Low-cost pricing at Mercedes-Benz Stadium concession stands in Atlanta carried over from the regular season to the Super Bowl. (Courtesy Levy)
The NFL could potentially expand fan-friendly concessions pricing for Super Bowls after seeing a record total of transactions for the 2019 game, according to league officials.
This year’s game took place Feb. 3 at Mercedes-Benz Stadium, home of the Atlanta Falcons. For the game, the NFL adopted the “Fan First Pricing” program of AMB Sports & Entertainment, which owns the Falcons.
The program cuts the price of hot dogs, soda and popcorn to $2 and to $5 for small beers, among other items. Mercedes-Benz Stadium has had the model in place for all events since it opened in 2017.
For Super Bowl LIII, AMB Sports reported 110,184 food and beverage transactions, a single-event record for NCR, the stadium’s point-of-sale supplier. Levy runs the food service at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.
“It’s something we’re going to explore, sit down and have (internal) conversations,” said Jon Barker, the NFL’s vice president of event operations and production. “There’s still a lot of data to capture and analyze coming out of Atlanta. We’re certainly open to considering all options and this will be one of them.”
AMB Sports’ commitment stands out for Super Bowl programming. Typically, food and drink prices increase for the Super Bowl compared with the regular season as teams and vendors seek to maximize revenue from one of the world’s biggest one-day sporting events.
“When we were going through the bid process with (Atlanta Falcons president and CEO) Rich McKay, that was one of the first conversations he and I had, and we were in right away,” said Peter O’Reilly, the NFL’s senior vice president of events and club business development. “It made a ton of sense to adopt it. From an operations standpoint, it went real smoothly for Super Bowl LIII.”
AMB Sports would not a disclose a Super Bowl per cap, which makes it difficult to say whether the deep price cuts had an effect on total sales. Over the past eight years, the Super Bowl has generated food and drink revenue of $6 million to $8 million, producing per caps of $72 to $95. Those numbers cover general concessions, club level destinations and suite catering, and in some cases, the Gameday Fan Plaza outside the facilities.
“I don’t want to get into the weeds on details, but we’re very pleased about the results from Mercedes-Benz Stadium,” Barker said. “While you do have lower pricing, you are driving additional revenue. You increase volume across the board, and that’s a success for everybody.”
To make it a permanent addition, the NFL could simply require a value pricing menu in the bid proposals for hosting the Super Bowl, said food consultant Chris Bigelow.
“My guess is they will let each stadium decide on its own,” Bigelow said. “People want to go to the Super Bowl because it’s a major event. They’re not going because of concessions pricing. The regular season is a different conversation.”
Over the past two years, the Fan First Pricing model has resulted in multiple teams and food vendors across sports reducing food and drink prices. After seeing AMB Sports’ program in Atlanta, the NFL reduced concession prices for the 2019 Pro Bowl at Camping World Stadium in Orlando. Fans could buy $2 sodas and $3 hot dogs and popcorn at a few stands. Levy also runs the food service at that venue.
“We were looking at (the model) and thinking about what Pro Bowl is, an event where we’re trying to bring fans and players closer together,” Barker said. “It’s almost a way to say thank you to our fans through that game and the entire week of programming at Disney’s Wide World of Sports. It was an opportunity to learn a little bit and use Pro Bowl to do that.”
Apart from general concessions, the NFL tested all-inclusive tickets in the stadium’s club spaces, Barker said. For years, big league teams and facilities have folded the price of food and drink into premium tickets.
It’s another food-related feature the league is taking a closer look at for next year’s Super Bowl at Hard Rock Stadium near Miami.
“We want the fan experience to be seamless and easy,” Barker said. “If you’ve got a fan inside one of these clubs, having them not have to take out their wallet and go through the transaction process and stand in line to pay for something heightens the experience.”