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Volume 22 No. 15

Power Players

Photo: Centerplate; Dennis McCoy / Sacramento Business Journal; Legends; Mercedes-Benz Stadium

It’s all about the experience.


More and more in sports, consumers are demanding new, interesting and quality experiences. That is especially true when it comes to today’s culinary, dining and food and beverage options.

The individuals highlighted in the following pages have demonstrated a vision to deliver across the entire range of fan experience, from creative menus and dining spaces, to ease of ordering and pickup, to local sourcing of ingredients. They are executives leading some of the largest food, beverage, hospitality and fan experience companies in the industry, consultants and designers offering a fresh perspective on the sports space, and some of the most gifted chefs and experts on cuisine.

The companies and individuals chosen by the SBJ staff represent a dynamic and increasingly influential sector of the sports business.

Stories by staff writers Mike Sunnucks and David Broughton





Delaware North

Legends Hospitality

Levy Restaurants

Professional Sports Caterers

Savor SMG



The Bigelow Companies

Bon Appetit Management Co.

The Connect Group

Cuisine Concepts

Food Service Matters

John Sergi & Associates


The Cordish Companies

DLR Group

Generator Studio







Richardson Design


S2O Consultants


Vito Buscemi

Carmen Callo

David Chang

Orazio LaManna

Danny Meyer

Michael Pappas

Joe Schafer

Scott Swiger

Michael Symon

O'Brien Tingling

Carl Mittleman, Danielle Lazor, Eric Foss and Marc Bruno
Photo: Aramark

Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer

Chief Operating Officer

President, Sports & Entertainment

Vice President, West Region and National Retail Operations, Sports and Entertainment Division

Led by Foss, Philadelphia-based Aramark counts more than 150 sports venues among its customers including Arrowhead Stadium, Citizens Bank Park, Fenway Park, Heinz Field and Soldier Field. Aramark’s sports division under Bruno and Mittleman has expanded its focus on food and beverage analytics and undertaken innovations including switching food stands over to bars as games progress and deploying more portable “beer bikes” at NFL stadiums. Lazor is responsible for Aramark’s concessions and retail design and development and oversees its regional operations in the West. She also has been a leader in the growth of grab-and-go food and drink stands at arenas and stadiums.

Photo: Jeff Zelevansky for Centerplate

Chief Operating Officer

Chief Financial Officer and Executive Vice President

Senior Vice President

President and Chief Executive Officer

Verros, Pangburn and Monavar have been at the forefront of meshing Centerplate’s concessions operations with French parent Sodexo after a $675 million acquisition in 2017. Along with Evans, they also have been working on innovations such as in-seat ordering in premium areas at Vancouver’s B.C. Place, expanding portable points of service and food and drink stations as well as self-checkouts at venues such as Broncos Stadium at Mile High and the KFC Yum! Center in Louisville, Ky. Centerplate also has expanded footprints outside arenas and stadiums for pregame events and fan festivals, such as in Winnipeg for the NHL playoffs. Hard Rock Stadium in Miami, which will start hosting the Miami Open tennis tournament, signed an extension with Centerplate to handle concessions through 2031. Under Verros, who has been CEO and president since 2014, Centerplate has introduced unique menu items that have grabbed attention, including toasted grasshoppers and a new doughnut stand at T-Mobile Park in Seattle.

Photo: delaware north

Co-Chief Executive Officer

Co-Chief Executive Officer

Chief Executive Officer, Delaware North’s Boston Holdings

Executive Vice President and Chief Development Officer

Delaware North’s top executives are all directly at the helm of some of the Buffalo-based company’s biggest food moves. Co-CEOs Jerry Jacobs Jr. and Lou Jacobs, along with President Carlos Bernal, have worked with the Green Bay Packers on the culinary direction of their Titletown development district as well as Ilitch Holdings on the District Detroit entertainment zone. Charlie Jacobs has led the food and beverage direction and offerings at The Hub on Causeway, a 1.5-million-square-foot mixed-use development next to the DNC-owned TD Garden in Boston. Sweeny leads data analytics efforts and technology innovations, highlighted by self-checkout kiosks at Comerica Park in Detroit that use color, shape, dimension and other visual features to learn and recognize objects. Delaware North has brought the kiosks to Lambeau Field with plans for even more venues.

Photo: Legends

President, Legends Hospitality Division

Regional Vice President-East

Regional Vice President-Central

Regional Vice President-West

Smith, who worked in high school as a vendor at Yankee Stadium, leads Legends’ concessions and hospitality division, which recently added Raymond James Stadium in Tampa to its client list. Lippman introduced diverse menus to Angel Stadium in Anaheim, including themed food items after Japanese star Shohei Ohtani joined the Angels, and partnered with local ethnic eateries and food truck operators at Banc of California Stadium in Los Angeles. At Yankee Stadium, Porteus opened new communal areas, a wine bar and grab-n-go spaces aimed at younger fans attending games for the social experiences. At AT&T Stadium, Nice delivers for myriad special and mega events with expansive and diverse food and beverage needs.

Photo: Alex Martinez Photography

CEO, E15

Chief Creative Officer

President and Chief Executive Officer

Executive Vice President Development

Lansing, known for his appetite for tastings at Levy’s sports and other venues, has grown the company’s culinary footprint in minor league baseball as the Chicago-based company leads the low-price, fan-friendly concessions movement at Mercedes-Benz Stadium and State Farm Arena in Atlanta. Faulkner heads Levy’s E15 analytics and technology arm, which has introduced a robotic kitchen assistant at Dodger Stadium and self-service, cashless kiosks at other venues. Faulkner says the automated assistant will be coming to more venues. Weber has championed the ideas of creating food stories and culinary experiences at specific venues, such as welcoming Chicago’s celebrity chefs at Wrigley Field and bringing Vegas flair to food and drink at T-Mobile Arena. Wineman is one of Levy’s top sales executives and helped foster its growth to approximately 200 sports and other venues including the Rose Bowl, Levi’s Stadium, Churchill Downs and Charlotte Motor Speedway.

Photo: spectra


Chief Operating Officer and Senior Vice President, Food Services and Hospitality

Senior Vice President, Western Division

Senior Vice President, Central Region

Wentzell and Schneider have led efforts to create a company Culinary Institute and Culinary Innovation Summit where Spectra chefs bring new ideas and recipes and share best practices. They also have expanded chef training programs and focused on promoting the culinary experiences and food at venues as being from teams and facilities rather than the concessions company. Philadelphia-based Spectra also has partnered with Drexel University’s Food Lab on recipe development including a proprietary blended burger recipe made up of 65 percent grass-fed beef and 35 percent mushrooms. Neary and Satenspiel oversee and manage many of Spectra’s 93 concessions accounts at sports venues including MLS stadiums in Chicago, San Jose, Orlando and Philadelphia, as well as the University of Central Florida, the University of Illinois and Villanova University.

Senior Vice President of Food and Beverage
Savor SMG; Premier Brands of America

Beard asserts that concessions operations at the more than two dozen minor league and college arenas that he oversees — such as BOK Center in Tulsa — use the “hotel-driven hospitality model” that he developed during his years in the hospitality and convention center business. People coming to sports venues are like convention visitors, he said, they want to be pampered and sample local fare.

Photo: Julia Ruskin / Professional Sports Catering

Founder and CEO
Professional Sports Catering

With a concessions operations portfolio of 30 minor league baseball teams, including the soon-to-open ballparks in Las Vegas and Fayetteville, N.C., no company in the industry has a more dominant share of its niche than Dickson’s PSC. “We’re the only ones that have structured their business model specifically to fit minor league baseball,” he said. “That’s what continues to make our phone ring.” 

Photo: Bon appétit management co.

CEO and Co-Founder
Bon Appétit Management Co.

Bauccio designed Chase Center’s culinary experience in a way that will allow a constant rotation of area restaurateurs to be part of the venue. “We ought to be doing the very best to showcase the diversity of the Bay Area,” he said. His emphasis on regionally sourced food also has been evident at nearby Oracle Park since 2000. 

Photo: Monarch Event Photography

Founder and President
The Bigelow Companies

Bigelow has sat in just about every seat at the table in his 45 years in the industry and is leading the transformation of concessions from what was historically viewed as a high-margin revenue driver to a more affordable, high-tech integrated part of the game-day memory. “Owners are finally saying ‘Maybe we don’t need to make as much money on food,’” he said.

Cuisine Concepts

Kostroski and Haugen’s annual Taste of the NFL, a pre-Super Bowl event featuring top chefs from each NFL city, has raised more than $25 million for hunger relief-related organizations in the 30 NFL cities. The inaugural event that was held in an office tower lobby in 1992 is now replicated — sometimes by Kostroski and Haugen and sometimes by others — at every major sporting event. The pair’s vision also has had an unexpected bonus. “A lot of the chefs we work with are now getting involved year-round with the teams in their own cities,” Haugen said.

Photo: Rose Bowl Stadium

Founder and CEO
Food Service Matters

Plutino has been advising the Golden State Warriors on the culinary direction of the new $1 billion Chase Center and helped the Rose Bowl modernize and expand its food and beverage offerings in 2018. He is also leading FanSense, a new sports hospitality analytics venture with Victus Advisors.

Photo: C. Morgan Engel / Minnesota Vikings

Principal and Owner
John Sergi & Associates

Sergi helps clients understand what they can do to improve fans’ game-day food and beverage experiences, and his trademarked phrase “Hospitality Design Thinking” describes the process he instills when creating a concessions strategy. His work, like the recent Wisconsin-centric makeover at Milwaukee’s Miller Park, reflects the personalities of teams and their fans.

CEO and Founder
The Connect Group

Sweet connects celebrity chef clients such as Eduardo Garcia (left, with his fiancee Becca Skinner), Michelle Bernstein and Marc Forgione with teams, sponsors and venues for special and game-day events. He worked with the New York Jets on their premium hospitality house in New York City during Super Bowl XLVIII and is creating a new celebrity chef tailgate program for the 2019 NFL and college football seasons.

Principal and Global Sports Leader
DLR Group

Barnum is leading DLR Group’s work on two projects — the $300 million modernization of Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum and $50 million renovation of Talladega Superspeedway — with a focus on improving food and beverage areas, especially in premium spaces. Food space designs and menus have to appeal across generations and demographics and be memorable to fans, Barnum stressed, all while having fast service.

Photo: The Cordish Companies

The Cordish Companies

The Cordish Companies is at the forefront of mixed-use developments and entertainment districts adjacent to stadiums and arenas, and restaurants are a huge part of those projects. Cordish also is president of Entertainment Consulting International, a company founded by Cordish principals that brings restaurant, bar and entertainment brands such as McFadden’s Sports Saloon, The Kill Devil Club and Luckie’s Tavern to sports-anchored and other Cordish developments in Philadelphia, St. Louis, Kansas City and Baltimore. 

Photo: Great Lakes Photography

Principal and Creative Director

Deines is leading renovations of premium food and fan spaces at Quicken Loans Arena, bringing urban design touches to traditional areas. His recent work includes the Legends Club and new concourse designs and concessions areas at TD Garden, a new bar area at Comerica Park and new restaurants and concourses at Stockholm’s Tele2 Arena.

Photo: Courtesy of Gentler

Design Director, Sports Facilities Leader and Principal

Emmett led design efforts at LAFC’s Banc of California Stadium, which opened last year with a focus on a variety of fan and food experiences. Those include premium clubs and The Fields LA, a three-story dining complex adjacent to the stadium that is open on non-game days and features local restaurants such as C.J. Boyd’s Fried Chicken and Burritos La Palma. Emmett also has designed food, marketplace and hospitality space upgrades at FirstEnergy Stadium in Cleveland and Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia. 

Photo: Courtesy of HKS

Associate Principal, Senior Vice President and Design Director of Sports and Entertainment Interiors

Fulvio is leading interior designs — including creative and cutting-edge food and bar spaces — at the new Globe Life Field in Arlington, Texas, and Los Angeles Stadium at Hollywood Park. Her food and beverage designs are inspired by European food markets with a focus on local chefs and cuisine. She also handled interior and food space designs at U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis.

Photo: HNTB

National Design Director

Gedney, who recently moved to HNTB from HOK, was a lead designer at Little Caesars Arena and Rogers Place as well as for the renovations of State Farm Arena in Atlanta. Those projects all put a premium in improving the variety and quality of food spaces. Gedney says better food experiences such as chef-branded spaces in Atlanta and more local cuisine are key to getting fans to spend more time and money at games.

Photo: Sean Airhart / NBBJ


Mankin leads architecture firm NBBJ’s sports group with recent work including concourse and food area improvements at UCLA’s Pauley Pavilion, the Hangzhou Olympic Sports Center in China and the “reinvention” of Rupp Arena in Lexington, Ky., where renovations include wider concourses and upgrades to premium food and drink.

Photo: 8183 Studio

Senior Project Designer and Fun Director
Generator Studio

Monaghan has designed food and beverage areas — including in premium spaces — as part of renovations of the Enterprise Center in St. Louis and at U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis, and she is working on F&B-related fan experience enhancements at Amalie Arena in Tampa. Her work in St. Louis includes reconfiguring concession stands and how fans order and receive food to create better efficiencies

Photo: Billy Delfs

Founder and Chief Creative Officer
Richardson Design

Richardson’s “Launch” concept could be the reason why the concession stand where you bought dinner during last night’s concert looks completely different during your halftime snack today. A longtime friend of and designer for chef Michael Symon, he creates concessions areas that he calls “fully transformational,” by changing lighting, equipment, decor, chefs and menus.

Photo: Courtesy of s2O Consultants

Principals and Owners
S2O Consultants

Longtime friends Schildkraut and Sedej design dining areas that are aesthetically pleasing for fans while being covertly efficient to operate. Having fans order and pay on their phones or wall-mounted tablets and providing high-end grab-and-go foods “enables our clients to shift many labor costs to their consumers,” Schildkraut said. Recent projects have included spaces at Allianz Field and Banc of California Stadium, and a Sedej-led Churchill Downs makeover that resulted in a double-digit increase in food sales. The pair’s current projects include Chase Center in San Francisco and the Seattle Center Arena.

Senior Principal and Regional Leader, Hospitality Practice

Stearns’ designs and experience with restaurants helped raise the culinary standards at the renovated State Farm Arena in Atlanta and Hard Rock Stadium in Miami and at new buildings such as Little Caesars Arena in Detroit and Rogers Place in Edmonton. At State Farm Arena, Stearns designed new dining areas as well as a themed food space for country singer Zac Brown.

Photo: Populous

Senior Interior Designer and Principal

Stover spearheaded Populous’ design of new and revamped premium food and beverage clubs at Wrigley Field, Bridgestone Arena in Nashville, and Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis. His work at Wrigley includes the American Airlines 1914 Club for fans sitting behind home plate. Those designs focused on spaces and high-end food service so Cubs fans would still be in their seats during the games and not in the club

Photo: Delaware North

Vice President, Brands and Concepts
Delaware North Companies

“How can we add 10 times the variety and not make paying the centerpiece of the experience?” Buscemi asks the many DNC divisions that feed large crowds in short periods of time. His newly created position has the former restaurateur — he owned Vito’s Gourmet Deli in downtown Buffalo from 1991 until 2015 — trying to reverse the industrywide trend. “There were so many points of sale it looked like a Micros store,” he said.

Photo: Centerplate

Corporate Executive Chef

Callo is building regional “culinary councils” by connecting his venue staff in each market with local restaurateurs and chefs. “For example, maybe they have insight to suppliers that we don’t know about,” he said. His most local concept is the 450-square-foot garden at T-Mobile Field in Seattle, which produces vegetables and herbs that are incorporated into the ballpark menu.

Photo: Momofuku

Founder and Chef
Momofuku Group / Fuku Chicken

Chang, a prominent New York-based chef who has been featured on Esquire magazine’s most influential list, has brought his Fuku Chicken restaurants to New York-area sports venues as well as to Hard Rock Stadium in Miami, Capital One Arena in Washington, D.C., and the Crisler Center at the University of Michigan. He continues to gain fame as the host of the Netflix series “Ugly Delicious.”

Photo: Legends

Regional Executive Chef
Legends Hospitality

LaManna has overseen culinary and concessions and premium food operations at AT&T Stadium and helps engineer new menu items and pricing for Legends’ concessions arm. The Canadian-born chef earned high honors from the Culinary Institute of America and worked at high-end hotels including the Four Seasons in Ottawa. LaManna got his start in the food business as dishwasher at a hotel in Thunder Bay, Ontario, when he was 15.

Photo: Daniel Krieger

Founder and CEO
Union Square Hospitality Group / Shake Shack

Meyer, best known as the founder of Shake Shack, is bringing the popular burger chain to Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia this season. Shake Shack, an early adopter in bringing popular restaurant brands to sports venues, is also at Citi Field, M&T Bank Stadium, Nationals Park, T-Mobile Arena and at the Wrigleyville development in Chicago.

Photo: International Speedway Corp.

Vice President

Pappas, with the Ritz-Carlton and a Super Bowl on his résumé, has fueled a new business model since joining the International Speedway Corp.-owned company in 2012. He integrated a driver and sponsor with a nontraditional menu item to create Danica Patrick’s Coke & Lime Cilantro Shrimp Wrap during the Coke Zero 400 weekend in Daytona.

Photo: betty images

Owner and Chef
Michael Symon Restaurants

Symon, who gained fame as an Iron Chef on Food Network and as host of “Burgers, Brew & ’Que” on the Cooking Channel, has been an early and prominent leader in the trend of celebrity chefs forging partnerships with sports teams and venues. The Cleveland native’s Bar Symon and B Spot Burgers restaurants are fixtures at hometown venues Quicken Loans Arena and FirstEnergy Stadium.

Photo: Alex Martinez Photography

Executive Chef
State Farm Arena

Schafer, who came to State Farm Arena from Atlanta’s acclaimed Bacchanalia restaurant in 2017, is setting a high bar for culinary experience at Levy and creating buzz at the newly renovated arena by bringing in other local chefs and a top-end restaurant quality. That includes making pizza dough on site and creating custom menus for premium spaces and special events.

Photo: spectra

Vice President, Culinary Excellence

Swiger leads many of Spectra’s culinary innovation efforts, including working with the Bravo cable network to open the first licensed “Top Chef” food and event space at the Chicago Fire’s SeatGeek Stadium. He also teamed with on-site chef Andrew Wissa to open a new street food truck with rotating themes inside the PPL Center in Allentown, Pa.

Photo: Aramark

Regional Executive Chef

Tingling, with high-level distinctions from the Culinary Institute of America and the American Culinary Federation, leads Aramark’s teams at venues in the Western U.S. He’s served as senior chef at two Super Bowls and three Olympic Games and has cooked for Olympic teams from his native Jamaica. He oversees much of Aramark’s hiring and training of chefs as well as the development of new food dishes.