SBJ/Sept. 16-22, 2013/Facilities

IMS weighs outsourcing food, merch

Indianapolis Motor Speedway is moving toward outsourcing food and retail operations at the historic facility, which for general concessions would be the first time in the track’s 104-year history.

Photo by: IMS PHOTO
The track may still keep food concessions in-house and officials plan to make a final decision over the next month after receiving proposals this week from big league concessionaires, said Doug Boles, the speedway’s president.
The speedway issued a proposal in mid-August for food service. Responses are due today.

“We had a group of potential vendors come in during the Indy 500 so they could understand
Retail sales include a museum store (top), while the food account services multiple stands across the sprawling speedway.
Photo by: CHRIS JONES / IMS
the enormity of the operation,” Boles said. “It’s such a big place — for those who haven’t been here, it takes a unique approach. It’s not like a football game.”

The choice for the merchandise contract is down to Legends Hospitality and hometown firm MainGate, after the track issued a separate retail proposal, sources familiar with the process said. Both vendors run retail at NFL stadiums.

The speedway’s merchandise business is substantial, generating in the high seven figures in annual revenue, sources said. That number includes sales at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Hall of Fame Museum.

The retail deal also covers the IndyCar Series, owned by Hulman & Co., the owner of Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Lids, a retailer best known for its sports cap stores in malls and airports, now handles retail for those events nationally.

The speedway’s food service produces about $3.5 million a year from about a dozen events booked at the track, including the Indy 500, sources said.

Speedway officials are exploring all options for boosting those numbers after the organization went through a restructuring process starting with the naming of Mark Miles as CEO of Hulman & Co. in December.

In July, Boles, the track’s former chief operating officer, was promoted to president. Both men are responsible for turning business around at the facility, which has struggled with attendance issues tied to the Red Bull Indianapolis GP race and NASCAR’s Brickyard 400.

As part of those efforts, the track has more than $90 million to invest for renovations after receiving a $100 million loan from the state of Indiana, Boles said. A big focus is installing tech upgrades with point-of-sales systems for food and retail.

The speedway’s premium dining operation also could be taken over by an outside firm, Boles said. Each of the track’s 125 suites, party rooms and corporate hospitality tents is served by one of three local caterers, depending on customer preference.

All of those pieces of the food operation are part of the proposal, which includes a request for capital investment on the part of the concessionaire to help pay for track improvements, he said.

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