Catching dough

Benny Nelson, manager of Jeff’s Pizza on Lincoln Way, tosses dough in the air on Feb. 2, the day after the Super Bowl.  The Super Bowl draws many students and their friends to parties while Jeff’s Pizza increases pizza output three times more than its normal rate of business during the big game.

Danielle Ferguson

Benny Nelson’s 5-year-old self would be so jealous of him right now. 

That’s because Nelson has been making pizza for a living for about seven years because, as he says, “pizza is the best food.”

And Super Bowl Sunday, while you were cozy on a couch watching Katy Perry stand on a giant lion, Nelson and his crew were tossing dough and sending out fresh pepperoni pizzas to hundreds of hungry football fans. 

With the snowy weather and Super Bowl Sunday intertwining this year, multiple local delivery establishments saw an increase in both delivery and carry-out sales. 

Nelson, a manager at Jeff’s Pizza, said the nasty weather and the big game tripled the restaurant’s average Sunday orders. 

“People don’t want to go out in the bad weather to get their own food, so they have us bring it to ‘em,” he said as he tossed a frisbee of dough in to the air — an art that took him three months to perfect. 

On a typical Sunday, two to three staffers are behind the counter shouting orders and tossing dough, but Jeff’s, along with other pizza hot spots, prepped for the big game.

Nelson’s Super Bowl staff increased to four or five and they made more than 300 orders on Feb. 1, most of which were before halftime. 

“Most people are fed by halftime,” Nelson said. “So I got to watch a bit of the game.”

Though he didn’t care too much about the victor. 

He was still rooting for the Broncos. 

As the order tickets on the ledge of the counter piled up, Nelson and his crew kept tossing and topping fresh balls of dough. From the time a pie is started, it takes about seven to eight minutes to complete, Nelson said, but as orders increase, so does the wait time. 

What’s normally a 45-minute wait turned into two to three hours on Super Bowl Sunday because of the number of people ordering pizza and the wintery weather, Nelson said. 

But he had faith in his drivers and his customers. 

“Our drivers are smart,” he said. “And our customers are understanding, especially if we preface a delay.”

The store offered a 10 percent discount for people who opted to order carry-out instead of delivery to help offset the business, he said. 

The most popular flavors, Nelson said, were expectedly sportsy. 

“Anything with lots of meat,” Nelson said. “Farmer Frank, four-meat, BBQ ranch chicken bacon.”

A few other pizza delivery restaurants experienced double the amount of orders Feb. 1 than they would on a normal Sunday. 

Domino’s Pizza on Hayward Avenue made more than double its average amount in sales. 

The pizza place received 372 delivery and carry-out orders and made about $7,500 in sales, up from $2,500 to $3,500 made on an average Sunday, said assistant manager Aaron VanPelt.

“It was definitely a very busy night,” VanPelt said. 

The staff had planned ahead and called in double the amount of drivers for the big game, he said, and fit as many inside workers as they could. 

The weekend’s nasty weather had the Domino’s staff working hastily all weekend, VanPelt said.

“The weather definitely added to the reason our sales were higher than normal, even for the Super Bowl,” he said. 

When it snows, VanPelt said the store sees an additional 10 to 15 percent of normal business. 

The Pizza Hut on Lincoln Way saw a similar trend. The store logged 431 tickets, more than the typical 200 to 250 Sunday orders. 

Shift manager Tristan Spears said the most orders happened just before kickoff, with 104 orders between 4 and 5 p.m.; 70 orders between 5 and 6 p.m. and 60 orders between 6 and 7 p.m.

“With weather like that, we tell our drivers they have to be extra careful and not to take it too fast,” he said. “There’s just a higher rate of accident possibility and we definitely want our drivers to be safe.”

Spears also said most of Pizza Hut’s orders were placed before the game. The store prepared for the influx of orders by calling in all workers. A total of 18 drivers were on the road and about 15 employees were working in the store to make sure hungry football fans were full of delectable pizza. 

Spears said this was the busiest Super Bowl he’s ever worked, and that the weather played a part in that, but the night went surprisingly smooth. 

“I thought the weather would be a bigger issue, but our drivers handled it well,” he said. 

There were moments when the wait time reached longer than an hour, but Spears said it didn’t hinder business too much. 

“Obviously we want to be as fast as possible, but with that high sale volume and bad weather, sometimes it’s hard to do,” Spears said. 

Pizza wasn’t the only coveted delivery meal on Feb. 1. 

Jimmy Johns on Welch Ave. normally isn’t too affected by Super Bowl Sundays, said manager Aaron Pitzer, but this year was a different story. 

The freaky fast sandwich shop doubled its sales from 5 p.m. to midnight with an estimated 70 or more placed orders. 

Pitzer said snow and cold mean more deliveries for Jimmy Johns, too. 

The chaos in the kitchen is matched with safety measures on the roads. 

All the establishments said they caution drivers and do their best to make sure their drivers know how to properly drive in conditions before sending them into the tundra. 

“We definitely want our drivers to be safe,” VanPelt said. “No pizza is worth getting hurt over.”

Though blizzards and ball games make for bustling weekends, Nelson said he will never get sick of pizza, even if he has to send out more than 300 in one night. 

“Pizza is the best food,” Nelson said. “I just love it.”