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8 Ways Your Pizza Restaurant Can Score Big Sales During March Madness

8 Ways Your Pizza Restaurant Can Score Big Sales During March Madness



The upcoming tournament offers a chance to boost pizza sales over a three-week period and encourage repeat business in the future.

This article was written by Katie Fairchild, CMO of R365, for PMQ Pizza Magazine

March Madness is more than just a basketball tournament. It’s a cultural phenomenon that captivates enthusiasts across the nation. Yet there’s a lot more to this tournament than basketball. These fans are not just hungry for victory—they want pizza! Domino’s alone sells more than 3 million pizzas during the Final Four and championship games.

According to research, 37% of American workers are willing to call in sick or skip work to watch March Madness, providing an unprecedented number of opportunities during this three-week period to accommodate hungry and thirsty fans looking for a great viewing experience.

Below are eight strategies to drive sales and take advantage of this huge sporting event.

Familiarize yourself and the staff with the schedule.

Beginning on Wednesday, March 15, and running through Sunday, April 2, 2024, the games begin in the early afternoon and stretch into the night, providing unparalleled opportunities for restaurants to get in on the tournament frenzy.

Knowing the dates and start times of the games that attract the biggest crowds in advance can help managers create a better employee schedule. The dates below are the ones to pay attention to for increased traffic:

  • Selection Sunday: Sunday, March 17
  • First Four: March 19-20
  • First round: March 21-22
  • Second round: March 23-24
  • Sweet 16: March 28-29
  • Elite Eight: March 30-April 3
  • Final Four: Saturday, April 6, at State Farm Stadium in Glendale, Arizona
  • NCAA championship game: Monday, April 8, at State Farm Stadium in Glendale, Arizona

Keep in mind that local teams’ games and playing time will likely drive even more traffic to your pizza shop, so be sure that you are staffed and stocked accordingly. Watch for teams that have a big alumni base in town, too.

Forecast wisely.

March Madness is known to create a 23% increase in chicken wing orders, with an average portion of 14 wings per viewer. The influx of orders on game days means it’s important to stock inventory appropriately in advance. While there’s no way to know exactly how many pizzas or wings will be ordered, forecasting an estimate based on both last year’s activity and recent traffic is a good place to start.

Another statistic finds a 19% increase in pizza orders by fans after their team loses versus when they win, so be sure to pay special attention to the schedule of local teams and the scores as the games progress.

Charge for everything that goes out your door.

Just like extras and add-ons, substitutions affect food costs in a restaurant. If a customer orders a supreme pizza but asks for artichoke hearts instead of onions, it is acceptable to pass the difference in price on to the customer. Train staff to communicate with the customer that the substitution causes a change in the price of the pizza. A simple heads up—“no problem, that’ll be an extra $1.50 for that substitution”—will give the customer a chance to consider whether they want to pay the difference and possibly save the customer from creating a complaint when they see the unexpected charge on their bill.

Offer game day specials.

In addition to offering pizza and wing specials on game days, March Madness is also the perfect time to feature off-the-menu or new front-and-center menu specials. Experiment with low-cost, higher-margin specials that may not be on the daily menu. By finding creative ways to multitask food items already in your walk-in, restaurants can offer popular finger foods that are sure to be crowd-pleasers without permanently expanding the menu. Consider pizza tots, loaded fries, pigs in a blanket, or even dessert items created from leftover dough.

Consider a self-serve drink option.

Beer and sports go hand-in-hand. Research shows there was a 19% increase in beer sales during March Madness 2023. Knowing that beer is one of the top sellers, it could be wise to set up self-serve beer stations that are either cash-only or use a handheld credit card reader to expedite drink orders and free up servers’ time. However, be careful to keep these stations away from tight areas that may become too congested.

Don’t forget to add a few other canned or bottled options such as hard seltzers, non-alcoholic seltzers, wine splits, sodas, and waters to the mix so there are ice-cold options for everyone.

Take advantage of brackets.

Many Americans will take advantage of the fact that sports betting is legal in 33 states and the District of Columbia. When the 2023 NCAA Tournament gets underway, an estimated 68 million American adults are expected to place wagers on it, according to a survey from the American Gaming Association (AGA).

Be sure to invite online followers and email contacts to fill out a bracket on your restaurant’s website and encourage in-house guests to fill out a paper bracket. This can encourage interaction between guests and the restaurant in a fun way and is a great opportunity to capture guests’ information for future marketing opportunities.

Foster repeat business.

Once onsite, don’t lose the chance to promote repeat business to these customers. Handing out coupons for items like a free appetizer or 10% off their next visit will provide a reason for customers to come back for the next game and beyond.

Cover your delivery costs.

If the restaurant offers delivery, it’s necessary to charge a realistic price that covers associated costs. Ensure delivery fees are calculated based on real costs, like gas, labor, insurance and vehicle maintenance. Then design delivery zone fees around those costs and remember to allow for any road tolls.

Make sure these delivery zones are entered into the point-of-sale system, so the proper amount is automatically added to every delivery transaction. By using an online ordering provider that pulls prices from the POS system, operators can ensure that delivery fees are correctly added to orders placed online.

Due to increased consumer traffic, March Madness presents a massive opportunity for the restaurant industry. Incorporating these eight strategies to increase sales, boost revenue, and build a loyal consumer base will be a slam dunk for your bottom line.

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