Date: February 2003

Serving food at the bowl game helped defray losses from a rainy fair for the Louisiana State Fair, Shreveport, which catered to fans at the Mainstay Independence Bowl. And that was just one of the stories this season at National Collegiate Athletic Assn.-sanctioned football games where reported per cap spending ranged from $6.50 to as high as $16.50.

This was the first year that the State Fair of Louisiana’s subsidiary, Fair Foods, had the contract for food and drink operations at the Shreveport bowl game. “Tri Star Foods actually has the contract here,” said Sam Giordano, president and general manager of the fair. “But, they have subcontracted with us because this event just wasn’t working well for them. We were very pleased, especially since our fair experienced 17 days of rain this year.”

Giordano said per caps were about $6.50. Attendance was over 40,000 at Independence Stadium, which has a seating capacity of 50,000-plus. The event was held Dec. 27 between Mississippi and Nebraska.

Eric Meeks, general manager, Boston Concessions, said the overall per caps at this year’s Federal Express Orange Bowl, held Jan. 2 at Pro Players Stadium, Miami, was $16.50, a figure he describes as very good and “higher than normal for any regular season games.”

“I think one reason we had such high per caps for the bowl game is that everyone at this game is from out of town,” Meeks said. The Orange Bowl pitted Iowa against USC. Attendance reached about 75,000.

Sue Boettcher, general manager, Fine Host, the concessionaire for the Sun Devil Stadium, Tempe, Ariz., said overall per caps for the Jan. 3 Tostitos Fiesta Bowl was $11.61 overall and, of that, concessions came to $10.18. This is an increase from last year for the event that drew 74,160 to see Ohio State and Miami. Fine Host offered about 395 points of sale in the stands.

“We attribute much of the increase in per caps to the fact this is the first year we have sold beer,” Boettcher said. “Overall, it was a very smooth event.”

Volume Services America (VSA) reported an increase of per caps at the Pacific Life Holiday Bowl, held Dec. 27 at Qualcomm Stadium, San Diego, between Kansas State and Arizona State.

“We did approximately $13 in per caps,” said Carmen Torzon, vice president of operations for Volume Services America, concessionaire there. “It was better than average compared to previous years.”

Torzon said the one new thing this year was merchandise sales at area hotels. VSA had an agreement with the local Marriott and Hyatt hotels which enabled Volume Services to offer merchandise in the hotels. Torzon said this worked very well.

Food and drink per caps at the Nokia Sugar Bowl, played Jan. 1 at the Superdome in New Orleans, were $13.58, according to Steve Trotter, general manager, Volume Services America, concessionaire for the venue. Suite food and drink sales, Trotter said, were very high as well. Approximately 63,000 fans were on hand to watch Georgia and Florida State.

Bill Cutler, concessions manager, Levy Restaurants, Bank One Ball Park, home of the Insight Bowl, Phoenix, said per caps were $7.50 for the Dec. 26 bowl game between Pittsburgh and Oregon State, with a crowd of 40,350.

Food and drink per caps at the Alamo Bowl, held at the Alamodome, San Antonio, Texas, Dec. 28, reached $6.68. Terry Caven, general manager, Sports and Entertainment, a division of Aramark, said they knew going into the event it would be tough to get the per caps they wanted because neither team was local. The Alamo Bowl hosted Wisconsin and Colorado.

“We feel if we had gotten a Texas team here, our per caps would have been much better, but that is how it works out sometimes,” Caven said. Attendance to the Alamo Bowl was 37,610. They offered about 275 points of sale for the event.

Brian Ford, district manager, Aramark, Raymond James Stadium, Tampa, home to the Outback Bowl, said, although he couldn’t release specific figures, he saw increased spending at the Jan. 1 game between Michigan and Florida. Attendance was 61,984. “I credit the increased spending to a great game and perfect weather,” Ford said. “We also had a record number of suites rented for the event – 173 out of our 195.” He also credits game time. Kickoff was at 11:30 a.m. and the gates opened at 9:30 a.m. Without much time for people to eat before the game. “They were hungry when they got here.”

Risa Balayem, public relations manager, Ford Field, Detroit, host to the Motor City Bowl on Dec. 26, said per caps averaged about the same as they do during regular season games. They didn’t have as many stands open for the bowl game, which drew between 37,000 and 38,000 to see, in a 65,000-capacity venue, Boston College and Toledo.

Per caps were not on par with regular National Football League games at the Gaylord Hotels Music City Bowl Dec. 30 at The Coliseum, Nashville. Minnesota and Arkansas drew attendance of 39,183. John Shelton, regional vice president, VSA in Nashville, said they added a tailgate party for the University of Minnesota prior to kickoff.

Trotter said VSA hosted a hospitality tent for 1,200 fans prior to kickoff, another party for 1,100, and fed the bands from both schools equaling between 800-900 members at the Nokia Sugar Bowl. At the Orange Bowl, Boston Concessions hosted a tailgate party for 15,000 fans in the Pro Players Stadium parking lot. Aramark hosted a breakfast and pep rally for 800 Outback Bowl fans.

Targeting menus to regional favorites for participating schools is a mini-trend in the bowl game world. Meeks said for the Orange Bowl they targeted Iowa fans by serving items heavy on the beef and, for the Californians, they were heavy on the sushi, fish and wines. For the Outback Bowl between Michigan and Florida, food and drink operators there created a specialty drink called Gator Swamp Juice.

Boettcher said they customized some suite packages at the Fiesta Bowl and “of course, we tried to incorporate Tostitos in as much as we could.”

Cutler said for the Insight Bowl they expanded the availability of margaritas but also sold 1,500 cups of hot chocolate, unusual for Arizona. They had about 92 locations opened for the event.