With football season off to a fresh start—and basketball and hockey not far behind—plenty of potentially hungry, thirsty fans are filling stadiums and arenas around the country. These venues are at the ready, foodservice-wise, revamping menus and in some cases, lowering prices, to keep spectators happy and well-fed. In many cases, they aim to get customers eating before the game even starts, thus bumping up the check. Here’s what’s for sale in the stands this fall.
Photograph courtesy of Ohio State
1. 30 rookies join the roster
Aramark, the foodservice contractor that partners with a number of NFL teams, has developed 30 new items for the 2018-19 season, including regional variations of fan favorites and healthier options. Ten new tacos are making their debut, often composed of ingredients that reflect their locale. There are Chesapeake Tacos flavored with Old Bay-seasoned pulled chicken and crab dip in a purple corn tortilla at M&T Stadium where the Baltimore Ravens play, and Korean-style pork belly tacos at Chicago’s Soldier Field. Sandwiches have a similar regional slant. The NRG Astrodome in Houston is serving up a Texas Smoked Meatball Sub, while U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis is offering a Cubano on a local Cuban roll.
On the healthier side, Aramark has added plant-based burgers, vegan sausage, a grilled veggie and hummus flatbread, and sweet potato and black bean tacos to its menus. In addition, signatures created by high-profile chefs such as Michael Symon and David Chang are upgrading the menu mix.
Photograph courtesy of Aramark
2. Priced to please
Last year, Mercedes-Benz stadium, home of the Atlanta Falcons, tried out “fan first pricing,” reducing the prices on sodas and hot dogs to $2 apiece. The plan resulted in a 16% increase in spending during football games, reports Atlanta Magazine.So this year, the stadium is discounting some premium food items by $1 each and introducing a local craft beer for $5. Among the discounted specials are chili cheese fries ($9), bratwurst ($8) and a free-range chicken sandwich ($10).
Entirely new menu items are also joining the lineup, including a vegan quinoa burger, brisket mac ’n cheese and tinga chicken nachos.
Photograph courtesy of Mercedes-Benz stadium
3. Basketball follows suit
Also in Atlanta is the newly renovated basketball arena where the city’s NBA team, the Atlanta Hawks plays hoops. It’s being renamed for State Farm and when it reopens in October, the concessions will feature similar fan-friendly pricing as Mercedes-Benz Stadium. The affordable menu boasts price cuts up to 50% and lists 12 additional food and beverage items for less than $5 each, according to a story on nba.com. The Hawks were motivated by the Atlanta Falcons’ success with lower prices, which boosted spending.
Photograph courtesy of nba.com
4. New choices for the Buckeyes
Pro teams are not the only ones revamping stadium menus. The Ohio State University is kicking off football season with a host of new eating options developed by Levy Restaurants, a division of Compass, which runs the foodservice operations at Ohio Stadium. At the recently launched Smoke and Pour concept, customers can order ribs smoked in-house and a smoked brisket sandwich. At Taste of the Competition, fans from the visiting team can get burgers topped with regional flavors and ingredients. More shareable snacks are also on offer, including loaded waffle fries and housemade pork rinds. And back by popular demand are cheesesteaks, the latest a Southwestern version with salsa and jalapenos.
Photograph courtesy of Ohio State
5. A taste of Texas
Also on the college front are new offerings at Texas Tech University’s Jones AT&T Stadium. The names of the items are insider references for the school’s Red Raiders football team fans and locals in the know, according to a story in the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal, the university’s hometown paper. The roster includes Fearless, a turkey leg; Hub City Beef Tips; Lone Star Legs (fried chicken); Raider Red Hot Link; Fighting Matador, a green chili burger with pepperjack cheese; and the Wreck ’Em Chili Dog, which includes corn chips in the chili.
Photograph courtesy of Texas Tech
6. Going local
Not to be outdone by a nearby college, the Houston Texans’ NRG Stadium (aka the Astrodome) is showing off its new menu items too. Many of the new offerings tap into local brands and products, including a new Mexican restaurant on the grounds—Ninfa’s on Navigation—a Houston landmark. Other concepts are serving up Aramark-created items with a Texas accent, such as Corn Dog Nachos, Gulf crab cakes with elote corn, peppers and pico de gallo, giant house-smoked beef ribs and Ninfa’s fajita tacos. In a nod to health, there’s also a quinoa salad and a lentil salad.
Photograph courtesy of Aramark
7. The Hoosier way
Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis is tempting Colts’ fans with new offerings for this NFL season. The items, created by foodservice partner Centerplate, aim to reflect the diverse Indianapolis food scene, while still homing in on gameday favorites, according to a news release. On the menu is a rotating Gridiron Burger with varying toppings, the Saltado Peruvian Sandwich (beef tenderloin seasoned with a housemade spice blend) and the Colts Forged Combo (bratwurst with Italian beef and giardiniera). Other new offerings include a muffaletta, Buffalo chicken wrap and three hearty mac ’n cheese variations topped with the likes of pot roast, blackened chicken and pulled pork.
Photograph courtesy of Lucas Oil Stadium
8. The NFL’s biggest and priciest burger
The $75 Gridiron Burger debuting at University of Phoenix Stadium weighs in at seven pounds and comes with a challenge: anyone who finishes it in under an hour is rewarded with an Arizona Cardinals jersey and a photo on the scoreboard. You have to be a meat lover to win—the “burger” contains five beef patties, five hot dogs, five bratwursts, 20 slices of American cheese, eight slices of bacon, eight chicken tenders, 12 ounces of fries, lettuce, pickles and sauce, all on a 10-inch bun. Cardinals fans with slightly smaller appetites may opt instead for the new Taco-Dilla (a quesadilla topped with pollo asada or red chile beef tacos), the Dirty Fry Bird (a pound of fries covered with queso, pico de gallo, jalapenos, and six fried chicken legs) or a churro donut sundae.
9. Travel the globe with the Cowboys
African, Korean, Thai and Mexican influences are flavoring new menu items at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas, where the Dallas Cowboys play. Global dishes debuting include the African Spiced SuperGrain Bowl (brown rice, barley and farro topped with dukkah chicken and mango-cucumber salsa), Thai Veggie Wrap with Spicy Peanut Sauce and Pork Belly Burger topped with kimchi. New twists on gameday favorites are also on the roster, such as the Mac ’N Cheese Brisket Cone, Doritos Chicken Wrap and “barbecue done the Cowboys way”: a hoagie stuffed with jalapeno cheese sausage, mac ’n cheese, chopped brisket, barbecue sauce and extra jalapenos.
Photograph courtesy of AT&T Stadium