OPINIONMarketing

Restaurants look to drive super sales on Super Bowl Sunday

Marketing Bites: For some brands, it’s the biggest day of the year. And one Chicago operator is partnering with a cannabis company for some very special wing sauce.
Sports bar operator The Fifty/50 partnered with a cannabis company to create THC-infused wing sauce for the Super Bowl. | Photo courtesy of Cresco Labs
Marketing Bites

Whether you’ll be watching for the ads (my vote), the halftime show, a glimpse of a certain pop mega-star or even the game itself, restaurants are hoping you’ll be viewing the Super Bowl with a chicken wing in each hand and a frosty beverage at the ready.  

In case it has escaped your notice, Super Bowl LVIII takes place on Feb. 11 in Las Vegas. That’s just a few days before Valentine’s Day, giving restaurants a double-whammy of celebrations for which to plan.

About three in five consumers plan to watch the big game this year, though 82% said they intend to do so from home, with just 4% saying they plan to head to a restaurant or bar, according to data from Chicago-based market researcher Numerator. But those stats don’t take into account the large number of folks who will likely order restaurant food on Super Bowl Sunday to consume in front of their TVs.

“Super Bowl obviously is our biggest sales day of the year, and we are actively promoting pre-ordering with our customers and getting everyone in line to let us know their intent to order food,” Hooters’ CMO Bruce Skala told me this week. “And with the Super Bowl being in Las Vegas this year with two big teams, we anticipate even larger than normal take rates, with people throwing parties. And we’re also actively encouraging people to watch the game in our restaurants.”

And with that compressed February schedule, Skala said, Hooters is parlaying its Super Bowl business into what it hopes is a strong Valentine’s Day by encouraging customers to return on Tuesday for a “spin the bottle” promo in which diners can win $1 wings, a free appetizer or dessert, 50% off merchandise and more.

Hooters, which has 295 U.S. locations and 67 international units, plans out its marketing calendar a year in advance, Skala said, though it bumps up its local marketing once the Super Bowl teams are declared.

Grocery stores are the big winner for Super Bowl Sunday traffic, but limited-service restaurants have seen sales growth on the big day each year since 2019, according to data firm Consumer Edge. It’s been more of a mixed bag for full-service concepts.

In 2023, Potbelly, Jersey Mike’s, Subway, Buffalo Wild Wings and Raising Cane’s all saw a more than 20% jump in Super Bowl sales over the prior year, Consumer Edge found. Casual-dining chain TGI Fridays, however, saw Super Bowl sales fall about 25% year over year, the firm said.

And, of course, concepts that sell chicken wings are readying for a big day.

Multi-chain operator Fat Brands said that out of its roughly 2,300 locations, about 1,200 sell wings. The company’s portfolio includes Hurricane Grill & Wings, Twin Peaks, Smokey Bones, Buffalo’s Café and more.

Fat Brands said it expects to sell more than 1 million wings on Super Bowl Sunday across its concepts.

“Wing prices will always go up as you get closer to the Super Bowl,” Gregg Nettleton, president and COO of Fat Brands’ Casual Division, said via email. “However, we have strong market conditions now—lower prices and a healthy product supply.”

One Chicago sports bar operator is looking to add some spice of a different kind to Super Bowl wings this year. The Fifty/50 joined forces with cannabis company Cresco Labs to create what it is billing as the first-ever THC-infused wing sauce.

Starting Friday, the special sauce can be purchased at select Cresco-owned Sunnyside dispensaries in the Chicago area.

The Good News’ Big Game wing sauce infuses distillate cannabis oil with The Fifty/50’s mild buffalo sauce. Each 10-ounce container has 10 servings and 100 milligrams of THC.

“The Fifty/50 is all about bringing people together around sports and great food, and our hope is that the new Big Game wing sauce will foster a sense of camaraderie among Super Bowl fans—regardless of who wins or loses,” Matt Miller, The Fifty/50’s head of operations, said in a statement. “Whoever you host at your house this Super Bowl will definitely be talking about your buffalo wings for years to come.”

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