The stage is set for the LVII Super Bowl, with the Philadelphia Eagles squaring off against the Kansas City Chiefs Feb. 12 in Glendale, Ariz.’s State Farm Stadium
Glendale is no stranger to big-ticket games, serving as the home of the Arizona Cardinals and, annually, college football’s Fiesta Bowl. The stadium has also already hosted the Super Bowl on two different occasions, in 2008 and 2015. For the uninitiated, Glendale is a suburb of Phoenix complete with a sports and entertainment district that boasts several hotels, shops and restaurants to support the sporadic but heavy volume of foot traffic accompanying these (and other) major events. Nearly 80,000 fans are expected to fill the stadium to capacity, while tens of thousands of others will descend upon the broader Valley to attend Super Bowl-themed concerts and parties and more.
For Larry White, owner of Phoenix restaurants Lo-Lo’s Chicken Waffles, Brunch n Sip and Monroe’s Hot Chicken, that means pulling from a playbook written in 2015 to prepare for the anticipated material uptick in sales and traffic.
“Given that we have six restaurants and three brands throughout the Valley, and we have once before taken this journey, I would look at our previous sales from Super Bowl XLIX (to prepare),” he said.
That said, his concepts have expanded since 2015, so he expects a 10-to-15% increase in traffic versus that benchmark.
“We have grown to become a staple in Arizona and a tourist destination as many make Lo-Lo’s Chicken & Waffles their first stop as soon as they touch down in Phoenix,” White said. “Also, I have noticed a rise in tourism since Covid-19.”
He’s noticed correctly. In 2021, Arizona recovered 92% of its 2019 visitor spending rate, while eight out of 15 counties fully recovered or surpassed 2019 levels. To prepare for a double-digit influx, White said his restaurants are working on streamlining all of their current operational processes.
“There is no way to prepare for what is coming if we do not remain strong with our core values. We will focus on our top sellers and make sure we can get them out in an appropriate ticket time. Of course, we will find ourselves in need of a few new talented team members,” White said.
That hiring process started in the beginning of the year. White added five to 10 additional employees per store not only for the Super Bowl, but also for the first quarter. Sales tend to be slower industrywide in Q1, but that’s not the case in Arizona, White notes, as the market has hosted or is planning to host several major events, such as the PGA’s Waste Management Open and baseball’s spring training.
“No sleep in Arizona,” White said. “We plan to keep our new staff with us for the long term. We are constantly growing and evolving.”
On the supply side, White said because his concepts feature from-scratch cooking, his suppliers are on standby to deliver ingredients and maintain the company’s standards during the rush. That rush, by the way, includes high-volume off-premises sales, and White’s restaurants are under contract for multiple catering jobs throughout Super Bowl week and weekend.
In the heart of Glendale is the Westgate Entertainment District, which includes more than 50 local restaurants. The district, managed by Yam Properties, is no stranger to major events, as it’s anchored by Desert Diamond Arena and is nearly adjacent to State Farm Stadium. According to Jessica Kubicki, director of marketing at Yam Properties, the district expects more than 120,000 out-of-town visitors during Super Bowl weekend, while 1 million consumers are expected to participate in events across the Valley.
“Our job is to maximize the customer’s experience while they’re here. When there are big events at our neighboring venues, it allows Westgate to amplify excitement pre- and post-event. We are well positioned as a hub of fun with plentiful restaurants, competitive socializing options (comedy club, bowling, arcade rooms, axe throwing, escape rooms) and complementary events,” Kubicki said.
To prepare for this amplification, John Tsailakis, owner of Salt Entertainment Group – which includes Bodega, Salt Tacos ỹ Tequila and Carousel Arcade Bar in the Westgate Entertainment District – has hired up to 30% more staff for each of his concepts. Training is also a priority.
“We have training programs for each department – security, bartenders, servers, etc. – and there will be a meeting set in place for each store prior to the Big Game weekend. Each store will ensure they’re prepared, but our stores at Westgate Entertainment District are familiar with accommodating large crowds and events,” he said. “We’re built for this and have had the privilege of years of training. However, we will remind our staff to stay focused and give them the tools they need to be well prepared to execute excellent customer service.”
Meanwhile, Westgate’s Fat Tuesday is bringing in employees from other Fat Tuesday locations throughout the Valley to support the increased traffic around State Farm Stadium. It is also extending its patio and adding a grill, bar and restrooms. Owner Chad Wilford adds that Fat Tuesday will also triple the supply of its most popular items while offering a limited menu. Overall, it’s quite obvious these operators are ready for kickoff – this isn’t their first, after all.
"Our staff is already trained to accommodate the large crowds that State Farm Stadium and Desert Diamond Arena bring in," Wilford said. "They are prepared for the Big Game."
Contact Alicia Kelso at [email protected]