Unofficial brings big business to local restaurants

The+interior+of+Jimmy+Johns+restaurant+on+Feb+28%2C+2017.

Ryan Fang

The interior of Jimmy John’s restaurant on Feb 28, 2017.

By Angelica LaVito, Staff Writer

Boozed up students bopping around Green Street means big money for restaurants on Unofficial.

Campustown restaurants dread the chaos Unofficial brings, but they welcome the extra business. The Champaign County Chamber of Commerce does track sales, but restaurants say they at least double the amount of money they typically make on Fridays.

Managers prepare all week for the big day. They order extra food and staff extra employees to ensure they keep up with the seemingly endless crowds of hungry students.

For Papa John’s, Unofficial is the biggest day of the year, assistant manager Mike Pruetting said.

“How do we prepare? Mentally. Physically,” Pruetting said.

Papa John’s sold about 2,200 pizzas last Unofficial, beating an entire week of other stores’ sales Pruetting said. The location sells about 1,200 pizzas on a typical Friday.

Domino’s sees similar traffic. The store doubles its staff, and everyone works at least 10 hour shifts, assistant manager Jacob Tatman said. It can be a brutal day for those involved.

“I think my first or second year I twisted my ankle going back and forth to the oven,” Tatman said.

McDonald’s requires “all hands on deck,” general manager Omar Orralo said. Like other restaurants, Unofficial is McDonald’s’ busiest day of the year. Unlike other restaurants, it must be ready for business 24 hours a day for Unofficial weekend.

Cracked also faces a unique situation: it cannot store all of its ingredients on the truck, so an employee must drive to a warehouse to restock throughout the day.

The amount of runs employees will have to make varies, co-owner and general manager William Mackenzie said. The truck has more customers, but also hungrier ones.

On a normal day, someone may purchase only a sandwich on wrap. On Unofficial, someone may indulge in more expensive toppings like guacamole and a side of tater tots.

“If people drink a little more, they get a little more hungry, I guess,” Mackenzie said.

The money may be good on Unofficial, but the customers may not be.

Burrito King is open until 3 a.m. and sees some wild customers, manager Berenice Berec said. Partiers have tried to take items, forcing Berec to ask police patrolling Green Street for help.

Most customers stumble in and order at Jimmy John’s instead of calling in for delivery on Unofficial, manager Jake Horn said. They often leave a trail of trash behind.

The question then becomes whether to keep cleaning or simply give up until the end of the day. Fortunately for Horn, the crowds have settled down over the three Unofficials he has worked.

“People aren’t as crazy as they used to be,” he said.

The Unofficial party does not stop Friday. Restaurants continue to stay busy Saturday as the burnt out partiers attempt to cure their hangovers with greasy substances.

Maize is even busier on Saturday than it is on Friday, owner Armando Sandoval said. He enjoys the business, but he would prefer people appreciating his food instead of gobbling it down without remembering it.

“I like people to enjoy my food,” he said. “When everybody is drunk and doesn’t care, that’s not what I’m looking for.”

Sandoval knows what to expect. This will be his sixth Unofficial serving the drunken masses. It does not mean he looks forward to it.

Managers at other Green Street restaurants share Sandoval’s feelings: They have prepared for Unofficial, but their work does not completely eliminate the stress the day brings.

“We strive for the best we can, honestly,” Horn, assistant manager of Jimmy John’s, said. “That’s all you can hope for.”

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