5 Predictions About Stadium Concessions in 2020: A Revisit

Update: At the beginning of this year, we could never have guessed what 2020 would have in store for us. A global pandemic, social movements and uncertainties have gripped the nation… and it’s only June. 

We published this blog post back in January in which we attempted to make 5 predictions in the sports, live entertainment and hospitality space, specifically relating to food technology. Six months into one of the craziest years ever, we’ve taken the time to revisit that post and see how 2020 has impacted the predictions we made. 


Concessions staff busy working at the kitchen.

Prediction #1: Mobile ordering will become the default 

We made the prediction thinking that venues and customers would finally fully embrace the convenience and efficiency of mobile ordering. Never had we thought that COVID-19 would accelerate that trend at double the speed — for reasons beyond just convenience. 

Before COVID-19 

According to a FanFood survey of thousands of fans, 73.6% want a mobile ordering app at sports events if offered, and according to an Oracle study about fan experience, 45% of fans have given up waiting in line for food and drink at a sports venue. Convenience and speed is the default expectation of consumers, especially aided by technology. Companies that offer mobile ordering and delivery solutions like FanFood are starting to pick up steam as more and more venues recognize that a tech upgrade is inevitable.

Reality Now: How have things changed since COVID-19?

If mobile ordering was a “nice-to-have,” now it’s become a “must-have”. If anything, the coronavirus has necessitated this feature because it allows customers to avoid face-to-face contact while waiting in lines and while ordering with a cashier. This ability to prevent contact should give sports leagues peace of mind as they make decisions on when and how to let live audiences return. 

The Sioux Falls Canaries, who just joined the FanFood family, are looking to play ball starting in July as a local hub for the American Association of Independent Professional Baseball. According to guidelines set by the league, the Canaries will be allowed to welcome fans back to the Birdcage, and when they return, FanFood’s mobile ordering platform will be able to aid in making the experience safer and more convenient for all. 


Prediction #2: Healthy and inclusive menu items

Before COVID-19:

As people are increasingly aware of the diverse diet choices out there — vegetarian, vegan, gluten-free, religion-specific restrictions etc. — concessions menus in stadiums must change too.


At FanFood we always encourage concessionnaires to be creative with their offerings, so that fans are always given new reasons to come back for more! If you want to read more about creative concession item ideas, we have just the right blog for you.


Reality Now: How have things changed since COVID-19?

While the idea of diversifying the menu and making it more healthy is valuable, right now it’s not exactly the primary concern for most venues. It’s certainly worth considering once things go back to normal–if they ever do– but the main focus for stadium concessions will be how to adapt to new health standards like social distancing.  

As the old saying goes, you can’t put the cart before the horse. Opening your venue with a new, inclusive menu won’t matter if fans don’t feel comfortable or safe ordering their concessions. For instance, long lines often end up clogging the concourse, which means lots of people don’t have room to stand six feet apart while waiting at the concessions stand. In these times, avoiding this kind of human traffic is imperative for fans to feel safe. FanFood’s contactless ordering platform can remedy this issue by allowing them to order concessions quickly and smoothly with limited human interaction, but it’s problems like these venues are going to have to solve first before they can consider menu offerings. 

Prediction #3: Pre-ordering will become available

Before COVID-19:

Pat O’Conner, President and CEO of Minor League Baseball once said on our podcast: “Let’s face it in this country: what’s more fun than food?” And we couldn’t agree more. Very often it’s not just the game that we’re looking forward to at the stadium, it’s also the authentic gameday experience — of which food is an integral part — that builds up our excitement.


For those of us who’d be drooling long before even entering a venue, here’s the good news: you’d soon be able to explore venue options before the gameday and even place orders beforehand on your phone! It’s just like booking a seat at a restaurant — how should “booking” your family meal be anything different at a venue? Just imagine how much time and trouble that would save you!


Reality Now: How have things changed since COVID-19?

FanFood has fully rolled out the Order Ahead feature in our app, where people can order up to days before an event for scheduled pickup or delivery. For concessionaires and F&B staff, this means more time to prepare the orders and a better forecast of inventory needs. For customers, this translates to minimal in-person interaction and not missing a minute of the game or event. 

5 Predictions About Stadium Concessions in 2020: A Revisit

The FanFood App allows customers to order ahead for scheduled pickup / delivery even before leaving the house.

Prediction #4: “Hyperlocal” menu offering

Before COVID-19:

Yes, we all love a good hot dog on gameday, but every region or city likes it differently (and don’t get us started on why Chicago-style is the best). One of the secrets to successful fan engagement at Los Angeles Football Club (LAFC) is actually their hyper-local concessions options.


“We have local vendors here that have food that normally people would be lining up for around Los Angeles…some people actually come to the stadium for the food,” according to Christian Lau, Head of Technology at Banc of California on our podcast.

Geographical locations not only heavily influence a fan’s loyalty to a particular sports team, but also to their local food. Food connects people; it embodies the shared memories and pride unique only to people in that specific region. As a result, stadiums and venues have found these local food items very effective in creating a special gameday experience and a stronger sense of belonging for those in attendance.

Reality Now: How have things changed since COVID-19?

Perhaps not exactly related to menu offering, but the idea of “local” definitely manifests itself in the overwhelming support that people show towards local businesses throughout the pandemic. FanFood started several initiatives of its own: the local business relief package, where local restaurants and venues can use our mobile ordering platform for free to continue taking orders; meal donation program through Feeding America where we gave away tens of thousands of meals to families in need; and a partnership with sports teams such as the Georgia Kangaroos to benefit the local community.

Even after the pandemic, FanFood will continue supporting local communities through our “Buy a Meal, Give a Meal” program with Feeding America, where for every order placed on the platform, we give away a meal to a local food bank in our partner’s vicinity.

Prediction #5: A stronger emphasis on fan-friendly pricing

Before COVID-19:

If we break down the total cost of attending a game, here’s what we’ve found: an NFL game could cost $502.84 (if you count two adult and two children tickets, two small beers, four small soft drinks, four hot dogs, two programs, two adult-size ball caps and parking), $339.02 for an NBA game and $219.53 for an MLB game, according to CreditCards.com. It’s just inhibitively costly for a regular family to make attending games a weekly or monthly occurrence (unless, of course, they are season ticket holders). MiLB is actually the best in this respect, since an average family of four can see a game for just $64. You can read more about how to reduce gameday costs in our eBook “Fan Retention De-mystified.”

Durham Bulls, one of FanFood’s partner venues, has a weekly Thursday Night Specials where the most popular items — notably chicken tenders and hot dogs — are sold at a much lower price. As a result, Durham Bulls tend to see significantly larger crowds on Thursdays than most other days of the week.


Reality Now: How have things changed since COVID-19?

If anything, fan-friendly pricing is more relevant than ever, given people’s hesitation to show up at live events post lockdown. FanFood conducted a survey on how people feel about returning to sports games and live events after the pandemic. Among the nearly 1,000 people surveyed, 66.71% of fans said reduced ticket price would be the strongest incentive for them to turn up, followed by F&B discounts, as chosen by 61.48% of those surveyed as the most effective measure. 

5 Predictions About Stadium Concessions in 2020: A Revisit

Survey findings based on a study conducted by FanFood over nearly 1,000 consumers nationwide.

2020 has presented new and sudden challenges, but some of our predictions may just help venues reopen their stadium concessions in response to those challenges. Our blog here has more on factors that make or break the fan experience, which could be good to hone in on when considering how to incentivize fans to start attending live events again. 

To see a full demo and other capabilities on FanFood, fill out the form below to get in touch with our team!