Ramping Up NFL Concessions Cuisine

Tacos are "in" this season; vegetarian and chicken dishes get new variety

  • by Tim Newcomb
  • Published: August 29, 2018

Fat Rooster Drummies, served by Delaware North, will be on the menu for New York Giants and New York Jets games at MetLife Stadium this fall. (Courtesy Delaware North)

Fat Rooster Drummies, Bahnbekyo Korean Pulled Pork Sandwiches, poke nachos and pimiento patty melts are just a small sampling of what concessionaires are introducing to NFL fans.

The regular season kicks off Sept. 6, and with it comes an array of new concepts meant to attract a new consumer and revive tired items. “Coming up with these ideas requires a lengthy process of R&D,” said Camilo Baquero, executive chef for Delaware North at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J., home to the New York Giants and New York Jets.

Baquero said he doesn’t set a goal for a number of new items every year, but he does want to make sure he stays on trend, keeps menus fresh and expands items throughout the stadium that have sold well.

This season, that freshness comes from an expanded taco concept, pushing a new Korean barbecue idea, celebrating chicken and debuting a salad concept.

To ride the growing popularity of vegetarian dishes, the stadium’s taco concept adds a wild mushroom tostada ($10). “People who are not vegetarian have received this tostada very well,” Baquero said.

The Jets and Giants challenged Delaware North to come up with a new slate of healthy options, leading the chefs to create a salad station, 50 Greens and Co. There, fans can select their salad style from three choices, dressing and add-ons, such as grilled marinated chicken or a legume topping, and have it mixed in front of them. They can also select a grab-and-go option.

The majority of culinary offerings live in MetLife Central, MetLife’s multilevel sponsored area full of interactive activities and activations and a main thoroughfare for fans. “MetLife Central has all the specialty items, and the ones that do the best are spread around the building, all over the place,” said Bill Lohr, Delaware North general manager at MetLife Stadium. “We have hit almost every ethnicity you can and then we expand on those.”

The recent creation of a spicy chicken sandwich proved popular, so expect to see that rolled out stadiumwide, paired with a new drumstick offering, Fat Rooster Drummies ($15). “We are challenged to come up with different concepts and last year it was Fat Rooster,” Baquero said. “It started with a spicy chicken sandwich and this year we expanded to drummies. Then will come boneless chicken nuggets and expanding to other locations in the building.”

Also new this year, jumping on a trend popular in the New York area but also across the nation, Baquero rolled out a Bahnbekyo Korean Pulled Pork Sandwich ($12) with carrot and cabbage pickled slaw. “We try to keep it regional and target all the food scenes available in the New York area,” he said.

Around the league.

• FedEx Field, Washington Redskins: Nachos take center stage for Levy. Expect the DMV Nachos with chili and chipotle cheese sauce; the East Coast Nachos with shredded beer can beef, chili and cheese sauce; and the West Coast Nachos with pulled chicken, avocado and black beans.

“Our analytics show that nachos are consistently a top-10 food item across Levy’s NFL partner stadiums,” said Linsey Smith, director of insights for E15, Levy’s data and analytics arm. Sales data show that 78 percent of consumers love or like nachos, and with the ease of preparation and ability to regionalize ingredients “they really are the perfect game-day dish.”

• Ford Field, Detroit Lions: Levy goes with a buffalo chicken loaded tot dish ($12) with buffalo pulled chicken and applewood bacon. The dessert nachos ($12) include chocolate cherry Nutella sauce with Michigan cherries.

• StubHub Center, Los Angeles Chargers: Levy offers up a TsUNAmi Burger ($20), an ahi tuna burger, and a buffalo cauliflower wrap ($8) as a vegan specialty.

• Levi’s Stadium, San Francisco 49ers: Levy features both a Dungeness crab pretzel sandwich and poke nachos. Levi’s also welcomes garlic fries, chicken verde nachos and a Korean Bibimbap Bowl.

Smith said local surveys help E15 uncover what fans in each region gravitate toward. The E15 team scrapes more than 200,000 menus to find specific ingredients and flavors trending in different cities. “Once we’ve engineered the menu with the right dishes, it’s about making them efficient to prepare and serve so we can get the fans back to their seats as quickly as possible,” she said.

• Hard Rock Stadium, Miami Dolphins: Centerplate welcome new partners Mojo Donuts, Menchie’s Frozen Yogurt and &Pizza. New dishes include a Miami Slice Cuban roasted pork pizza, a pulled pork sandwich, buffalo wing fries, a Cuban egg roll, a cart with made-to-order guacamole for the suites and a Pimiento Patty Melt.

“Our team works hard year-round to curate a mix of well-known, unique local partners that pair well with the offerings from Chef Dayanny (De la Cruz) and our in-house culinary team,” said Kevin Mitchell, Centerplate general manager at Hard Rock Stadium.

• New Era Field, Buffalo Bills: A hand-dipped and fried crustless peanut butter and jelly sandwich served on a stick with powdered sugar comes from Delaware North.

• Lambeau Field, Green Bay Packers: The Brat in a Blanket debuts, featuring melted cheese curds. Also new from Delaware North: a Black Forest ham sandwich.

• TIAABank Field, Jacksonville Jaguars: Delaware North will feature chicken and andouille jambalaya and a fried ravioli.

• NRG Stadium, Houston Texans: Aramark features a Flamin’ Hot Cheetos-crusted chicken tender taco and Texas Smoked Meatball Sub. But don’t count out the beef rib. Chef Chris Shepherd also introduces a carved roast beef sandwich.

• Raymond James Stadium, Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Spice-crusted brisket takes over the taco selection for Aramark. Also expect a pimiento-cheese melt with applewood bacon and Texas toast.

• Heinz Field, Pittsburgh Steelers: Aramark highlights the Franco Harris Pizzeria “Pro Bowler” pepperoni. Aramark has also rolled out a buffalo chicken taco and potato cheese pierogis with kielbasa and braised cabbage.

• U.S. Bank Stadium, Minnesota Vikings: Chipotle Chicken tacos arrive, complemented by the vegetarian sweet potato and black bean tacos. Aramark also has a new Cubano sandwich and smoked brisket sandwich for the site.

• Arrowhead Stadium, Kansas City Chiefs Aramark offers a new inferno chicken sandwich, Tennessee Hot Chicken Mac and Cheese, Jamaican jerk sausage, a vegan cauliflower/walnut/wild rice sausage, an elote chicken taco and a vegan burger.

• Lincoln Financial Field, Philadelphia Eagles: Mojo-style chopped pork highlights a new taco lineup for Aramark. Chef David Chang brings the Fuku Spicy Fried Chicken Sandwich and the Fuku Fingers and Fries.

• Soldier Field, Chicago Bears: Offerings include hot chicken fries and a pork-belly taco from Aramark.

• Paul Brown Stadium, Cincinnati Bengals: Aramark is going all out with a new grilled veggies and hummus flat bread; teriyaki beef tater tots; bacon-wrapped foot-long all-beef black angus hot dog; and roasted pork tacos.

• FirstEnergy Stadium, Cleveland Browns: Hickory-smoked coriander chicken and chili-spiced pepper jack queso with Ohio sweet corn pico de gallo highlight the new tacos from Aramark. Chef Michael Symon also introduces a beer bratwurst.

• M&T Bank Stadium, Baltimore Ravens: The Kielbasa Cheesesteak from Aramark is new.

  • by Tim Newcomb
  • Published: August 29, 2018