Food for Thoughtful Experiences

Food and beverage is paramount to the live event experience. However, novelty and personalization extend past the plate itself, says Kristine Holtz, CEO of Spring USA. Thoughtful touches that create that “wow” factor including, fixtures, furnishings, and equipment. For example, colored chafers or heat lamps that match décor or team colors have enhanced recent openings.

Functional furniture and carts are designed to create unique experiences and take premium to a new level. “Think blended ice cream on demand or traveling bar carts,” Holtz suggests. Functional furniture such as hidden induction tables, mobile action carts, and hidden frost tops also add to the experience and better utilize space, while increasing not only creative F&B options and fan experience, but also potential revenues. 

For the Atlanta Braves, who play in six-year-old Truist Park, F&B was also paramount in renewing a commitment to ensure a best-in-class gameday experience. A full renovation of the Delta SKY360o Club this offseason left no stone unturned.

BJ Mitchell, Director, Premium Partnerships for the Braves explains increasing square footage and enhancing the F&B experience resolved two primary areas of partner feedback. Specifically, part of the renovations will include knocking down walls to add roughly 7,000 square feet of usable space. The F&B experience will move away from the traditional buffet for more spread-out action stations with freshly prepared grab-and-go plates. The bar will be relocated and offer a rotating menu of signature cocktails in addition to complimentary beer and wine. Back of house operations will increase kitchen space and trash operations.

The Calgary Stampede created ranahans in 2001 as its exclusive members-only dining club for premium guests. Celebrating its 20th anniversary year in 2021 became a daunting task after the unfortunate closure due to Covid-19 in 2020, since the entire concept of the venue was based on action stations and self-service, then disallowed by local health authorities. Since all food is included in the ticket price, it was imperative the value for clients and their guests was maintained, despite the restrictions. The culinary team in cooperation with the front-ofhouse teams re-imagined the service style into a fully-plated experience despite a zero-dollar budget available for physical enhancements, equipment, or additional staff. Clients were thrilled with the new experiences and food and labor costs were reduced from previous years, an unexpected and fortunate serendipity of the pandemic, Ken Knight explained.

Each year in ranahans, a team of sommeliers selects 10 remarkable wines to be represented each day through the exclusive Winemaker Series. While normally the wine executives from around the world are on-hand to share their wine, expertise and enthusiasm with the guests, travel restrictions in 2021 precluded their physical presence so Knight’sstaff adapted and captured these tasting notes and special messages in virtual videos from celebrity winemakers. Guests were invited to view the videos through the menu QR code.

This season, the Sodexo team at Texas Christian University rebranded its premium spaces, “AGC Table”, a nod to Amon G. Carter which stands for “Always in Good Company” because TCU Athletics’ brings alive the spiritof togetherness around each table. AGC Table provides a level of service, augmented by fresh locally inspired, chef-driven menus, enhanced ordering capabilities and more, an invitation to a uniquely personalized experience.

“In preparation for a return to fully capacity at Amon G. Carter Stadium, TCU Athletics felt it was critical we brand our concession offering that show our commitment to providing a world-class fan experience,” said Michael Levy, Associate Vice Chancellor and Associate Athletics Director for Development and Frog Club. “AGC Table embody our thoughtful approach in crafting our weekly menus and our dedication to superior customer service.”

Sodexo at TCU made a promise to fans to not save “big ideas” for the “Big Games”. Instead, the team approaches every game as another exciting culinary adventure on a season long journey. At every home game inspiration stems from classic Texas cuisine, which is reimagined for fans to give them a one-of-a-kind experience they can’t get at any other restaurant or sporting event. 

“Whether we are serving local Texas Blood Orange Cider Brined Turkey, Grilled Venison Sausage with Huckleberry Ketchup, Achiote rubbed Chicken with Pineapple Guajillo BBQ Sauce, or our famous Whole Smoked Bacon wrapped Alligator, we always strive to ensure our culinary offer is unique to TCU Stadium and exclusive to our Horned Frog fans,” the F&B aficionados told ALSD. 

They didn’t stop there. Their team is filled with cooks and chefs of various backgrounds, as they wanted to bring that to fans as well. During Hispanic Heritage Month, an inspired menu was created to show case various popular dishes from chefs’ homes; Mexican Eggs Benedict, Modelo Braised Short Rib Tacos, Cilantro Lime Quail, Fruit Cups with Chamoy and Tajin, Churros, and a variety of popular pastries. 

The experience does not stop with internal commitment to the culinary journey. They have partnered with local chefs, restaurants, and bakers to showcase flavors of the Fort Worth community. Although this helps with the diversification of flavors, it also helps local businesses gain exposure during these trying times in the food service industry.

More than ever, fans are looking for variety throughout the season and customization of their orders to their specific needs. The team at TCU is satisfying these expectations by not only offering special suites menus that their chefs customize for each game, but also by allowing each suite holder and club member to request special items that are not available on our regular menus. Whether it’s for dietary reasons or just taste preferences, each request is addressed individually, every effort made to accommodate valued fans.

“It doesn’t matter how creative we get or how well we cook, what matters is how we make our guests feel. And we always strive to make sure each and every guest in our premium spaces feels valued and appreciated,” believes the Sodexo team.

Planning for the 2022 season, Sodexo and Frog Club in TCU Athletics are working closely to expand on the experience delivered in the 2021 season. They have customized a survey to not only understand the ticket holders’ desires but how they can improve for the next year. Their culinary team have begun to research into the latest food trends, new flavors, and continue to expand on the local businesses and chefs we may be able to partner with. The game day experience will continue to mold to the Horned Frog fans.