SBJ/January 21-27, 2013/Facilities

Legends-Jamie Oliver joint venture signs deal with Man City

Don Muret
Legends Hospitality Management recently signed its first food account overseas with Manchester City Football Club after forming a joint venture with celebrity chef Jamie Oliver’s Fabulous Feasts. The name of their new company is Fabulous Fan Fare.

The agreement gives Fabulous Fan Fare the concessions and premium dining deal at Etihad Stadium, the 47,805-seat home of Manchester City, the Premier League’s defending champion. It’s the first stadium account for Fabulous Feasts, which specializes in special-event catering.

Legends, co-owned by the Dallas Cowboys and New York Yankees, had been pursuing the Manchester City business for the past year after responding on its own to a request for qualifications, said Legends President Dan Smith. Forming a joint venture was not a requirement and Legends knew it could do the job alone, said Michael Bekolay, Legends’ vice president of operations in Dallas.

Photo by: LEGENDS HOSPITALITY MANAGEMENT
But Legends officials recognized that finding a local partner that understood the culture and stood for quality would improve their chances of winning the business.

Their competitors for the Man City deal included Compass Group, the largest food-service company in the world, and Delaware North Cos., food provider at Wembley Stadium among other sports facilities overseas. Both firms have an established footprint in Europe.

“It seemed logical … that we would be much
British chef Jamie Oliver offered a cultural link that helped the Legends joint venture land the Etihad Stadium account.
Photo by: GETTY IMAGES
more effective and quite frankly there would be a lot more buy-in from the local community if we had a local partnership,” Bekolay said.

Legends compiled a short list of potential partners, including Jamie Oliver’s company, and Bekolay fired off an email to Fabulous Feasts late one Thursday. Within 15 minutes, Bekolay got a response. After a Friday morning discussion, Oliver’s business partner Nigel Harris flew to New York the following Monday and met with Legends officials, including Chairman and CEO Dave Checketts. Both companies quickly realized they had a shared vision for serving the public, and Fabulous Feasts had an “appetite to expand into the sports business,” Bekolay said.

Man City announced Jan. 10 that the joint venture had won the deal.

Fabulous Feasts officials did not respond to an email for comment.

The partnership paid an early dividend when Legends was struggling over how to respond to a written note about the “three P’s” in a second proposal issued by Man City. The phrase stands for “pee, pint and pie,” referring to the halftime rush by fans to the restrooms and concession stands. Legends officials were unsure whether they should specifically address those references until Fabulous Feasts assured them by responding in kind it would not hurt their chances of winning the deal.

“You can imagine in the U.S. if you went into a formal presentation with a client and referred to the three P’s,” Bekolay said. “It probably wouldn’t be received as well. [In Europe] not only do you have to understand the culture but embrace it.”

> BEEPING SOUND: The NFL is using radio-frequency identification technology for field workers at next month’s Super Bowl. Their badges contain a computer chip that when scanned by a reader at event level confirms whether they were approved for field access.

Last year, RFID was used at the Super Bowl media center, said Jerry Anderson, a senior principal with Populous and the league’s chief consultant for its championship game. “It wouldn’t surprise me to see it implemented in the future for regular-season games,” he said.

> AECOM ADDITION: Michael Laviano has joined AECOM as a senior design architect in San Francisco, where he is working on the Golden State Warriors’ arena project.

Laviano worked at Populous in London, where he played a key role in developing the master plan for the 2012 London Olympics and helped design Riverbank Arena, the temporary venue with the blue field that played host to Olympic field hockey.

Don Muret can be reached at dmuret@sportsbusinessjournal.com. Follow him on Twitter @breakground.

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