Maria DiMaggio is planning to buy a Philadelphia Eagles jersey before Super Bowl Sunday Feb. 4.
“The jersey I have now says Cunningham on it,” she said, referencing 1980s-90s Eagles’ quarterback Randall Cunningham. “So, it’s pretty old.”
DiMaggio, who owns Mamma’s Delight Pizza Restaurant on Main Street in Kutztown with her husband Vinny, has a reason to be excited enough to update her football wardrobe.
Not only is it the Eagles’ first time back in the big game since January 2005, it’s going to be a big day for her pizza shop.
In fact, Feb. 4 is going to be a big day – bigger than a typical Super Bowl – for many businesses in the Greater Lehigh Valley. Besides pizza shops, grocery stores, bars, taverns, beer distributors, wine and spirits shops and clothing retailers stand to gain from the run to the title game by the Eagles.
“It is always a big day, but with the Eagles in it after so long, we’re really looking forward to it,” said DiMaggio, who is thinking about specials for game day, perhaps offering discounts on combination orders of Mamma’s pizza, sodas and other food.
‘BIGGEST SUPER BOWL SALES EVER’
It’s not just a big a day for pizza, but for food in general.
Joe Solenske, store manager for Wegmans in South Whitehall Township, said his staff is prepping for the number of people who will be arriving to buy food for parties.
“With the Eagles being in the Super Bowl, we’ll see our biggest Super Bowl sales ever,” he said.
He said Wegmans had stores in the Greater Lehigh Valley in 2005 when the Eagles last made the Super Bowl, but with expansions to the stores – including beer and wine sales – this time likely will eclipse sales from the previous Super Bowl.
Hoagie trays and wings will be two of the most popular items at Wegmans.
To prepare for demand, Wegmans stores in the Greater Lehigh Valley will expand their normal hot wing bar to have about 15 varieties of hot wings, as well as other hot appetizers such as onion rings and breaded mushrooms for party hosts. The spread will be much more extensive than for a typical Super Bowl.
Deli cheese trays, vegetable trays and dips also will be big sellers, while the stores also will have freshly baked Eagles-themed cakes and cupcakes to add a little home team pride and flare to parties.
Solenske said he expects an increase in beer and wine sales, not necessarily from people planning parties – grocery stores have a limit of selling roughly a 12-pack of beer per customer, which typically isn’t enough for a big party.
But he said he expects Super Bowl party guests to pick up a six-pack of craft beer or a bottle of wine to take to a party, so it should be a pretty big day for beer and wine sales, too.
When DiMaggio goes out to get her new Eagles gear, she shouldn’t have any problem finding it.
Sporting goods stores such as Dick’s had stores open early the Monday after the Eagles’ victory over Minnesota to advance to the Super Bowl.
And even stores such as Kohl’s and Boscov’s department stores are stocked with Eagles gear because of the team’s strong season.
As Solenske said: “People are happy and excited. They want to spend money.”
And while most fans will be watching the game at home or at a friend’s party, Jim Fris, chief operation officer of the P.J. Whelihan’s Restaurant Group, said he expects crowds – big ones.
Fris said that’s a blessing and a curse for his 16 pub/restaurants, which are in the heart of Eagles’ territory from Reading, east through Lehigh and Northampton counties and then heading south toward Philadelphia and South Jersey.
Yes, they will do blockbuster business.
“Every table will be filled and it will be standing room only,” Fris said.
However, he said, they always do blockbuster business for the Super Bowl, but mostly for takeout.
Generally, Fris said, Whelihan’s restaurants have to rent trucks to make room to sell the to-go wing orders it receives, but they’ll also have two or three tables set up for when people show up en masse prior to the game to pick up their wings.
That way, there’s a reasonably quick, orderly system to get everyone winged up and out the door.
“There will be no extra tables this year,” he said, because they will be needed for dine-in patrons.
Fris expects staff will have a real juggling act trying to fill orders and wait tables in a packed restaurant at the same time.
While that does seem like a great problem to have – and Fris assures he’s not complaining – the filled restaurant isn’t the boon to business that one might think.
“When people come to watch football, they sit and the tables don’t turn over,” he said.
So in reality, the money the restaurants will take in isn’t that much more than if they just had a steady crowd of guests coming and going all day.
Wings on the other hand, are big money.
Priced at $22.99 for 20 wings P.J.s sold 75,000 wings for the Eagles’ conference championship game on Jan. 21 (many of them to-go orders), and Fris expects the restaurants will double that amount for Super Bowl Sunday.
Still, he said there’s no match for the fun and excitement of watching the game with fellow fans, and he is looking forward to the crowds and camaraderie.
FOR THOSE WHO WORK …
DiMaggio said she expects her pizza shop will be so busy it will be all hands on deck for orders and deliveries before and during the game.
She said she knows many of her workers, like her, are Eagles fans and it’s going to be tough missing the game to take care of customers and make deliveries.
But she will have the game on in her restaurant and she expects everyone will take breaks to watch the game here and there. She said that’s fine as long as they’re not goofing off and customer needs are addressed.
“They also have to work,” she said.
And while they are going to miss much of the game, anyone working delivery on Super Bowl Sunday is going to make a lot of money this year, DiMaggio said.
“So I don’t think I’ll have any problem finding people who will want to work,” she said.
BE A REASONABLE BOSS MONDAY MORNING
What if Eagles’ fans have too much fun – especially the alcoholic kind – on Super Bowl Sunday and don’t show up for work the following morning?
Tina Hamilton, president of myHR Partner in Upper Macungie Township, said business owners have to be realistic about the impact Super Bowl celebrations will have on their operations.
“There’s going to be a significant amount of people who will want off the Monday after,” she said. “You have to be flexible. You have to realize that you don’t want people coming in to work hung over, especially in an industry like manufacturing where that could be a safety issue.”
Hamilton said ignoring the Super Bowl or being too strict with employees isn’t the answer.
Her suggestion is to make adjustments, but reasonable ones.
If an office full of Eagles fans can’t shut down – she said some offices will – management can talk with employees about taking earned time off or using flex time to arrive late.
She said an employer shouldn’t, however, accept all employees calling in sick Monday morning because they partied too hard the night before. Firm guidance is key.
“It’s a chance for you to show your true colors as a company, which of course should be green and white,” she said.