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Pizza chains gear up for Thanksgiving Eve

Thanksgiving may call to mind visions of turkey, stuffing and pumpkin pie, but several restaurant chains know that the days surrounding the holiday also will find many Americans chowing down on another sort of pie — pizza.

Domino’s Pizza, for example, expects to deliver 1.1 million pizzas to homes on Thanksgiving Eve, one of its busiest days of the year. In order to feed the demand from Thanksgiving Eve through the Black Friday and Cyber Monday shopping days and beyond, Domino’s is holding its first “Feed the Shoppers” Twitter giveaway.

Now through Dec. 5, customers can enter the contest to win a $15 Domino’s gift card by entering the following phrase on Twitter: “I’m entered to win a free meal from Domino’s ($15). Follow @Dominos & RT to enter! #feedtheshoppers Rules: "

“We want everybody to have a stress-free holiday shopping experience, which means giving them a break from the madness to enter to win some pizza on us,” spokesman Chris Brandon said. “Use the winnings for yourself when you don’t feel like cooking after a long shopping marathon. Or, better yet, use it as a gift to mark a name off your holiday shopping list.”

Domino’s will give away 20 gift cards each day during the two-week promotion.

Meanwhile, Papa John’s is marking Turkey Day and the holiday shopping season with a limited-time offer built around bacon. Citing a study that found Americans ate 17 pounds of turkey per person and 17.9 pounds of bacon in 2009, the nation’s third-largest pizza chain felt Thanksgiving was the perfect time to introduce the Double Bacon Six Cheese pizza.

“Our newest pizza creation definitely answers the call for anyone looking to ‘bring home the bacon’ Thanksgiving Eve and throughout the holiday season,” chief marketing officer Andrew Varga said. “Year after year, we see a huge spike in pizza sales the day before Thanksgiving. Add to that the hundreds of bacon fan pages, dedicated blogs, its pervasiveness in pop culture and the fact that it is one of our top-selling ingredients, it is clear that consumers have an enormous appetite and affinity for bacon.”

The new pizza will be offered until Dec. 26 and will sell for $11.

Pizza Hut, the largest chain in the pizza segment, is offering a one-topping Cheesy Bites Pizza for $11.99. Regional player Marco’s Pizza was offering two versions of its Grande Feast deal: two medium one-topping pizzas, CheezyBread and a two-liter beverage for $19.99; or two large one-topping pizzas, CheezyBread and a two-liter beverage for $23.99.

While Wednesday is the start of a big sales weekend for many pizza chains, it also marks the end of the “Spank Your Pizza” contest at Whitewater, Wis.-based Toppers Pizza. The 28-unit chain for the past several weeks has hosted the contest on its Facebook page, inviting fans to create the next house pizza for toppers and have their inventions face off against the others in a tournament-style bracket. The final four contestants squared off in a semifinal Tuesday, and the winner will be decided during voting from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Wednesday.

The grand prize winner gets the pizza named in his or her honor, plus free Toppers for a year and a $500 gift card.

At Romeo’s Pizza, a chain based in Medina, Ohio, with 31 locations throughout the state, the “2 for $22” offer of two large, one-topping pizzas is being promoted to families whetting their appetites for turkey, said Anne Thompson, director of marketing.

“We know that lots of people are going to be traveling and gathering on Wednesday, and pizza’s a good party food to feed the crowds,” Thompson said. “[In the restaurants] it’s all hands on deck, and we’re staffed to capacity. It’s a great kickoff to the holidays, and we’re lucky in that we have a pretty extensive catering menu.”

In addition to Thanksgiving Eve and Black Friday, this Saturday will be a big day for all of Romeo’s restaurants in Ohio, as the University of Michigan Wolverines come to state capital Columbus to take on the Ohio State Buckeyes in one of college football’s most storied rivalries.

“Everybody’s completely geared up for that game, and we’re excited about it,” Thompson said. “We’ve also won a ‘best pizza in Columbus’ award, and we only broke into that market in 2009.”

Contact Mark Brandau at [email protected].

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