As Patriots fans across New England get ready for Super Bowl LI on Sunday, some Boston businesses are preparing for a rush of customers.
The New England Patriots play the Atlanta Falcons at NRG Stadium in Houston at 6:30 p.m. Sunday in the 51st iteration of the NFL championship match. While the game itself is nearly 2,000 miles away, Boston-area bars, restaurants and catering companies are expecting a rush of fans for the big event.
Super Bowl-related spending around the country is expected to top $14.1 billion this year, according to the National Retail Federation's annual Super Bowl spending survey, which they have conducted since 2005. That’s down from last year’s peak of $15.5 billion. Still, the viewing audience is forecast to be about the same as last year: 189 million people. According to the NRF survey, party-goers plan to spend an average of $75, mostly on food.
The Boston-based food-delivery website Foodler is one local company that stands to gain from all that snacking. Foodler has plans to grow in 2017 and is even exploring far-out innovations to the growing market for on-demand food delivery, including driverless cars, according to co-founder Phil Dumontet. They’re also looking into natural language technology, like the voice-activated commands that control Amazon’s popular Echo.
“It should be as simple as saying, 'Hey I'd like a pizza' and our service will know who you are, what type of pizza you like, where you are,” said Dumontet. It’s a hypothetical for now, but something he said will become more important as companies like Foodler seek to distinguish themselves from UberEATS and other newcomers in the market.
While the Boston-based daily fantasy sports site DraftKings lives and dies by the popularity of football, Super Bowl weekend actually isn’t their strongest time of year, said co-founder Matt Kalish.
With only one game going on, Sunday doesn’t fit the fantasy sports model of agglomerating statistics across dozens of NFL matchups. Instead, Kalish said, “for us the Super Bowl is really the time when we pause and look back on the whole season.”
That look back yields a banner year for DraftKings, which despite new regulations on the website, saw users create a record 68 million player lineups to compete against each other.
Kalish, a lifelong Patriots fan who is en route to Houston to attend the Super Bowl, also found something less rosy for he and his New England colleagues.
“We found that Atlanta looks pretty good, to be honest,” Kalish says. “On a pretty consistent basis Atlanta’s been outperforming the skill-position guys from the Patriots.”
An investment group associated with Patriots owner Robert Kraft has put money in DraftKings, leading a $300 million financing round in 2015.
“We’re just hoping the Patriots win, to be honest,” says Kalish. “There’s a lot of loyalty there.”
Whoever wins, the host city of Houston claims the game will bring in $350 million to their local economy. But among cities watching the action from afar, Boston’s poised to do well, too. The personal finance website WalletHub ranked 244 U.S. cities on their football fanaticism and declared Boston the nation’s fifth best city for football fans (Green Bay, Wisconsin took the top spot).
If the Patriots prevail on Sunday, it will be their fifth league championship since 2000. That has business owners like Robert Gesek hoping the Super Bowl rush will quiet down by game time.
"Hopefully I can go home and watch the game myself,” said Gesek, who last month opened New England’s first franchise of the Philadelphia-based Philly Pretzel Factory. Their store in Revere had received 20 pre-ordered party platters for this weekend by Wednesday, twice what they’d received in previous weeks.
"It's going to be a busy weekend for us,” said Gesek, “but that's good."
Gesek’s hoping his focus on pretzels will set him apart from snack-food competitors in the area. But according to Chicago-based food-delivery app GrubHub, there are far more popular munchies on Super Bowl Sunday. Orders of chicken wings spiked 93 percent on Super Bowl Sunday last year, GrubHub said, making them by far the most popular food item for the event. Nachos took second with a 28 percent increase.
Superstitious fans might want to heed some advice from GrubHub, which analyzed its data to find which foods were ordered disproportionately often during Patriots wins. Patriots fans who buy that analysis will end up with an international smorgasbord—the luckiest foods for Pats fans were saag paneer and carne asada, according to GrubHub. Just stay away from chicken noodle soup and chicken salad, as those were the Falcons’ culinary talismans.
As for beverages, on-field rivalries have spilled over into beer battles between Atlanta liquor stores and at least one brewery in Boston. BostInno notes that some liquor stores in Atlanta have suspended sales of Sam Adams until after the Super Bowl. Sam Adams shot back, tweeting, “Won’t be their only loss.”