SBJ/May 7-13, 2012/Opinion

Future of concessions; presidents making news

Members of the Aramark Sports & Entertainment team, including President Marc Bruno and Michael Thompson, senior vice president of strategic client relationships, stopped by our offices in Charlotte last week to meet with our editorial team and discuss some of the trends they are seeing in the business. If you know both men, then you know that they are passionate about food — two of the top foodies in the business. New technology has been a game-changer for the concession business, including real-time ordering like through Aramark’s test with MLB At Bat. While Bruno said the adoption rate of these new ordering/service technologies has been low, the concept does keep him up at night. “Two years ago, I was concerned that 25,000 people would all order at the same time and we wouldn’t be able to serve them,” he said. “But that hasn’t happened. People don’t want to just sit during a game. They want to walk around. Maybe in a decade you could see a significant amount of food being ordered from a device and delivered to fans. We could see 1,000 food runners instead of 1,000 concession workers.” Among the latest trends, Bruno said at the concession level, Aramark is seeing fans gravitate toward comfort food. “Do it simple, with great ingredients, and make it authentic,” he said. A trend at the premium level is progressive service in the suites. Instead of having guests arrive with all their food and beverage laid out for the evening, one sees a more sequenced experience with appetizers, entrées and desserts rolled out over an evening — allowing fans to graze, he said.

Team presidents in the news: Kudos to Miami Marlins President David Samson, who on April 27 ran 52.4-miles — all in one day. He has raised $600,000 for charity in the run (see story). … I caught up briefly with Arizona Cardinals President Michael Bidwill after reading about his meeting with former Soviet Union President Mikhail Gorbachev. Bidwill piloted Gorbachev to New York aboard his Citation jet after the former Russian leader gave a speech at the Arizona Biltmore Resort & Spa. “It was an honor to meet him,” Bidwill said, “and I thanked him on behalf of my generation of Americans who appreciate everything he did for world peace.” Bidwill chuckled a bit when talking about communicating with Gorbachev. “We exchanged some words,” he said. “Some of his words were in Russian, and then he said, ‘yes, yes’ with his translator there. At the airport, as I presented him with his Cardinals shirt, we joked around with it. I found his manner to be very warm and gregarious. There was a lot of non-verbal communication, with hand gestures. I found him very warm and genuine. It really was a true honor.”

Abraham D. Madkour can be reached at

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