Election night is to pizza parlors what Valentine’s Day is to florists. However, with large gatherings discouraged during the pandemic, pizzeria owners across America are not sure what to expect.
“People may be more interested in what’s happening this year than what they are eating,” said Luca Arrigoni, who owns Sottocasa Pizza, which has two locations in New York City.
Of course, Election Day in 2020 looks vastly different than it did in 2016. During the last presidential election, people held pizza parties, with some eager to celebrate what would have been a historic first with a woman elected as president. Fast forward to 2020: get-togethers are discouraged and some businesses are boarding up their doors and windows ahead of any potential election-related social unrest.
During previous elections and big news events, media outlets would have dozens of pies delivered throughout the night to feed journalists working in the newsroom. But many of the city’s media outlets, including NBC News, are still having reporters work from home. That means local pizza shops will be missing out on some of their biggest customers on election night.
“It’s very interesting how this 2020 is panning out. Having a presidential election in the very peculiar situation we are all living in is unique and unprecedented,” Arrigoni said. “I’m looking at our business the same way: We are extremely lucky to be in business still.”
It’s been a tough few months for restaurants. More than 100,000 have closed since the start of the pandemic, according to a survey released in September by the National Restaurant Association. For others, sales are slowly coming back to pre-pandemic levels.
Pizza shops in suburban areas are hopeful Tuesday will be a big night.
Dominic Herrera, who owns a ZPIZZA franchise in Upland, California, said his business is showing signs of improvement since the start of the pandemic. He told staff to prepare for a busier than usual Tuesday night.
In Atlanta, pizzeria Nina & Rafi is hoping a discount will help drive big Election Day sales. It is offering $5 off an order to anyone who shows an “I Voted” sticker on Nov. 3.
"With schools being closed and many offices giving employees the day off to vote, we're definitely expecting to see an increase.”
"With schools being closed and many offices giving employees the day off to vote, we're definitely expecting to see an increase in delivery, pick-up and dining at the restaurant,” owner Billy Streck told NBC News. “Our culinary team is doubling up on product and prep, and everyone is ready for a busy night.”
In Denton, Texas, Ali Kohandani, co-owner of the DoubleDave’s Pizzaworks in Denton, Texas, is staffing up for election night and plans to pitch in to help deliver pizzas.
Kohandani, who was born in Tehran, Iran and became a U.S. citizen in 2010, said his store had a surge of orders during the last election, particularly between 6 p.m. and 8:30 p.m. when state results were starting to be called.
With record voter turnout and the coronavirus pandemic prompting more people to stay home and choose delivery, Kohandani said he is optimistic it will be a big night for pizza sales.
“We want our local customers to focus on the election process and witnessing history, not on meal preparation and cleaning dirty pots and pans,” he said. “It’s a privilege to vote. Treat the day as a celebration.”