

“This is really our grand day,” says Mike Sutter, Wingstop’s vice president of training. “Our planning started probably six to seven months ago just trying to line up enough chicken for this day. On a typical week we do about 15 truckloads [nationwide]. For the week of Super Bowl, we’re bringing in an additional 15 truckloads just to get through the day, with two more just for Dallas.”

Boston’s serves another staple of the stereotypical football fan’s diet: pizza. The Dallas-based chain has a location in Arlington, near Cowboys Stadium, and in Irving, where the Green Bay Packers organization is staying.

“Operations-wise, we’re definitely bulking up as far as food and staff go,” says Boston’s spokeswoman Becky Millay. “Especially in our locations that are close to the action, [because] they’re going to experience something they’ve never experienced before.”

What remains to be seen is if the Big Game will pay big for local quick serves. Edwin Griffin, executive director of the Greater Dallas Restaurant Association, expects the economic benefits to skew toward pricier eateries.

“The type of people who are going to be here for the Super Bowl are affluent people who can afford an airplane ticket, to stay in [expensive] hotels for four nights, buy the tickets to get into the Super Bowl,” Griffin says. “So you’re talking about a group of individuals who have discretionary spending capital, and those people tend to upgrade when it comes to restaurants, especially in the evenings.”

Still, Griffin says the economic windfall for Dallas-Fort Worth from the Super Bowl could be “dramatic” across the industry.

“All restaurants will be positively affected,” Griffin says. “The higher-end restaurants will capture a disproportionate share of the influx of people, but essentially everybody is going to be better off.”

As they say in the Pee-Wee League: Everyone wins.