How the pandemic has affected Super Bowl chicken wing sales in CT

Photo of Jordan Fenster

John Bergin, owner of Cherry Street East in New Canaan, usually has a book filled with chicken wing orders for Super Bowl Sunday.

This year he chose not to take any orders at all. Instead, Bergin is sending any customers calling for chicken wings to other local restaurants.

“Normally we do a lot of wings,” Bergin said. “This year, people are not throwing these big bashes. All the orders that have been coming in have been small.”

The small size of the orders, plus a forecast calling for upwards of 9 inches of snow, put a hold on Bergin’s chicken wing sales.

“Mostly it’s going to be families. I had a call from a person who said it’s just going to be her and her husband,” Bergin said. “I think people are heeding the advice of health officials.”

Nikki Vinci, who works at J. Timothy’s in Plainville, said that though the orders may be smaller, they expect to come close to the pile of wings they usually sell.

They expect to sell about 12 tons of wings all told this weekend.

“It’s interesting because we are not seeing huge orders of wings,” she said.

At Archie Moore’s in Fairfield, Joanie Grosso said orders of wings come in multiples of 25. Though they’re not selling fewer wings, they are seeing smaller orders.

There have been more 25s than 50s, 75s or 100s, but the numbers are there, Grosso said: “Every year we sell close to 30,000 wings. The phone has been ringing nonstop.”

Wings may be central to Super Bowl parties, but they’re not usually a money-making enterprise, according to Tommy Wyatt.

“Wings are not a big ticket item for restaurants,” he said. “Those restaurants count on people coming in and drinking beer.”

A year ago, the day after Super Bowl Sunday 2020, Wyatt started a group called Wingaddicts, and set out to try as many Connecticut chicken wings as he possibly could.

He said local owners are concerned about the cost of overhead.

“The chicken vendors are jacking up their prices,” according to Wyatt. “Everybody’s worried. Every restaurant is worried. These guys are going out of business.”

Vinci said chicken wings have been a saving grace at J. Timothy’s. They’ve been able to do about 30 percent of their usual dine-in business, because of occupancy restrictions and the way the building is structured.

She said she feels very “grateful and lucky” to be selling as many wings as they are.

“We had a built-in business: chicken wings,” she said. “Your bills are generally the same.”

At Archie Moore’s, too, they rely on chicken wing sales, employing two full-time people just to answer the phones and take orders.

“Tomorrow we normally double what we take in all week,” Grosso said Satruday. “The phone does not stop ringing.”

And then there’s the snow. Both Vinci and Grosso said patrons are trying to pick up their orders early, to avoid the storm, and with social distancing rules being what they are, it might make pickup of wing orders a particularly spicy affair.

“People might have to wait outside,” Grosso said.