The National Football League season ends on February 12 with Super Bowl LVII, as the Philadelphia Eagles meet the Kansas City Chiefs in Glendale, Arizona, to determine this year’s champion. Quick-serve, fast-casual and full-service restaurant operators get 22 total NFL weekends of either regular season or playoff action each year, and Sunday marks their last chance for several months to notch takeout and delivery orders for football watch parties.

The Big Game not only offers restaurants the chance to get excellent sales, but it’s also an opportunity to make a memorable impression on party attendees as well as the host. With 110 million viewers expected to tune in to Sunday’s game, it’s practically a national holiday. 

So, what actions should restaurant operators take to get the most out of this massive TV-driven event? To find out, we asked individual restaurant operators about how they plan to handle the Super Bowl and delved into a diner survey to find three game-changing tactics for restaurants.

Prepare early to impress loyal patrons and new ones

A restaurant’s busiest moments on Super Bowl Sunday will likely include a lot of familiar faces walking through the doors to grab takeout from one of their favorite spots. Per Toast research, 57 percent of guests who frequent restaurants at least three to five times a month plan to patronize a restaurant as part of their Super Bowl viewing plans.

Therefore, the Super Bowl is a two-fold customer opportunity for restaurants. When friends and family are coming over to watch the Big Game, party throwers will often turn to their go-to eateries to feed and impress everyone. And a lot of their house guests will be new to the restaurant, so quick-serve, fast-casual and full-service restaurant operators have the chance to create new patrons with folks trying their menu items for the first time while also building upon existing loyal diner relationships with the party throwers. 

The key to wowing all of them, according to Micha Magid, cofounder and co-CEO at 20-location Mighty Quinn’s Barbeque, is to start getting ready as soon as possible. Curing and smoking brisket and other meats begins a week before the Big Game, he said, and prepping food is only part of how they will be ready to handle the influx of takeout and delivery orders. 

“Challenges include being able to serve the amount of food we typically make in three days available and ready to serve over a four-hour period up until game time,” Magid explains.

“This all comes down to operation prep and making sure our kitchens are set up for success. The goal is to minimize the stress on the team by setting them up with everything they need. So while they will be as busy as they have ever been, everything they need will be organized and available, which is 75 percent of the battle on a day like this.”

Get ahead of schedule by embracing mobile pre-orders

Restaurant patrons are starting to move beyond e-commerce’s basic functions and using handy features such as pre-ordering their meals for takeout and delivery. This feature allows restaurant operators to forecast demand in the days leading up to Super Sunday, as 36 percent of consumers are increasingly using mobile order-ahead tools on apps.

With that statistic in mind, restaurant operators should let their customers know about pre-ordering on mobile and web apps well before the Super Bowl. They should get the word out with in-store marketing materials, social media posts, messages to the email opt-list as well other digital communication channels. The efforts can pay off big time, suggests Jose A. Lopez, founder and CEO, BadaBing Wings in Chicago.   

At the moment we have about 175 pre-orders, we expect that to grow to about 350, and the plan for Super Bowl Sunday is likely to close for the day, and just have people pick up pre-orders,” Lopez says.

Offer ‘BOGO’ deals to beat competitors

Even though the Super Bowl sometimes seems like a care-free, country-wide party, many budget-conscious consumers are still looking for deals. In Toast’s research, we inquired which types of restaurant Super Bowl specials and offers would encourage viewers to dine in, order takeout, or delivery for the game and found that buy-one, get-one (BOGO) restaurant deals are likely to be the most impactful (42 percent). BOGO offers are followed in popularity by discounts on menu specific items (41 percent), combo deals (39 percent), a separate Super Bowl special menu (36 percent), and packaged takeout meals (32 percent).

The stats underscore that price points matter for food-minded football fans, and the attraction toward BOGO offers shows they look for great value. It’s why brands such as ChipotlePopeyes, and Subway regularly employ BOGO to drive foot traffic and sales. While the profit margins are thinner for the BOGO offers, getting patrons to come through the entrance should generate bigger orders and greater overall revenues. Delivery apps offer easy-to-use tools for BOGO deals, which can easily be applied to menus with just a few clicks. 

All in all, restaurant operators should take note of the effectiveness of not only BOGO but also preparing for the Super Bowl as early as possible and embracing mobile pre-ordering. These three tactics will help maximize Big Game orders, so quick-serve, fast-casual and full-service restaurants can bolster quarterly sales and end their football seasons like champions.

Aman Narang is President, co-founder, Chief Operating Officer, and a Director of Toast.

Fast Casual, Fast Food, Growth, Operations, Outside Insights, Story