All eyes are on Miami this weekend as Super Bowl LIV invades the city. More than 150,000 visitors are expected to attend festivities surrounding the game, giving the city a boost in the number of dollars spent on hotel rooms, food, beverages, car rentals, and shops.
A small restaurant could hit its numbers for a month if it's in one of the many tourist areas that span the Florida Keys to the Palm Beaches. But one Miami Beach small-business owner hopes the Super Bowl might provide long-term opportunities.
Stephanie Vitori and her Cheeseburger Baby team will serve 3,000 burgers at this weekend's VIP Tailgate Tropicale, an elite invitation-only pregame gathering held on the grounds of Hard Rock Stadium. The event, which will include former NFL greats, celebrities, sponsors, and players' families, is tougher to get into than the Super Bowl. To attend this shindig, where Pitbull and country-crossover duo Dan + Shay will perform, you need an invite from the NFL commissioner's office.
Vitori learned about the event's exclusivity this week. "It's so intense. We did the walkthrough on Wednesday and were told that the attendees are the 'VIPs of the VIPs'. It's pretty much the NFL commissioner's 11,000 best friends. When I heard that, my stomach just dropped." Though Vitori is no stranger to celebrity sightings — her small South Beach burger joint has fed the likes of Anthony Bourdain, Beyoncé, Jay-Z, and Dwyane Wade — being part of an event like this can take her business to the next level. "This party really is measureless. Thousands of people will eat our burgers. If someone really likes us, who knows what might happen? All of these people stand on such a high platform versus us, a small business. All we have is our work and dedication."
Cheeseburger Baby is one of about 35 Miami businesses chosen to serve at the event. Each establishment was required to undergo a rigorous vetting process that included agreeing to background checks, submitting requests for proposals, and joining local chambers of commerce. For Vitori, the two-year process culminated in a tasting for the event's planning committee. "It was intense. I was a week out of back surgery when I had to do the tasting. I just went for it, knowing this was what I had worked for."
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The work paid off, and this past November, Vitori was notified she had a spot at the tailgate. That's when the work began.
To serve the required 3,000 burgers at the event, she had to hire and train additional staff and rent a refrigerated truck. "I had to hire more people because pushing out that amount of burgers within such a small time frame requires a perfectly working assembly line. It's a process. It seems like something so small — little cheeseburgers — but it's not."
Vitori and her ten-person team will arrive at the stadium Sunday by 3 a.m. to secure credentials and set up. She'll serve her Cheeseburger Baby baby burger — a three-ounce ground chuck patty topped with American cheese and a pickle-chip garnish on a freshly baked kosher egg roll. "We're keeping it classic," Vitori says.
Cheeseburger Baby's owner says her journey to the Super Bowl proves she has the drive to take her burgers to the next level. "Cheeseburger Baby is ready to be introduced to the rest of the country. We're on the map as a Miami Beach staple, but we deserve to be bigger than what we are. I want everyone to have a Cheeseburger Baby in their neighborhood."