LENEXA, Kan. — Sunday is a primetime event in the Kansas City metro.
The Kansas City Chiefs aren’t alone in being on center stage this weekend as they take on the Buffalo Bills in the AFC Championship at Arrowhead Stadium. So are restaurants in the area, many of which have gotten accustomed to an onslaught of orders from customers gathering to cheer on their favorite NFL team.
In Lenexa, Old Shawnee Pizza owner William Walker said he remembers the demand from last year’s playoff run for the Chiefs. More recently, Walker referred to New Year’s Eve as being a big hit, one he said his staff wasn’t prepared to face.
Walker said his team is using that experience to better prepare for big occasions, like Sunday evening promises to be. Walker’s staff has stocked up on extra pizza ingredients and takeout containers, as well as more employees on the job in preparation for Sunday’s game-time dinner demand.
“If the game is at 5:40p.m., it starts getting busy two or three hours beforehand,” Walker said. “By 4 o’clock, we should be going gangbusters.”
Smells of smoky ribs and pulled pork are always in the air at Joe’s Kansas City BBQ in Leawood.
Customers line up early for lunch and dinner, and although Joe’s restaurants are closed on Sundays, party planners are doing business early, picking up platters for dinner on Friday and Saturday.
Large gatherings aren’t currently en vogue, due to the ongoing pandemic. Eric Tadda, a spokesperson for Joe’s KC BBQ, said people are ordering more food for their family gatherings, since smaller crowds mean more gatherings in all. Tadda referred to the 2021 trend as home-gating as opposed to tailgating or dining in a bar or restaurant.
“The biggest increase we see is in national shopping,” Tadda said. “As last year’s playoffs went on, people were sending BBQ to each other, sometimes as part of friendly wagers and gifts.”
This year marks the first time around as a restaurant owner for David Ahn, whose family opened Overland Park’s C.M. Chicken in June. Ahn’s unique flavors of Korean fried chicken are proving to be popular, and this Sunday, Ahn plans for an uptick in carryout business.
“In terms of takeout, we’ll be quite a bit,” Ahn said. “Because of COVID, we probably won’t get a lot of dine-in, but we’re expecting as much as 30-40% more in to-go orders.”
Sunday’s AFC Championship is also a potential practice round for these restaurants and others. If the Chiefs defeat the Bills, they’ll return to the Super Bowl in two weeks. All of the restaurant managers we spoke with said that will be one of their busiest days this year.