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  •   With Capital in Panic, Pizza Deliveries Soar

    An aide to House Majority Whip Tom DeLay (R-Texas) carries a stack of pizzas during the day-long impeachment debate on Friday. (Reuters)
    By Sarah Schafer
    Washington Post Staff Writer
    Saturday, December 19, 1998; Page D1

    Call it the Washington pizza index: The bigger the crisis and the more time that government staffers hole up in their offices, the more pizza they eat.

    This week with the confluence of impeachment hearings in Congress and war management over at the Pentagon the index is shattering records.

    "It's going haywire," said Frank Meeks, owner of 59 Domino's franchises in the Washington area and the capital's unofficial pizza historian.

    The index's rise this week is propelled by large numbers of White House and Capitol Hill types, Pentagon staffers and media folks all working into the wee hours and ordering pizza to sustain them. The White House and Congress broke their previous three-day record for pizza deliveries, Meeks said, though at the Pentagon, the record set during the Persian Gulf War still stands.

    Experts like Meeks like to remind people that much of the present turmoil in Washington can be traced to pizza. He recalls that Nov. 17, 1995, during the government shutdown, was "pizza night" for Monica L. Lewinsky and President Clinton, according to Lewinsky's daybook. Lewinsky, an unpaid intern, was working at the White House because other employees had been furloughed. Had they not shared that pizza, history may well have turned out very differently.

    Lewinsky also figured in another pizza-delivery frenzy: the previous three-day record for White House orders to Domino's was set after the Lewinsky story broke in mid-January. In those three days, the White House placed $2,600 in orders.

    Compare that with the past three days, during which White House staffers downed $3,100 worth of pies. Indeed, Meeks said, Iraq and the "impizzament crisis," as he calls it, have the White House in a red zone panic mode.

    Capitol Hill set its previous Domino's pizza record during the 1995 government shutdown, consuming $9,100 worth, but in the past three days has beat that record with $11,600 worth of orders.

    Other capital pizza purveyors say their delivery lines are lighting up as well. Armand's on Capitol Hill has been working double time to fill orders to such customers as CNN's local bureau, as well as to congressional offices. "Wednesday we did about $2,000," said store manager U.H. Kim, "and a typical Wednesday is about $600 or $700."

    The huge demand has inevitably led to slower delivery times. But experience during previous government crises has caused some pizza companies to come up with their own crisis plans.

    Jess Pierce, manager of the Pizza Hut on Columbia Pike in Arlington, which regularly delivers to the Pentagon, has developed a system for ensuring there's no increase in delivery time. Instead of bringing an order directly to a Pentagon office, he calls ahead and has the customer meet the driver outside. This way the driver can avoid the usual security check, saving about 15 minutes.

    Perhaps just as important as how much pizza Washington insiders eat during a crisis is what they order on the pizza. According to Meeks, when things go wrong, they take comfort in grease. Meat toppings go up, for example.

    The extra cheese factor was particularly telling Wednesday and Thursday nights. The White House ordered 32 percent more extra-cheese pizzas than normal.

    While in the heart of Washington people are going all to pizzas, the index gets flatter as one moves further from the capital.

    "It doesn't change much in the suburbs," said Domino's spokesman Ian Madover.

    © Copyright 1998 1998 The Washington Post Company

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