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Restaurants gear up for the Super Bowl

This weekend should be big for chains doing more delivery and takeout.

With millions of Americans expecting to spend their Sunday sitting in front of the television, restaurant chains that do delivery are expected to do brisk business.

And it’s not just the chains you’d normally associate with the Super Bowl, but others that have spent much of the past year or two building delivery businesses to get at customers who’d rather not leave the house.

Chipotle Mexican Grill, the Denver-based burrito chain eager to generate sales after a brutal two-year stretch, is offering free delivery in 40 major metropolitan areas through Postmates this weekend.

“We know a large part of the country is going to be getting game day ready this weekend, and we want to help fuel that energy,” Curt Garner, Chipotle’s chief digital and information officer, said in a statement.

The National Retail Federation estimates that 45 million people will be hosting Super Bowl parties on Sunday—and many of those parties will undoubtedly feature food that will be ordered from the nation’s restaurants.

Restaurant chains have been spending tens of millions of dollars building online ordering and mobile apps while working with fast-growing third-party delivery services to increase their convenience and take advantage of a consumer that is increasingly getting takeout.

Sunday’s game will put many of these efforts to the test.

The online ordering company orderTalk says that online orders at many companies will increase considerably during the game.

That’s especially true for catering orders, where transactions will increase 400%, the company said. Pizza chains’ online orders, meanwhile, increase 21% during the game. But sandwich chains’ online orders increase just 3%.

Indeed, for all of the added delivery capability, consumers will still order much of the same products they have in previous years.

According to Grubhub, 14 of the top 15 items that see the biggest order increases on Super Bowl Sunday are varieties of pizza or chicken wings. (The one that isn’t, oddly, is eggs and corned beef hash.)

The National Chicken Council, meanwhile, expects Americans to order 1.3 billion chicken wings during Super Bowl Sunday. That’s up 1.5% over 2017, according to the council.

Buffalo Wild Wings sold 13.5 million wings on Super Bowl Sunday last year, and the day is one of the chain’s biggest for takeout during the year. The Minneapolis-based chain has done a bigger takeout business in recent years, and such sales, which include delivery, now account for 19% of sales.

The chain is offering customers who order $50 or more in takeout in Minneapolis and Chicago locations free mozzarella sticks, chili queso dip, roasted garlic mushrooms, street tacos or fried pickles, the company said.

Domino’s Pizza expects to sell 13 million pizza slices and 4 million chicken wings this Sunday. That’s 30% more pizza slices than it sells during a typical Sunday.

Super Bowl Sunday is one of the five biggest delivery days of the year for the Ann Arbor, Mich.,-based chain. The company says its drivers will make the equivalent of about 4,000 round trips from Philadelphia to Boston, up 23% over a typical Sunday.

Domino’s also said that it will sell more pizzas in the city of the team that wins the game. The Philadelphia Eagles are playing the New England Patriots in the Super Bowl.

A Boston Market in Philadelphia, by the way, has at least temporarily covered up the “Boston” on its sign.

Some restaurant chains are using the game as an opportunity to build membership in loyalty programs.

Pizza Hut, for instance, is offering free pizzas to members of its loyalty program if one of the teams breaks the record for the fastest touchdown in Super Bowl history. Devin Hester scored a touchdown in 14 seconds for the Chicago Bears in the 2007 Super Bowl against the Indianapolis Colts.

Pizza Hut will deposit two free, medium two-topping pizzas into the accounts of its Hut Rewards members to be redeemed between Feb. 8 and Feb. 11 if the record is broken. Players have scored in less than 14 seconds 15 times since 2011.

Many other restaurant chains, however, are simply using the game to get attention for new products.

San Diego-based Jack in the Box, for instance, is encouraging customers to follow along with an “all-out foodie brawl” between its mascot, Jack Box, and lifestyle and culinary expert Martha Stewart.

Their fight will play out on social media with the hashtag #JackvsMartha. Jack in the Box wants to promote its Food Truck Series line of sandwiches, its Asian Fried Chicken, Prime Rib Cheesesteak and Pork Belly BLT.

But nowhere is the preparation for the Super Bowl more intense than it is in Minnesota, where the game is being held.

Karen Schmitz, who owns one Wayback Burgers location in suburban St. Paul, says she is ready. She ordered three times as much food and supplies than normal, anticipating weekend crowds. And she has employees on call.

“We went crazy on ordering food and making sure we have plenty of people on board and backups on call,” Schmitz said. “We’re staffed up, we’re fooded up, and we’re ready to go.”

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