Pizza, beer sales spike on Super Bowl night

Posted Feb. 01, 2009, at 9:38 p.m.

ORONO, Maine — Hard at work behind the counter at Pat’s Pizza on Sunday afternoon, Bruce Farnsworth and a half-dozen members of his staff executed the complex choreography of cooking enough pizzas for the Super Bowl takeout crowd.

“We’re just beginning to wind up,” Farnsworth said. “Everybody’s having a Super Bowl party but us.”

For the owner of this college-town pizzeria, missing the big game is OK. Working on Super Bowl Sunday at a place like Pat’s isn’t for the faint-hearted. At the end of the night, America will have a new championship football team — and Pat’s will have demolished at least 200 pounds of cheese and almost 90 quarts of sauce.

Farnsworth also will have rung up lots of sales, and that’s important this year.

“The Super Bowl is good for us,” he said. “We do a tremendous amount of deliveries up on campus, and we do an awful lot of takeout business. We’ll have a busy weekend. That’s good. We need it. It comes at a very handy time of year.”

Anything that drives business during this global economic downturn is helpful, local bar and store owners say, especially a football event that takes place in the depths of the winter doldrums.

Ryan Whitney, a bartender at Carolina’s Sports and Spirits in Bangor, was optimistic late Sunday afternoon: “The Super Bowl gets people to come out a little bit, get out of their winter slump and have a great time,” adding, “but you never know.”

By the time the game was in full throttle, he said, “It’s filled up down here. They’re drinking like fish. I love it.”

Abby Knickelbein of the Strand Theatre in Rockland said she expected a lot of people to watch the game on the 25-foot-wide movie screen.

“We’ll sell a lot of concessions, which is a plus for us,” she said. “We’re not selling as much candy and soda these days.”

Rich Murphy, the manager of Burby & Bates in Orono, said the beer economy is not slumping.

“We’re selling a lot of kegs, a lot of 30-packs,” he said.

While local beer sales seem to be holding steady, TV advertising also is doing surprisingly well this year. Ad revenue for the game is at a record $206 million, which is being called an especially impressive feat in the middle of the steep drop in the economy. Super Bowl ads have sold for between $2.4 million and $3 million per 30-second slot this year. Thirty-two advertisers will showcase their wares during the NBC coverage.

But business won’t be a touchdown for everyone. Some restaurateurs report that too many people hibernate at home with takeout and beer for their liking.

“It’s at 7 o’clock at night, it’s a Sunday — we won’t be jammed,” said Greg Noble, owner of Little Anthony’s Sports Bar in Bar Harbor.

The economy might be one reason, he said, and another is that Mount Desert Islanders are not notorious football fans.

“If we had a triathlon, they’d be out,” he said wryly.

John Dobbs, the owner of Paddy Murphy’s Pub in Bangor, said his restaurant doesn’t really benefit from the football event either.

“People just want to stay home and have friends come over,” he said.

He did notice something unusual about the dinner crowd during last year’s Super Bowl.

“It was almost all women,” he said. “You couldn’t have scripted it better. They had a blast. They shared a lot of wine and desserts. It was great. We didn’t even have the game on the television.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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