Super Bowl boosts sales on Sunday

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By Annika McGinnis, The Diamondback (Feb. 5, 2013)

As the Baltimore Ravens ran across the field celebrating their Super Bowl victory on Sunday, College Park’s Hard Times Cafe owner Bill Swint was counting his own triumph in wing sales.

The local restaurateur sold almost 5,000 wings on Sunday in orders of 50 to 100 at a time, surpassing last year’s record by almost 12 percent, Swint said. The cafe also sold 400 gallons of chili, served from enormous 70-gallon kettles in the back. Swint owns just one of many local restaurants and bars that experienced soaring sales this weekend, most likely as a result of a local team playing in the Super Bowl, business owners said.

“We’re all cheering as the last order’s going out the door,” Swint said. “We do a wing night on Wednesdays, but I haven’t had a one-day sales day like that since 10 or 12 years ago when I used to offer a 10-cent wing.”

But despite the unusually high Super Bowl fervor, owners said everything remained organized and their customers were well-behaved.

At Looney’s Pub, the bar ran out of wings around 7 p.m. because “people were just ordering [them] by the dozen,” said Cathleen Carey, a hostess at the bar who called the carryout process “absolutely insane.” Buffalo Wild Wings sold more than 20,000 wings, compared to about 15,000 last year, said Ryan McNeill, a restaurant manager. Managers of the Barking Dog, R.J. Bentley’s, Jimmy John’s and D.P. Dough also cited higher sales.

“It definitely is affected by what team is in the Super Bowl,” said D.P. Dough manager John Decker. “If it’s a local team, customers are more joyous, having more parties, and there’s a lot more presence of Baltimore team fans ordering food to go.”

But because of the huge volume of carryout sales, several students said they had to be patient while waiting for their food. Andrew Shaw, a sophomore physics major, waited at least 30 minutes longer than normal for Domino’s pizza to arrive at a Super Bowl party in the Leonardtown apartments.

“I guess the higher demand made the delivery slower,” Shaw said. “I was most upset that the delivery time estimate was so off. They didn’t account for how busy they were, so the estimate the website showed when we ordered wasn’t accurate, and the pizza got to us much later than we thought it would.”

The long wait time for popular Super Bowl party foods, such as pizza and wings, inspired Brian Mokua, a freshman mechanical engineering major, to go a different route: fried chicken.

“I knew a lot of places that deliver would be really busy and probably take a really long time, so I just avoided that and picked up Popeyes instead,” Mokua said.

Although the majority of sales were in carryout orders, bar and restaurant owners said they had a good in-house turnout watching the game. Afterwards, many students went down to the bars to celebrate — Looney’s saw its highest turnout after the game ended, Carey said.

But despite the record sales and crowds of fans passionate for their local team, everything ran smoothly and no one rioted or caused disruptions, business owners said. At R.J. Bentley’s, customers received raffle tickets and then won prizes such as a Budweiser fire pit, said owner John Brown. A far cry from the rioting that ensued in March 2010 after the Terrapins men’s basketball team beat then-No. 4 Duke, the calm atmosphere made Brown proud.

“It was fantastic,” Brown said. “It was just good, comfortable; people were well-behaved; nobody charged the streets … They didn’t turn over cars; they didn’t do that in Baltimore either.”

During the game, the atmosphere in the Hard Times Cafe was “crazy” but exciting, Swint said.

“On days like that, there’s hooting and hollering,” he said. “People are cheering and carrying on … People were very excited.”

Although his restaurant officially closed before the game ended, he still kept the eatery open as long as people were there, Swint said.

But despite the soaring Super Bowl sales, several businesses still didn’t break their overall records: those are set during university athletics games, they said. At Looney’s the turnout was lower than the wait staff expected, Carey said.

“I think we’re used to Maryland games and stuff like that where it’s really, really crowded in here and we reach maximum capacity,” she said. “Around 5, 5:30 people started coming in, which is different from Maryland games — for an 8:00 game, people start coming in at 4:30.”

Similarly, the Hard Times Cafe sees its most business during Terps basketball games, especially against Duke, Swint said.

But he was pleased with the boost in sales on Sunday. Brown, at Bentley’s, agreed.

“It was a very good day,” Brown said. “It was all happy. We used up all the happy — we have to save some for Maryland!”

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