COLUMBIA — What would the biggest sporting event of the year be without a little pizza?
The Super Bowl kicked off at 5:30 p.m. Sunday, but pizza parlors around Columbia worked all afternoon and evening on one of their busiest days of the year.
According to the Wall Street Journal, the three largest pizza chains expected to sell 4.4 million pizzas Sunday. Domino's Pizza alone expected to sell 11 million slices, or 127 slices per second in a 24-hour period, according to a news release.
Locally, Gumby’s Pizza manager Joe Waner said Super Bowl Sunday ranks as the store’s second-busiest day of the year, behind only MU's Homecoming in October. Waner expected to sell 200 pizzas for the day, about twice as much as an average Sunday.
To prepare for the game, Waner said he had 16 staff members cooking and delivering pizzas, which is also double the usual amount and half of the total staff employed at the pizzeria.
As for the busiest time during the day itself, Waner said that while business is steady throughout the day, halftime tends to be the busiest.
“At halftime, everyone’s together to have pizza,” he said.
Orders will keep coming in after the game before dying off as people become “full of pizza and fall asleep,” he said.
Waner said it’s imperative that the right toppings the customers ordered are used and drivers report to the correct addresses during the rush. He also increased the expected wait time from 30-45 minutes to 90 minutes.
“It’s super important,” he said. “You don’t want to fall behind or anything. We don’t want to substitute quality for speed.”
But not every restaurant circles the Super Bowl on their calendar.
“We don’t really blow up on Super Bowl Sunday,” said Daniel Trivinos, a manager at Shakespeare’s Pizza. “We’re not a delivery-first kind of place.”
He said only 10 to 15 pizzas had been sold as of two hours before kickoff and that he let a few people go home early. Shakespeare’s employs few drivers, which makes it difficult to keep up with national chains when people want to eat at home while watching the game.
Wise Guys general manager Josh Bachman brought in twice his usual staff and said the store sold 175 pizzas and 38 side orders during the 2011 Super Bowl. He said he expected comparable numbers this year.
He also said Super Bowl Sunday isn’t the busiest overall day of the year – like Gumby's, that belongs to Homecoming – but that the four-hour window of the game is the busiest time frame during the year.
As for popularity between toppings, it isn’t close.
“Pepperoni is by far the biggest seller,” Bachman said.
He said he always tries to keep the estimated wait time at 45 minutes, but that can prove to be a challenge as the store's one oven reaches 100 percent capacity.
Bachman added speed and accuracy are more important on busier days, because drivers can call in incorrect orders and redeliver the pizza without getting bogged down on regular days. But during the Super Bowl, there is little room for error.
“Nobody wants a messed-up pizza.”