For Indianapolis, early February usually has bitter cold temperatures, snow and ice. Those in the city avoid being outdoors as much as possible because of the frigid temperatures. So upon being named the Super Bowl host city for 2012, it could only be expected that people were wondering how the city was going to pull it off.
Not only did Indianapolis exceed expectations, the weather was unusually cooperating too. There were days with temperatures in the low 50s, almost making locals forget about the severe ice storm the city had just a year ago. There were a few days with rain, but all in all the weather was oddly pleasant for this time of the year.
The 10 day extravaganza kicked off on Friday Jan. 27 with the first six or seven days being heavily local traffic. Then by Thursday Feb. 2, the out of town guests started trickling in and the city was packed.
One of the major benefits of having an event as large as the Super Bowl in Indianapolis is how close everything is in the downtown area. It’s very manageable to walk from one end of downtown to another.
Restaurants all over the downtown area and beyond were anticipating a huge increase in business. Before events began, Julia Watson, vice president of marketing and communications for Indianapolis Downtown Inc., said businesses were forecasting as much as six months of business in the 10 day period.
So restaurants planned. They all planned. Those restaurants and food trucks in the immediate downtown area close to Super Bowl Village had to do a little bit of extra planning to ensure their food deliveries could be made and employees could get to work due to street closures.
Originally, it was anticipated 150,000 people would come into the city—and in a recent Indianapolis Star article; Super Bowl Host Committee officials said the total attendance (locals and out of town guests) at the Super Bowl Village alone was probably over 1 million.
So how did it all pan out for foodservices?
It was great for those near Super Bowl Village. But many downtown locations a little further out from Super Bowl Village and extending cities planned for large crowds that didn’t all come.
Despite being 20 to 30 minutes outside of downtown, OAKLEY’s Bistro, a restaurant on Indianapolis’ northwest side, was successful. In January, they said they were creating different menu options and were even opening on Super Bowl Sunday and the following Monday—two days they are normally closed.
“We had a great weekend, very busy,” said Chris Hopkins, manager at OAKLEY’s. “A lot of our business was from out of town guests and it was great to introduce them to OAKLEY’s.”
Hopkins said the only negative aspect were the number of people who made reservations then didn’t show. They were able to still fill the spots with walk-in traffic, which is something Hopkins said is pretty common on special event weekends.
When it came to mobile food, the food trucks were a big hit. The city reserved space for them on Monument Circle, where the famous Super Bowl Roman Numerals stood.
Food truck Duos Indy was nervous and excited before all the Super Bowl festivities took place. After it was all said and done, the warm weather was great for them and the rainy days weren’t the best.
“We had an amazing Friday night and were prepared for that kind of business every day,” said Becky Hostetter, chef and co-owners of Duos. “Other days and nights were fine and right at our projections, but the rain Saturday was problematic. We also found that Sunday was a bust.”
Hostetter also noticed how a majority of the crowds stayed closer to the Super Bowl Village and away from some of the locations on the outer parts of downtown.
“That was hard for all our friends in the restaurant business in the surrounding areas (Fountain Square, Mass Ave., etc.) who had worked so long and hard to prepare thoughtfully for such an event.”
All in all, Hostetter said they discovered they were completely capable of handling the large crowds while prepping in a smart and thoughtful way. They also met their expectation of serving guests within 60 seconds of them approaching a window. This is quick service–especially on their busiest nights, one of which they served around 550 people.
When it came to food rescuing (organizations who gather food that foodservices overstock, over prepare or don’t use that hasn’t been served to the public), Ben Shine, communications and development manager at Second Helpings, said they had a whirlwind of a weekend.
On Feb. 6, Shine said they had already rescued around 20,000 pounds of food, with more to come. Then they recently updated the numbers and on Feb. 16, the total amount rescued was 46,000 pounds. And for their kick-off event “Souper Bowls,” where local artists, chefs and community members got together to help fight hunger in central Indiana, they had over 500 in attendance and cleared just over $10,000.
As for restaurants? Those closer to the Super Bowl Village probably received the most business—with the most popular place in the city to visit being St. Elmo Steak House.
Prior to the events, St. Elmo’s made sure they were fully prepared. Bryn Jones, director of marketing, said they knew they would be a go-to place but it ended up being even bigger than they anticipated.
“It was a very big week for us in terms of sales and national and local publicity,” Jones said. “We were prepared for both, but it was still a lot to handle.”
Shrimp is one of the restaurant’s signature menu items and Jones mentioned over the course of the week, they sold over two tons of it.
St. Elmo’s was a top restaurant for celebrities and athletes to dine at, too. Michael Douglas, Adam Sandler, John Travolta, Jerry Bruckheimer, The Fray, Eli Manning and Tom Brady are just a handful of the many celebrities and athletes Jones said came through their doors.
“Pretty wild week!” he said, which is a perfect way to sum it up.
It was an incredibly wild week for the city. Indianapolis put on a Super Bowl extravaganza that many frequent Super Bowl visitors said was the best they had ever experienced. Who would have thought the Midwestern city with the nickname “Naptown” would go on to host one of the best Super Bowl’s to date?
The city exceeded expectations and it was not only a great opportunity to showcase the city as whole, but to showcase the finer details such as great food and Hoosier hospitality. Definitely one for the record books, that’s for sure.
All images used with permission from the 2012 Indianapolis Super Bowl Host Committee.