When the Atlanta Falcons discuss market pricing for concessions in the new Mercedes-Benz Stadium, set to open in 2017, they aren’t talking about other stadiums. The Falcons mean street pricing.
Fans will not only see a 65% increase in concession points-of-sale inside Mercedes-Benz versus the Georgia Dome, and a 55% increase in the number of cooking stations, but they’ll also get a bit of a sticker shock on the pricing. In an unexpected way.
As part of the new fan experience, the Falcons have drastically reversed the business model for concessions, controlling all prices in house and lowering them across the board. Expect to see 20-ounce self-refillable sodas, bottled waters, hot dogs, pretzels and popcorn all sold for $2. Peanuts, pizza, nachos and waffle fries will be $3 and a 12-ounce domestic beer $5.
“The main driver is to re-imagine the NFL experience,” Steve Cannon, CEO of AMB Group, the Arthur Blank family of businesses, tells SI.com. “We are redoing the whole stadium.”
Cannon says fan surveys show that concessions rate in the top-three as the most impactful on the fan experience, but also the thing traditionally done the worst. He wants Mercedes-Benz Stadium to set a new benchmark.
Instead of selling concession rights in the building, which severs control over pricing and quality, the Falcons have hired Levy Restaurants to operate the concessions for a set price, allowing Falcons owner Arthur Blank to set the prices. “We call it street pricing,” Cannon says about the structure that covers the entirety of the menu. “We surveyed similar establishments in the area. What does it take in Atlanta to buy a hot dog, popcorn, a coke or a cheeseburger? We control the pricing.” And that goes for every event in the building, not just a football game. “If a Super Bowl comes, we will control the concession pricing,” Cannon says. “If a Final Four or a concert, that is our pricing. We want to delight everyone when they come to the stadium.”
Along with lower prices, Mercedes-Benz was designed to get better quality food to fans quicker by increasing the number of cooking stations and points of sale. Also expect to see premium concession items spread across the entire venue, even on the 300-level concourse. “We were very deliberate that folks in the upper bowl have access to premium items and not just a food court,” Cannon says.
“The more places you can actually cook versus just keep food warm has a big impact on freshness and quality,” he says. “When you have the opportunity to start from scratch, you can analyze every single pain point.”
Mike Gomes, senior vice president of fan experience, comes to the Falcons from Disney and Cannon says he brought with him ideas on efficiency. For example, the soda refill stations are self-serve, reducing the number of people in line while upping the value for fans. And all pricing will be in whole dollars. “There is a level of science they have applied to put people quickly through the [transaction] process,” Cannon says. Modeled out, by not making change you save seconds on every sale. With thousands of sales every game, that adds up to significant efficiency.
Along with the traditional stadium concessions, Cannon says Mercedes-Benz Stadium will partner with local chefs and hot concepts to create regionally desirable concession items. The ownership group is still reviewing options, but is working off a survey of fans that ranks their favorite local items.
When the entire menu comes together in time for the 2017 opening of Mercedes-Benz Stadium, expect the prices to surprise fans. And this time, that’s what the Falcons want.
Tim Newcomb covers sports aesthetics—stadiums to sneakers—and training for Sports Illustrated. Follow him on Twitter at @tdnewcomb.