Will football fans in the USA be winging it again while watching the “Big Game” on February 3? According to the recently released Chicken Wing Report from the Washington, DC-based National Chicken Council (NCC), the answer is a resounding “Yes!”
NCC is projecting that Americans’ consumption of the unofficial game day menu staple – the chicken wing – will hit an all-time high at 1.38 billion pieces during Super Bowl LIII weekend, as the New England Patriots and the Los Angeles Rams battle for the Lombardi Trophy at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta, Georgia. This figure marks an increase of two percent, or about 27 million wings, over 2018.
By the Numbers
Just how does this sort of volume measure up?
- If laid end to end, they would stretch 28 times from Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Massachusetts, to Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.
- 1.38 billion wings equates to four wings for every man, woman and child in the United States.
- The weight of the wings amounts to 6,600 times more than the combined heft of both the Patriots’ and Rams’ entire team rosters.
- Enough to put 640 wings on every seat in all 31 National Football League stadiums.
- Enough to circle Planet Earth three times.
The vast majority of wings, especially those destined for restaurants in the United States, are disjointed, with the third joint (the thin part known as the wing tip or flapper) primarily exported to Asian countries and the meatier first and second joints overwhelmingly sold domestically. The two segments or portions are known as the “drumette” and the “flat,” as opposed to the whole wing. So each chicken produces four wing segments.
Deep-fried chicken wings have long been a staple of cooking in America’s Southland. But the concept of cooking wings in peppery hot sauce was conceived up north in 1964 at the Anchor Bar in Buffalo, New York, when co-owner Teressa Bellissimo cooked leftover wings in hot sauce as a late-night snack for her son and his friends. The guys liked them so much that the Bellissimos put them on the menu the next day. Served with celery slices and bleu cheese sauce, “Buffalo Wings” were an instant hit.
Dick Winger, who supplied hot sauce to the bar, went on the road with Dominic Bellissimo, the owners’ son, to promote the item and sell hot sauce, and Buffalo Wings gradually caught on with restaurant operators around the country.
The concept hit the big time in 1990, when McDonald’s began selling Mighty Wings at some of its restaurants. KFC rolled out Hot Wings a year later, and Domino’s Pizza introduced its own wings in 1994. They’ve remained popular ever since. McDonald’s was back in the wing business in 2013, and its Mighty Wings were featured nationwide at most restaurants through the first quarter of 2014.
Football Food Favorite
The rise of the chicken wing and its correlation to American football all had to do with timing.
Cooking the whole bird was trendy in the 1960s and 1970s, but in the 1980s consumers in the United States started preferring boneless and skinless breast meat, and wings became an inexpensive byproduct for chicken producers. Restaurants and bars realized they could charge low prices for the relatively inexpensive protein, and due to the spicy/salty nature of the sauce, they discovered that beer sales would increase when customers ate wings.
At the same time, sports bars with multiple TVs and satellite dishes were becoming more common in America thanks to rapidly developing technology; and the most popular sporting event to watch with friends in bars is football. Wings were easily shareable and affordable, a great “group food” to eat with other people, and are the perfect pairing with a pitcher of beer. And so the pigskin-chicken wing bond was born.
Buffalo Wild Wings’ OT Bet
More fans are expected to watch Super Bowl LIII at the Buffalo Wild Wings chain than ever, leading to what could be the highest sales day of 2019 for America’s largest sports bar operator. Here’s how the biggest football Sunday of the year in the United States impacts the Minneapolis, Minnesota-headquartered franchise:
- Hundreds of thousands of fans will pack into its 1,200-plus food and drink establishments across all 50 states, watching the game on more than 65,000 TV sets
- Over 14 million traditional and boneless wings were sold last year, with Honey BBQ being the most popular sauce
- Beer sales are 25% higher than a typical Sunday
- Restaurants see a 30-40% traffic increase compared to the average football Sunday
- Operators stock up by increasing ingredient orders, including 47% more sauce, 37% more traditional wings and 20% more boneless wings
One week before the February 3 kickoff, the New England Patriots were 2.5-point favorites to beat the Los Angeles Rams. While the Buffalo Wild Wings team is not taking sides, the chain has its money on overtime. If the Big Game has an OT finish, it will offer free snack-size chicken wings to customers across the USA on February 18 from 4-7 PM local time.
“We know fans get a thrill out of having something riding on the outcome of the game, and given the number of overtime games we’ve seen all season, we wanted to up the ante for everyone,” said Seth Freeman, the chain’s chief marketing officer. “Even if you don’t have a dog in the fight, we all have a common rooting interest in extending the game because that means more football, and now, free wings!”
The money line for the game going into overtime opened at +650, meaning a $100 bet would net $650 if the game goes to OT. This translates to Las Vegas bookmakers thinking there is a good chance of winning free wings!