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The game plan: Selling lots & lots of pizzas
Cassandra Torres readies some dough for a customer at The Pizza Spot – one of Manteca’s pizza places gearing up for the massive Super Bowl rush. - photo by JASON CAMPBELL
Sam Sazli first opened the doors to The Pizza Spot just about a month before last year’s Super Bowl.

With parties everywhere and food almost nearly as important as the game itself, Sazli thought that he’d get a few customers wandering in looking for deals on the day of the game. He was right.

Super Bowl Sunday is one of the five big pizza days of the year. The other four? Halloween, the day before Thanksgiving, New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day, according to Jeremy White, editor-in-chief of the trade magazine Pizza Today.

All of which require some serious flour power. At the Papa John’s chain, officials expect to sell a million pizzas when the Steelers meet the Packers on Feb. 6, making it their biggest day of the year.

In preparation, the 3,200-restaurant chain will be shipping over 2 million pounds of cheese through its 10 distribution centers along with 350,000 pounds of pepperoni.

Adding a logistical assist is Manhattan Associates, which makes the software Papa John’s uses to coordinate shipping. The deliveries will involve 300,000 miles of travel, or 1.3 round trips to the moon, says Tony Thompson, president of Papa John’s Food Service.

Perhaps that’s why the moon hits your eye like a big pizza pie.

Why does pizza get such a big slice of the Super Bowl snack-verse?

“Pizza is a party food. It’s a communal food. It’s meant to be shared. It’s inexpensive and everyone likes it,” says White.

On average, pizzerias will see a boost of about 35 percent when the NFC and AFC battle it out, says White. And while recent years have seen a shift toward trendier toppings like sun-dried tomatoes and avocados, on Super Bowl Sunday old-school favorites like pepperoni and sausage tend to rule the day.

At the Domino’s Pizza chain, officials expect to deliver over 9 million slices of pizza on Super Bowl Sunday.

For sit-down pizza restaurants, Super Bowl isn’t so super, since diners are likely to be glued to their seats for three hours or more, says Tony Gemignani, who owns both take-out and eat-in pizza parlors in Northern California, including the well-known Tony’s Pizza Napoletana in San Francisco’s North Beach district and the new Pizza Rocks in Sacramento.

On the other hand, to-go and delivery pizza orders are much higher than normal.

This year Sazli is going out of his way to make sure that customers not only know that he’s there, but that he’s offering everything they need to throw the best Super Bowl party of the block.

“This community has been so warm and receptive to me,” said Sazli – who has completely remodeled the building that once housed Patti’s Pizza for decades at Alameda and North Main. “This year we’re going to have complete party-sized meals with salad and breadsticks and anything else you could need. We’re definitely prepared.”

 “This is going to be my first Super Bowl working here,” said Angela Johal of Papa John’s Take-n-Bake in the Raley’s center at Union and Lathrop roads. “I know that it’s going to be crazy and I know that it’s going to be a rush, but we’ve got everybody on staff working that day so that we don’t fall behind. I think we’ll do okay.”

And if you’re a football fan and you work in the pizza business, you better get used to recording the Super Bowl and watching the game once it’s actually happened.

According to Preet Atwal of Happy Pizza, employees might be lucky if they get the chance to see one or two plays because they’re so busy filling orders and making sure that everything is just right.

Sazli plans on playing the game on a giant screen in the parking lot after it concludes for those who missed the game because they had to work.

Employees at Mountain Mike’s – who have made their business a staple for watching sporting events – are a little bit luckier than most because the game will be broadcast on all nine of the screens in the main dining room. The restaurant is at Louise Avenue and North Main.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.