As the Seattle Seahawks and Denver Broncos square off for this Sunday's NFL Super Bowl game, quick-serve brands will duke it out for a share of the legendary profits the day garners. This year, upscale fast casuals are throwing their weight in to compete with traditional pizza chains.
“It's a very historically significant day in the industry, and brands like Domino's will tell you they do 50 percent more volume than they do any other day of the year,” says Alfred Naddaff, director of franchise development for Russo's Restaurants, which owns two fast casuals, Russo's New York Pizzeria and Russo's Coal-Fired Italian Kitchen. “Certainly, we also benefit from the power of the Super Bowl; there's a significant sales increase.”
Russo's New York Pizzeria, a Texas-based Italian joint with 34 locations, was founded by Anthony Russo, an Italian-American who's been in the business of pizza since the early '90s. The menu includes build-your-own New York–style pizzas; square, thin-crust Napoletana pizzas with toppings like buffalo Mozzarella, prosciutto di Parma, kalamata olives, and sweet basil; and specialty pies such as the Mulberry, which is a high-end meat-lovers featuring Italian sausage, pepperoni, Canadian bacon, hamburger, and Mozzarella cheese. Russo's also serves sandwiches, soups, and pasta dishes.
While it isn't traditional Super Bowl party fare, Naddaff says the upscale flavor profiles and quality are increasingly popular with consumers looking to kick it up a notch on game day. “Instead of the $9.99 pizza, customers are getting a much healthier, authentic pizza,” he says.
Unlike big national pizza chains, Russo's won't be marketing discounts or promotions for the big game, Naddaff says. “The pizza industry comes from a coupon-driven background, and we're cautious about that,” he adds. While the brand's franchisees have been given suggestions for in-store promotions, the only discount Russo's will push will be a $10-off-$30 deal.
Naddaff says the brand will rely on its loyal customers and the rapport it has with female consumers in particular. “Female customers are an important piece to the puzzle, and we're trying really hard to have a positioning with them,” he says, adding that, even on game day, women have immense power over dining decisions.
The strategy is markedly different from those of the national pizza chains. Domino's and Pizza Hut will both offer discounts on combo orders. Papa John's will also offer discounts and engage consumers with its Most Valuable Pizza campaign, which allows fans to vote for their favorite pies through social media during game day.
By Tamara Omazic