Lights, cheering crowds, thousands at Ross-Ade Stadium – with all the excitement of home games, it’s hard to think of anything else in people’s minds. However, as fans flock to West Lafayette on football Saturdays, restaurants are faced with the challenge of adapting to increased traffic and road closures.
Restaurants prepare for large walk-in orders, catering orders, and a massive influx of business all in one day. Fans might think that every restaurant has queues out the door all day, but that’s not always the case.
Mad Mushroom is a pizza place located on State Street. According to general manager Michael Payton, preparations begin in the week leading up to game day. Pizza boxes need to be folded, sauce cups filled, and as much meat, veggies, and pasta prepared as possible.
In addition to all the preparations, Mad Mushroom makes sure to schedule more employees for game day. Football Saturdays are some of the busiest days, and homecoming game day is the busiest day of the year, according to Payton.
With business picking up and manpower shortages, Mad Mushroom is still looking to hire, but is in a better position this year than last. Even with a labor shortage, Payton says, they continue to work to ensure all aspects of the business remain available so they can properly serve their guests.
Mad Mushroom does offer delivery on football Saturdays, but only in a limited area. This is not due to staff but road closures and football traffic. Because of this, they have to close some streets from their delivery service.
“We wouldn’t like someone to place an order, and then (we) have to call them and tell them it’s going to be two and a half (or) three hours before the roads open,” Payton said.
While Mad Mushroom does cater, mostly for student organizations on campus, there is no record of an increase in catering orders on football Saturdays. However, they see an increase in timed orders. With this increase, employees are doing their best to provide accurate wait times for those ordering delivery and delivery.
Starbucks’ three locations on campus — on Third Street, in the MSEE Building, and the Purdue Memorial Union — see steady business during the week from students.
According to Mistee Saylor, marketing manager at Purdue Food Co., the locations aren’t getting as much weekend traffic as one might expect. On the weekend, customers are more from the community and there are fewer sales overall, but football Saturdays ramp sales up to a typical weekday.
On those days, the PMU location sees increased daytime sales and the Third Street location serves the band on their way to the field, but the MSEE location doesn’t get much traffic, Saylor said. Because of this, employees have little extra work to prepare.
However, the PMU headquarters braced for an expected increase in traffic on their way home due to pupils staying at the Union hotel. To prepare for this surge in business, Saylor said he’s been scheduling more staff and ordering more food.
Chick-fil-A has a location on the Purdue campus in Frieda Parker Hall. Kalie Henderson, shift manager and senior at the College of Health and Human Sciences, said programmers and leaders need to prepare for increased sales on football Saturdays.
The schedulers ensure that more employees are working that day than on a typical Saturday, while the responsible catering leader creates a spreadsheet of all catering orders.
“I try to make some noise with the team,” Henderson said. “We know we will be busy, depending on the playing time. You know we’ll be busy before, maybe during the interval and certainly after if we’re still open.
Chick-fil-A accepts meals from 11am to 2pm on Saturdays, so in addition to the business they get from the game, they’re also busy with the meal rush.
Also, more people are ordering catering than normal on game days. During the week, employees typically prepare one or two catering orders a day, but this could increase to 10 or 11 orders on football Saturdays.
To ensure that this part of the business runs smoothly, a person will be in charge of the catering. They prepare dry goods for orders, coordinate with the kitchen to make sure orders are placed on time, and make sure guests receive accurate orders.
Chick-fil-A leaders must manage many aspects of the business including catering, mobile ordering, DoorDash, in-person ordering, and staffing shortages. This means that sometimes, especially on football Saturdays, the store will briefly turn off mobile or DoorDash ordering while the rest of the business catches up.
Five Guys is a burger joint located in Chauncey Square. Michael Lee Cardwell, the assistant general manager, says Five Guys prepares for football Saturdays by scheduling more staff, going from about four or five employees to as many as 10.
Typically, Five Guys are in a hurry with business before and after the game, according to Cardwell. Because of this, the restaurant often sends one person into the dining room. This person makes sure the trash is taken out and the tables are cleaned.
Cardwell says football Saturdays typically bring in $7,000 to $10,000. They also typically get more orders for $100 to $200. To serve guests well, Cardwell says they try to put employees in their best positions so they can work as fast as possible.
Even with the manpower shortage, Five Guys fares quite well and has a positive outlook on the situation.
“Staying positive and being a good leader for people,[has]been really helpful in keeping people around,” Cardwell said.
Want a large order or a timed order on a football Saturday? Here are some tips:
- Crazy Mushroom: If you want to place a timed order, try to place it as soon as possible. This way Mad Mushroom can ensure that we are able to fulfill your order and deliver it to you within that time slot.
- starbucks: Call the location where you want to place your order. You can use the mobile app, but check that the pick-up point is the one you want to go to.
- Chick-fil-A: Order ahead. You can order online, which is easier, but you can also call the store to place your order. If you’d like to place a same-day catering order, it’s best to call ahead so you don’t have to wait in a long line in addition to waiting for your food to be prepared.
- Five guys: If you have a large order you want to place, do it online. This way you can specify what you want on each burger. If you call the store, they can take your order, but the burgers will have toppings on the side.
Football Saturdays vs. Football Thursdays: Which is the busiest?
- Crazy Mushroom: Football Thursday was a very busy night the whole time. Thursday’s football week was the busiest week so far this year as Thursday sales increased on top of the typical weekend business surge.
- starbucks: Interestingly, PMU headquarters lost money when football was on Thursday. Usually students who study at night in the Union increase their business, but most of the students instead played along.
- Chick-fil-A: Football Thursday was busier than normal. Chick-fil-A runs mealtimes from 5-8pm on weekdays, so the mealtime and pre-game rushes arrived at the same time. Also because Chick-fil-A has a run at halftime, they’ve been busy all night.
- Five guys: Football Thursday was a very slow night. They didn’t rush after the match like they normally would have.