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Halftime puts crunch on pizza shops

When the game is close, no one wants to miss the action, so pizza parlors get the brunt of it. They expect double to triple their usual business this weekend.


© St. Petersburg Times, published January 26, 2001

A pizza merchant's dream of Sunday's Super Bowl at halftime: Giants up by three. Or Ravens by three.

Just so long as it's not a drubbing because nothing ruins the biggest pizza delivery day of the year like a drubbing, Patty Costanzo will tell you. She and her husband, Joe, run Besta-One Pizza as their family business in Spring Hill.

"If their favorite team is losing, people get severely depressed, and then they don't eat," she said. "A lot of it is up to the football players."

Bowl Sunday takes a beefed-up roster of delivery drivers, a super stash of pizza ingredients, and -- groan here, sports fans, if you haven't already -- a game plan.

"You're going to see a lot of hustling; it's more like worker bees," said Patrick Eskridge, operations manager for the 14 Pinellas County Papa John's Pizza stores, switching between ESPN and Animal Planet analogies like an antsy fan during a commercial.

"You're going to have a king or queen bee directing everybody. You'll see the manager direct -- well, coach, for lack of a better word. We have an area-wide meeting that is kind of like a pep rally to get everybody ready."

Papa John's started hiring extra drivers 15 weeks ago, Eskridge said. He has been on the phone with ingredient suppliers making sure there will be enough mozzarella, tomato sauce, pepperoni and dough makings to handle double to triple the business of a normal Sunday.

Lenny & Vinny's New York Pizzeria is bracing for a blitz, especially at its Hillsborough County stores, where founder and CEO Paul Samson expects the energy from Raymond James Stadium to intensify fans' hunger for a hot slab of pie.

"This is the Super Bowl mecca," Samson said. "You're not talking about Ocala. This is where the influx of people is. You have all these people crowded into the hotels."

His restaurants expect to be slammed making extra delivery orders (and dozens of pies for special events) Friday, Saturday and Sunday. (Pizza industry trivia: Even a normal Friday night accounts for 20 to 23 percent of a week's pizza delivery business. See if the CBS sportscasters have that one on their crib sheet.)

"We're not going to be done serving food until 1 or 2 a.m. Saturday," Samson said. "It's going to be a fun run."

Samson and his industry colleagues say game day orders peak just before and during halftime. For the fastest service, they recommend ordering before the game, waiting until the second half, or at Besta-One or Lenny and Vinny's, putting in a "timed" order hours in advance for a pie to be delivered at a particular time.

Then, as you repose on the couch, your pizza will be cooked and delivered without you having to think about it again.

But while you're dipping that gnawed crust into a mini-vat of garlic sauce and watching million-dollar commercials on your big screen, consider the throng in the kitchen of your neighborhood pizzeria who are getting to watch the game out of the corner of one eye, if at all.

"We have a TV back here," Costanzo said of her kitchen. "But we basically miss the game because we have so much going on we can't really watch. We might catch the score if we hear somebody yelling."

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