Before I was an intrepid food writer and editor for The Takeout, I worked in print and TV media, and that meant that every other year for the past 10 years, I found myself stuck in a newsroom closely monitoring election returns. It’s a tedious task, one that lasts all night; we would monitor various wire services, get reactions from local wonks, and watch the results roll in on major networks. But it was all worth it, not just because we got to be the record keepers of American history, but also because of a time honored tradition: Election Night Newsroom Pizza.
In past years, this tradition has led to an uptick in sales for certain restaurants. Just before the 2020 election, NBC News wrote, “Election night is to pizza parlors what Valentine’s Day is to florists.”
In 2016, a spokesperson for Pizza Hut told NBC News, “We anticipate it to be the busiest Tuesday we’ve had in quite a long time and one of our busiest days of the year,” while Domino’s commented, “We know that it’s not just busy newsrooms ordering pizza on election night, though they do submit some pretty impressive orders.”
While the midterm elections aren’t quite the boon for these pizzerias that presidential election years are in terms of civilians at home ordering up pies, it’s still a tradition upheld in newsrooms across the country.
Journalists share their Election Night Pizza memories
When I asked journalists to share their thoughts about the institution of Election Night Pizza, the response was instant and enthusiastic.
“As a general fan of ceremony/tradition, I’m an election-night-pizza stan. Almost always tavern style,” Joe Coughlin of The Record North Shore told me. “Election nights are funny. You are working but it’s slow as hell until 10 and then it’s a sprint. I swear that room temp pizza gets you through the finish line.”
While it often ends up being a couple cheese and sausage pizzas, it’s always a treat to indulge in more exciting options.
“My favorite experience was at the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner, when the neighboring pizza shop (run by a family from India) had a secret menu where you could order chicken curry pizza,” said James Brooks of The Alaska Beacon. “So we ordered that, walked it across the frozen parking lot (it being November in Fairbanks) and waited for results.”
On the rare occasions that pizza isn’t available, there are still culinary silver linings to be found. San Francisco–based freelancer Jennifer Stavros missed out on a pie when she covered a recent election, but it sounds like she landed on a possibly better alternative.
“In true SF style I did, however, end up getting dumplings & cannabis before skating in the park dressed like Rosie the Riveter,” she tweeted. “It wasn’t terrible.”
Not all journalists get to eat Election Night Pizza
It is important to note that, depending on your assignment, you may not have access to the newsroom pizza. If you see a hungry journalist out and about tonight, offer them a snack if you can.
“The reporters who are actually in the field and covering the races don’t get any of that pizza,” a Chicago reporter who asked to remain anonymous tells me. “Historically I’ve forgotten to bring food aside from a Clif Bar and a bottle of ginger ale. I had McDonald’s for dinner in the west suburbs during the 2018 election.”
But whenever possible, it’s important to hold up the pizza tradition.
“Election Day pizza has been a staple in my life for 8 years,” tweeted Susan Gonzales of Chalkbeat. “I didn’t eat it one year. We had Greek in the newsroom instead. It was 2016. So I kinda refuse to eat anything else now. Superstitious? Yes. But the potential price of NOT eating it seems so high!”
Join journalists this year in doing your civic duty: vote first, then chow down on some ’za. The stakes are too high not to.