How Pizza to the Polls scaled operations for a record 2020 election turnout

Jamie Cuffe
Jamie Cuffe
Product @ Retool

Jan 12, 2021

In the recent 2020 election, over 160 million Americans voted. And over voting days, over 66,000 pizzas were delivered to polling places. But what do voter turnout and pizza delivery have in common? For Pizza to the Polls, they have everything in common. And with the country’s highest voter turnout since 1900 in 2020’s presidential election, Pizza to the Polls made a lot of people’s voting experience far more memorable.

Pizza to the Polls is a nonpartisan, nonprofit initiative founded in 2016 with a simple mission: deliver food to crowded polling locations. Behind the organization are many volunteers and a lean team who manages their efforts. Noah Manger, Pizza to the Polls’ co-founder, started the nonprofit in 2016 when he and his team noticed lines at the polls getting longer and longer—and wanted to do something to make it a more fun—and filling—experience for voters.

Noah is a Product Manager (PM) by day and hacker by night, and he wears many hats from building technology to running programs for the organization when he’s not doing his day job. Part of his role overseeing Pizza to the Polls was managing the backend system he calls ‘insane.’ It combined Google Sheets, Slack, and Zapier under the hood to tie all systems together. And while this hacked together solution got what they needed done, Noah and the team knew things eventually needed to change.

Looking for control, confidence, and scalability

In anticipation of even greater voter turnout this year (2020), Pizza to the Polls needed a more scalable solution to bring pizza to the polls again—they could no longer rely on the patchwork system that got pizza to voters in 2016.

“We needed more control and confidence in our ability to scale. After all, there were a ton of optimizations we could make to how we take in data from the public and process it,” Noah says.

So they decided to set up their own database and Googled away to create an interactive frontend. Retool was the first search result and Noah had heard good things. He got to work trying the tool.

“I signed up and quickly discovered that once our database was connected, we’d have all the views we needed. Since then, I have yet to discover something I can’t build with Retool,” Noah explains.

Using Retool as a frontend

Today, Pizza to the Polls uses Retool as a frontend for their database and for overseeing most requests and pizza delivery data. For example, when they receive an order from someone requesting pizza at a busy polling place, they navigate from their ticketing system to their main Retool app. There, they can see the location ID, all information about the polling place, open reports (requests for pizza), past orders, and get quick delivery options for pizza spots nearby.

Pizza to the Poll’s Retool app

The main Retool app that Pizza to the Polls now uses is a detailed view of polling locations. In the app, they can see every detail about a single polling place, including past orders, reports, current orders, and even local pizza and donut options nearby.

They use buttons to make actions like copying an address automatic, and a ‘Location notes’ section to share comments, like “This is a great pizza option for this location, fast delivery.” Perhaps the best part of it all? The UI for all of this information took Noah and his team just half an hour to create.

Quick delivery—of tools and pizza

“With Retool, we were able to establish a direct database connection quickly and easily,” Noah says. Because the UI is so easy to navigate, they are able to process requests for information efficiently. When Noah gets asked, for example, how many pizzas were delivered per state at a certain time, he can run a quick SQL query and produce a link to share with his team.

“I’m able to put together useful pages, like a map view of pizzas delivered for my social media and PR team, with a few clicks,” he says.

With this year’s record voter turnout, Pizza to the Polls had an even greater impact than in 2016 and they did it with the power of Retool. They raised over $1.4 million to send 66,089 pizzas to 3,267 polling places in 48 states—blowing their 2016 and 2018 numbers out of the water. And they don’t plan on stopping there. Pizza to the Polls plans on continuing to improve their use of Retool with new ideas so they can be better prepared to bring pizza—and joy—to more polls in future elections.

“With Retool, every time we’re inspired with a new idea, or want to make a fix to an existing solution, we’re able to execute,” Noah explains. “That power helps us have even more impact on the voting experience and ultimately deliver more pizzas.”


Jamie Cuffe
Jamie Cuffe
Product @ Retool
Jan 12, 2021