With election night imminent, Americans across the country are making plans. Plans to vote, yes, but just as importantly, plans to order dinner as they wait for results to trickle in state by state. From Pizza to the Polls to newsrooms’ pre-pandemic reliance on election night pizza to fuel their reporters, it’s clear that pizza is nothing less than integral to upholding our democracy. After all, pizza, with its infinite combination of toppings, embodies freedom of choice (let us not forget none pizza with left beef). Its slices promote egalitarian sharing, and it contains two of the most American ideals of all: cheese and carbs.
With pizza the obvious choice for sublimating election night jitters, Slate spoke to Satchel Raye, owner of Satchel’s Pizza in Gainesville, Florida, to find out how exactly a pizzeria prepares for its essential role in the democratic process and what your order says about your political leanings.
Rachelle Hampton: How busy is election night for you?
Satchel Raye: It’s funny because I’ve been doing this for 17 years, and every year business has patterns. We keep track of all the numbers so that we can see what’s coming up and know when we’re going to be slow and how to schedule. The Fourth of July is always really slow, Halloween’s always really slow. But elections only happen every four years, presidential elections anyway. We’re in a college town, and when our football team’s playing a home game, that’s usually a slow time too because people are watching the game. So I was thinking ahead for Saturday, and I’m like, OK, it’s Halloween and there’s a football game, so we’re going to be slow.
And that’s kind of as far ahead as I looked, and then I got your email and I’m like, “Oh, no, election night, it’s Tuesday.” It had never crossed my mind. Honestly, every Friday and Saturday is like four times busier than any Tuesday or Wednesday. Even though it’s election night, I feel like we’re not going to see some Friday night worth of business. When they have the debates, things get real slow because people are glued to the TV. Everybody is going to be home. If they need anything, we’ll probably have some extra delivery. But we have a pretty good-size crew, we’ll have 10 people on kitchen. We’re ready. We’re always ready for whatever happens. We might have one more person on the clock to help get takeout orders ready. One extra person makes all the difference if you get a little pop. The restaurant business is strange in that it has some ups and downs that stay the same every year.
But in general we’re probably expecting a pretty normal Tuesday night. I think honestly, with the rise of all the delivery services, to people it used to be that pizza delivery was the way to go. But now, people get everything delivered.
Do you remember whether those orders on election night 2016 felt any different than any other Tuesday night orders?
I wasn’t even thinking too much about the restaurant. Last election, I ended up going to dinner with my mom and my sister, and then after dinner we went over to watch results at my mom’s house. I didn’t even work that night. We have a split family, my mom and sister on one side and me and my kids and my wife and her parents on the other side. We were watching the results at my mom’s house, and my mom is an older-generation news person. She was a Trump person, and so when we got back to her house and the results were coming in, we had to just leave early. I did not say a word from there. I remember the night very clearly, and the next day, because it was such a shock to my system.
Worrying about the restaurant was the least thing on my mind, because I was just horrified. I mean, it was just the most horrific feeling. I just couldn’t remember. I was like, “How am I going to have to live with this man, the president?”
Do you think you can tell the difference between different party orders?
Well, that’s funny. We have this thing called Gatornationals every year, and it’s basically like a NASCAR event. It’s not NASCAR, but a similar event with cars that are raced at high speeds. They have, like, rockets on the back. They’re really, really loud races, and the racetrack is really near our restaurant. And as you might imagine, the fans of those events tend to be big-time Trump supporters. I live in a very liberal town. It’s a college town, very progressive. And so it’s really odd on those weeks when the Gatornationals are in town and you see all the Trump supporters. They always order a big pepperoni, bacon, sausage, steak, ham. We definitely have to prep more meat on Gatornationals week.
What can customers do to be considerate on election night to places they might order delivery from?
We’re the kind of place where you used to go and it’s crowded and there’s the band playing. Now we have a lot more takeout customers, customers that are thinking about picking up more than they dine in. We get to over an hour wait time. You think when you get to 60 to 75 minutes wait time that people would just say, “Oh, forget that.” But at least with our restaurant, they don’t, they just say, “OK.” And the tickets just keep piling up. So I’m always appreciative of the fact that our customers, they know when they call on Friday night that they’re going to have to wait an hour.
It’s about being patient and kind, but people should do that all the time, not just on election night. We get anti-maskers coming into the restaurant and they’re just flaunting it. Our employees have to interact with so many people. So we’ll get these people coming in, they’re all pissed. They don’t have the mask, and we’ll tell [them] “I’m sorry, you have to leave. You have to wear a mask.” And then they come back and they’ll have on a Trump 2020 mask. Recently, someone came into the bar and they’re like, “Oh, what do you think now? How do you like it now?” And the bartender’s like, “Great, you have a mask on. That’s all I care about.” They want to start a fight because they don’t want to wear a mask and then they want to wear a Trump mask and they want to fight.
As long as you’re wearing a mask, we don’t care what your mask is. We’re a business and we’re professional. Just as long as people are kind. Kindness goes a long way in this business.