For Pizza Fans, Redskins Deliver

Aracely Rodriquez and Chris Plum make pizzas at a Papa John's in Herndon on a red-letter day for free toppings.
Aracely Rodriquez and Chris Plum make pizzas at a Papa John's in Herndon on a red-letter day for free toppings. (By Jahi Chikwendiu -- The Washington Post)
By Tom Jackman
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Luis Arellano walked into the Papa John's pizza store he manages in Burke yesterday at 10 a.m. The phone was already ringing.

In seasons past, the restaurant chain's offer of a free pizza topping every time the Redskins scored a touchdown was unlikely to overburden anyone's pie. Last year, it was rare when the Redskins earned pizza lovers anything more than a pepperoni-and-mushroom.

That was then. This year, perhaps dubious of the Redskins' offense, local Papa John's franchises upped the ante: Double the total number of free toppings when the team won.

So here came the hapless San Francisco 49ers to FedEx Field. And when it was all over Sunday, there weren't enough toppings on some Papa John's menus -- unless you count extra cheese -- to match the Redskins' output: Seven touchdowns, the most in 14 years, in a 52-17 thrashing of the Niners, set off an insane run on such little-used ingredients as banana peppers and anchovies to reach the total of 14 free toppings.

It's called piling on.

"I had somebody come in with a list of 14 toppings," said Mike House, the manager of a Papa John's store in Fairfax City. "My computer won't take more than 10." He was making 14-topping pizzas, but he warned people that they wouldn't be well cooked. The chain has 17 toppings, but some locations offer fewer.

House spoke during a brief downtime, between the lunch and dinner rushes. But sales-boosting Monday Night Football loomed, and radio commercials yesterday reminded pizza fans of the 14-topping possibility.

"It's going to be a nightmare come tonight," House said. He had added two drivers and would have brought in more if he could find them.

"People aren't going to be able to get through on the phone lines," House added, his green shirt well dusted with flour. "It's going to be crazy. These are the days I dread."

A number of Papa John's executives, including some from the corporate headquarters in Louisville, were at Sunday's Redskins blowout. "It turned into everybody on their cell phones, coordinating events for today," said Andy Freitas, director of operations for Colonel's Limited, a franchise with 37 stores in Maryland and Virginia.

The Redskins had already racked up five touchdowns by halftime Sunday. And after every score, the stadium announcer at FedEx Field reminded the 90,000 fans that another free topping (or two) was available Monday. The constant reinforcement worked: A number of patrons in Papa John's stores yesterday said they had been at the game.

Arellano's Burke store, one of the busiest in Northern Virginia, was limiting customers to eight toppings -- the maximum his computer could handle -- but no one was complaining. On any other day, an eight-topping pizza would cost $25.21.

"We never order pizza," said Ellen Getek of Burke, who had been at the game and felt that a reward was needed for enduring a suspense-less second half. "But the Redskins won, so we have to do it. We're going against our dietary rule." She scooped up a large onions-peppers-mushrooms-ham-chicken-sausage-and-beef for $7.99.

Howard Manwiller of Burke said he regularly took advantage of the post-game-day pizza deal, but without the overloaded pie. Yesterday, he went the full eight yards allowable at the Burke store, going with double onions, double mushrooms, double beef and double bacon.

Freitas said most stores would see a 400 to 800 percent increase in sales yesterday, with some as high as 1,000 percent -- 10 times the number normally sold on Mondays.

Whereas some area stores typically sell about 180 pizzas on a Monday, the average yesterday was expected to be about 750 a store, and some larger stores might deal out 1,000 pies, Freitas said.


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