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Hard Rock Stadium Turns Up The Volume For Miami Open Concessions

Executive Chef Dayanny De La Cruz compiled a new menu and brought in Miami hot spots for a concessions strategy that could pay dividends beyond one event.

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Hard Rock Stadium Executive Chef Dayanny De La Cruz is going all out for the Miami Open. So much of her year is spent preparing food on an afternoon-by-afternoon basis for events like NFL games or concerts. But the two-week tennis tournament, which begins Monday, offers plenty of canvas for culinary exploration.

“It’s extremely exciting,” De La Cruz said. “One of the things about the Miami Open is it’s a new view at this stadium. It’s a different beast, with different demographics, and it’s stretched out a lot.”

With a spread-out crowd and plenty of long days, De La Cruz said it was important to foster a neighborhood atmosphere of a culinary compound with plenty of options for the fans.

“You have to think more diverse meals,” she said. “You have to have variety. The fans are here for 12 hours. We’ve made it sort of interactive to keep it interesting.”

READ MORE: Executives Outline Predictions for Arena and Stadium Concessions in 2019

“Interesting” has never been a problem for De La Cruz, who has prioritized making the venue’s concessions program more diverse to coincide with the growing trends in venue concession options. For the Miami Open, De La Cruz spent two months working diligently to craft a new menu with items ranging from a watermelon and tomatillo salad to the mojo pork belly masitas to one of her favorites, the Cubano sausage. Then she brought in a bevy of Miami restaurants to complement it, including SuViche, Novecento, Casa Tua Cucina, Bourbon Steak by Michael Mina and Kiki on the River.

From start to finish, the Hard Rock Stadium culinary crew worked on the tennis tournament plans alongside other everyday responsibilities, something De La Cruz characterized as a point of pride for how unusual it was.

“If you look at every other tennis property in the country, even the world, tennis facilities do the tournament and close,” she said. “I’ve very proud we continued with our catering and other events all while prepping for tennis.”

Food service company Centerplate also worked hand-in-hand with De La Cruz to ensure she has everything she needed and help bring a fresh new look to concessions to the Miami Open.

“Hard Rock Stadium is going to be a fantastic new home for the Miami Open, and we are thrilled to play our part,” Centerplate CEO Chris Verros said. “We have worked hard alongside our venue partners and IMG to create a memorable food and beverage experience – with an authentic South Florida feel – that will leave fans wanting to come back again and again.”

The food options at the Miami Open are meant to help entice tennis fans to return next year, but De La Cruz is confident the approach will also begin to make its way into other staple events at Hard Rock Stadium. She’s already treating this menu as something of a test kitchen for next year’s NFL season, as well as Super Bowl LIV in 2020.

READ MORE: Minor League Baseball Showcasing Deeper Partnership Connections With Hot Dogs

Part of that was knowing when to stick to old favorites. Plenty of Miami Dolphins season ticket holders also optioned into a tennis ticket membership, so De La Cruz made sure some of the hits from the stadium’s food selection are still available, such as the hand-pulled, 24-hour-smoked Everglades BBQ line. And, of course, there’s always hot dogs, which at Hard Rock Stadium are all beef and served on fresh-baked buns delivered each morning.

“Times are changing and this generation coming to the stadium is seeking a higher value,” she said. “If we can offer the variety they want, you don’t have to spend the money elsewhere. We’re offering what you’re looking for outside inside.

“We still have all the standards, hot dogs and popcorn, but we’ve merged the best of both worlds.”

Pat Evans is a writer based in Las Vegas, focusing on sports business, food, and beverage. He graduated from Michigan State University in 2012. He's written two books: Grand Rapids Beer and Nevada Beer. Evans can be reached at pat@frntofficesport.com.

Concessions

Minnesota Cracks Open a Can of New Revenue

The University of Minnesota is planning to expand its beer and wine sales beyond the confines of TCF Bank Stadium to boost revenue.

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*This piece first appeared in the Front Office Sports Newsletter. Subscribe today and get the news before anyone else. 

Seeking the opportunity to drive more revenue and interest in events, the University of Minnesota is planning to expand its beer and wine sales beyond the confines of TCF Bank Stadium.

According to Rochelle Olson of the Star Tribune, the university is planning to open up beer and wine sales to those sitting in general admission seats at Williams and Mariucci arenas.

What do you need to know?

1. The school has been selling beer and wine at TCF Bank Stadium since 2012.

2. Since then, the university has seen an average of $1.3 million in annual revenue from the sale of beer and wine at the stadium.

3. The school expects that this move will bring in $250,000 in annual revenue at both arenas.

4. Before this move, beer and wine sales at the arenas was confined to premium seating areas.

Minnesota isn’t the only one…

Minnesota isn’t the only university recently to turn to beer and wine to help pad the bottom line. In fact, for the first time ever this year, the NCAA decided to allow the sale of beer and wine at the Final Four.

Here’s a quick look at some of the more recent news surrounding the greater trend of beer and wine sales at college sporting events.

1. College World Series to Sell Beer and Wine – In 2016, the NCAA announced that they would allow the sale of beer and wine at the CWS as part of a pilot program to decide on whether or not they would move forward with more championship events.

2. NCAA Approves the Sale of Beer and Wine at Championships – Just over a year ago, the NCAA Division I Council voted to allow the sale of adult beverages at all of its championship events. Since then, beer and wine sales have been permitted at the Football Championship Subdivision’s championship game, all three wrestling divisions, the men’s lacrosse championships, men’s ice hockey and women’s volleyball championships.

3. Illinois Jumps on the Train – Earlier this month, the University of Illinois announced that it too would begin selling beer during athletic events at Memorial Stadium and State Farm Center beginning this fall.

4. A Growing Trend – According to multiple reports, more than 50 of the 129 D1 FBS programs now allow in-stadium beer and wine sales.

Competition plays a factor too…

With all of the major professional sports teams within a 50-mile radius of the campus of the University of Minnesota, revenue isn’t the only goal.

In order to draw attention from fans and keep them engaged when there is a plethora of other options, beer and wine sales put the venues on an even playing field when it comes to that variable, at least according to one Regent.

“We have to be competitive with other venues.” – Regent Michael Hsu to Olson when talking about the other motives behind the decision to open up sales to a broader group of ticketholders.

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Minnesota United Keeps Concessions in The Neighborhood at Allianz Field

Chefs Justin Sutherland and Bill Van Stee have worked diligently the past three months to curate a hyper-local food and beverage program at Allianz Field.

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Allianz Field hosts its first-ever Minnesota United home match on Saturday, and the new stadium is inviting the whole neighborhood to celebrate.

That goes for many of its workers and the fans in the stands, but also the food they’ll be eating and beverages they’ll drink. The club tapped St. Paul chefs Justin Sutherland and Bill Van Stee to create a concessions program reflective of the stadium’s community plus a pinch of the sport’s global roots. Sutherland is a St. Paul restaurateur and former Top Chef contestant. Van Stee, meanwhile, is executive chef at Delaware North who spent the last 10 years heading up the concessions program at the Twins’ Target Field.

Together, the pair has worked for more than three months to curate the food and beverage program at Allianz Field.

READ MORE: Hard Rock Stadium Turns Up The Volume For Miami Open Concessions

“Soccer is a very international and diverse sport and the neighborhood the stadium was dropped into is very diverse,” Sutherland. “We wanted to tell the story of Minnesota and make sure it is being inclusive of cuisines of the sport and neighborhood. We wanted to make sure we included the St. Paul staples, the mom and pop shops, and be more than hot dogs and pretzels.”

Those old standbys will still be available in-stadium but the two chefs also made sure to reach out to local food partners to bring in more than a dozen restaurants that feature everything from Indian and Greek to soul food.

“We want to offer them the opportunity to showcase their brands inside the stadium,” said Sutherland. “We asked what kind of cuisines are in our backyard and sought out partners so our fans can have a surprise they didn’t expect to see when they walked in.”

The diversification of concessions options has been a trend going for several years and continues to intensify with local options across the nation. Now, teams and venues are increasingly turning to the “hyper-local” options like at Allianz Field, Aramark Sports and Entertainment President Carl Mittleman told Front Office Sports in January. Aramark doesn’t handle the food service at Allianz Field, but does at U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis.

“Local doesn’t cut it anymore — hyper- and flexible- local are becoming more and more popular,” Mittleman said. “Guests are looking for menus representing the community, culture, and flavors that surround them.”

The options at Minnesota United games will also come as a relief to fans, according to a recent study released by Phononic, which found 73 percent of Americans want a wider selection of food at recreational venues.

Now that the menu is in place, Van Stee says the greatest challenge comes in actually serving it. The structure of a soccer game offers one 20-minute halftime break in which fans can safely hit the concessions stand knowing they won’t miss any game action. That creates one flood of activity that other sports have the luxury of navigating over hours.

Sutherland, who has eight restaurants of his own, related the quick service in the stadium to being a “20,000-seat restaurant.”

To combat this, Allianz Field has aggressively staffed with local employees and implemented systems Delaware North has developed during its years of providing venue’s food service. It also has installed high-speed, quick-service kiosks throughout the concourse as well as plenty of point-of-services at concession counters.

“We want to push people through as fast as possible with those time windows,” Van Stee said. “We have that 20-minute intermission to get fans through fast and get them back to their seats. That was really important to both Delaware and the team.”

The beverage program was also important to the soccer club, which placed a focus on bringing in a variety of Minnesota craft beers such as Surly Brewing, Summit Brewing and Lift Bridge.

MORE READ: Executives Outline Predictions for Arena and Stadium Concessions in 2019

“We have a lot of great options for this craft brew age we’re in,” Sutherland said. “The beer varieties will vary from stand to stand, but it’s not just one special beer at a tiny location.”

The fruits of their labor are finally available on Saturday, but Van Stee and Sutherland know the real work is only beginning. They understand it’s their job to feed every fan in the stadium and not all fans have the same wants and desires from their concessions. More than that, those needs will change over time.

“We strive for the variety we know the community has,” Van Stee said. “That’s our vision as we grow into this space. We’ll continue to expand on that.”

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Cleveland Cavaliers and Aramark Launch In-Seat Ordering

The pilot program provides fans access to in-seat beer and water ordering prior to a possible scale-up next season at Quicken Loans Arena.

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Photo Credit: Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

In the not-too-distant future, fans might never have to miss another key live sports moment to grab another beer or snag a second hot dog. At least that’s the plan for the Cleveland Cavaliers and Aramark, who launched mobile ordering at Quicken Loans Arena this month through Apple Business Chat.

Fans in the lower bowl at Quicken Loans can scan a QR code on seat backs and follow message prompts to order beer or water before completing the transaction with Apple Pay. From there, all they have to do is stay in their seat and wait for delivery.

“We’re continually searching for innovative ways to incorporate digital technology into the food and beverage experience,” said Kevin Kearney, district manager of Aramark’s sports & entertainment division. “The integration of Apple Business Chat with the ordering process is not only fan-friendly and easily accessible, it’s reflective of fans’ changing expectations and behaviors, and we’re looking forward to Cavs and Monsters fans giving it a try.”

READ MORE: Executives Outline Predictions for Arena and Stadium Concessions in 2019

Aramark conducted a proof of concept last season with the Philadelphia Phillies, but the 1,728 seats tested in that run is a far cry from the 7,250 the Cavs are piloting through the end of the NBA and American Hockey League’s Cleveland Monsters seasons. Cavs Senior Vice President and Chief Information Officer Mike Conley said the team would probably scale up one more time before the end of the season.

“We wanted to test and understand where our fanbase was and get a feel for it,” Conley said. “We want to have the kinks ironed out before we roll out to the whole venue. We want to deliver on a need without investing too much capital, time or effort on something that isn’t widely adopted.

“It’s a crawl-walk-run with continuous feedback.”

Cavs Aramark Ordering

Assuming the pilot program at Quicken Loans Arena goes well, Aramark could roll it out across its portfolio of client venues in the near future. The Cavs also expect to do a large scale up next season following a massive $140 million renovation to the arena.

This mobile ordering pilot is not the first time the Cavs have tried experimented with the technology. Two seasons ago, they attempted the roll-out of a quick in-seat service of prepackaged snacks and beverages, only to find the arena wasn’t optimized for the service.

“Modern-day stadiums, the last five or 10 years, have accounted for this delivery concept,” Conley said. “Our venue, built in 1994, didn’t have the foresight that we would have this technology. Our kitchens weren’t prepared to handle the load and logistics to provide the service.”

Without quick adoption, the Cavs killed the beta experiment and have since cleaned up the logistical issues for this roll-out with Aramark. The mobile ordering is done through a virtual back-end and uses hawkers already in a seating area to deliver the beer or water.

READ MORE: Winnipeg Jets Put Customer Service in the Palms of Fans

Expect technology to remain a crucial piece of live sports experiments moving forward, said Don White, the CEO of Satisfi Labs, which focuses on digital customer service at live events. He believes services like the mobile ordering at Quicken Loans Arena could eventually spill over from concessions into merchandise, ticketing and parking.

“This is a great movement to get customers on their mobile devices providing a real value-added service,” White said. “This move has gotten everyone’s attention and now there’s a huge demand of ‘what else can we do and give fans right away?’”

The search for answers will remain essential so long as television broadcasts, augmented reality and virtual reality experiences lag behind the live-event experience. For the time being, the best solution may only be found in one arena in the country. But at least fans in Cleveland won’t have to miss a basket or a goal to quench their thirst.

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