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Volume 23 No. 18
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SBJ Unpacks: Food service to operate very differently at venues

Those who hope to bring people back to stadiums and arenas in the coming year are working frantically to re-engineer the way they provide food and drinks, rethinking almost every aspect of the process from beginning to end. On the latest episode of “SBJ Unpacks: The Road Ahead,” senior writer Bill King speaks with food services consultant Chris Bigelow to discuss how social distancing policies and other aspects of a changed world will affect how food and beverages are served at venues.

On the rise of mobile ordering at stadiums:
Bigelow: Everybody is talking about technology and the idea that during this period everyone’s been so used to ordering food on their phone to have it delivered or go pick it up, that the concessionaires are all saying, “We’ve got to do this.” Those apps on your phone have been around for ten years or more, and nobody ever used them, not because it didn’t work, but because the customer was like, “I like to get up out of my seat and walk around.” Now that’s not going to happen, so I think you’re going to see the idea of pre-ordering, and probably getting up to go to a predetermined site at a predetermined time to then pick up your product.

On the suite and club experience, and a labor cost increase:
Bigelow: You’re going to see the buffet. The caterers are still going to want people to see a nice display, but there’s going to be a person actually serving it to the customer. You’re going to see payroll costs, if you get into the business of it. We’ve had some estimates of doubling payroll between the additional servers because the self-service is gone and also the sanitation. You’re going to have people doing nothing but just continually going through and sanitizing, even the self-service condiment stands. Most people think that’s gone, so we’ll be back to those little packets of mustard and ketchup. Probably it will be packaged in with the sandwich, and everybody will have one. No more going up and grabbing your own.

On how teams will approach face shields:
Bigelow: It’s going to be just like restaurants in that area, in that county. I’m sure the workers are going to have a mask on, and wearing that mask for eight hours a day is not a real comfortable thing. That’s something that I know the fast food companies, a couple people I talked to, said they’re really trying to figure out what to get the employees to wear because it’s very uncomfortable and difficult. If they’re not going to keep it on then why have it? Whether it’s the face shield that comes down, I saw a mock-up of a baseball cap with a plastic shield in front, I think people are going to try to get creative on this.