Early results strong for low-price menu
Chef Joe Schafer is seeking the perfect recipe as he leads concessionaire Levy’s efforts at State Farm Arena, taking a new low-price menu designed to increase sales volume and weighing it against his own restaurant-quality expectations.
“We are concerned with speed of service, order fulfillment, engineering stands. We’re cooking in the moment but getting it to them quickly,” said Schafer, who joined Levy at the arena last year after being an executive chef at Bacchanalia, a Forbes Travel Guide four-star restaurant in Atlanta.
State Farm Arena is following in the footsteps of its next-door neighbor, Mercedes-Benz Stadium, in offering lower-priced concessions such as $5 beers, $4 pizza slices and refillable sodas, $3 hot dogs and $2 bottles of water. It’s the first NBA arena to follow the value pricing path that’s garnering attention across sports. “It’s a complete 180 from what we used to have,” Schafer said.
The lower pricing got off to a strong start at the Oct. 24 opening night Hawks game, with Levy reporting a 78 percent jump in total food items sold compared to opening night last season.
Schafer expects to sell twice as many pizzas a night compared to last year thanks to the value pricing. “We’ve got to make 3,000 pizzas to get ready for a two-game week.” Schafer and his Levy team are making pizza dough on-site. He eventually wants to make tortillas on-site for tacos.
Levy has 71 percent more points-of-sale this year than before the rebuild. Self-service soda stations help move lines along by allowing food and beverage workers to focus on new orders and not refills. Levy has approximately 600 workers on game nights including 120 cooks and chefs, Schafer said.
Hawks COO Thad Sheely likes the focus of on-site food prep throughout the arena, including premium areas. “It’s truism that the farther food has to travel the worse it tastes,” he said.
Levy plans to bring in a rotating slate of local chefs for premium areas. And Schafer offers them this advice given the volume: Keep it simple.
“You don’t need to dumb down anything, but simplify your menus,” he said.