Vice President, Operations | Delaware North
Tom Olson didn’t envision the grab-and-go marketplace concept when he was lugging kegs of beer across old Milwaukee County Stadium as a porter for Delaware North Sportservice in the 1970s.
Times have changed in the concessions space, but one thing has remained constant over the past 45 years: Olson’s smiling face while feeding fans attending Major League Baseball and NFL games across the Midwest.
Along the way, Olson, now Sportservice’s vice president of operations, has become friends with some of the most respected team owners in sports that served as his clients, including Bud Selig, Jerry Reinsdorf and George W. Bush, as well as team presidents Rick Schlesinger (Brewers), Mark Murphy (Packers) and Dave St. Peter (Twins).
“I’ve met a lot of great people over the years, quality, classy folks,” Olson said.
Olson got his start with Sportservice in Milwaukee, his hometown, on March 31, 1979. He was 16 years old and needed a job to buy a car, which turned out to be a 1970 Plymouth Duster.
“I basically never left Sportservice,” he said. “You stick around long enough and they throw you the keys and more responsibility.”
Over the course of his career, Olson has relocated a few times within the ranks of Sportservice. In the late 1980s, he lived in St. Louis, and worked at old Busch Stadium, where the Cardinals played from 1966 to 2005. For Olson, the ballpark was a great place to work and the beer industry’s royal family, Anheuser-Busch, kept it clean and well maintained.
In the early 1990s, Olson moved to Chicago to help open New Comiskey Park, now Guaranteed Rate Field. After three years on the South Side, Olson gravitated to Texas to open another new MLB facility, The Ballpark at Arlington. It’s now a multipurpose venue across the street from Globe Life Field, the Rangers’ 4-year-old stadium.
In 1996, Olson moved back to Milwaukee, taking over as general manager at County Stadium, where the Brewers played for 30 years before Miller Park, now American Family Field, opened in 2001. In 2012, Olson was promoted to his current position, covering seven venues: three MLB parks, plus Allianz Field, an MLS stadium in St. Paul, Minnesota, and three Arizona spring training venues.
Up to this year, Lambeau Field, the storied home of the Green Bay Packers, fell under Olson’s jurisdiction. In real time, he’s seen the conversion of the stadium’s traditional belly-up concession stands to self checkout grab-and-gos.
The process should be completed with all grab-and-gos by 2026 to increase efficiency and speed of service.
In the NFL, concessionaires essentially have a total of 40 hours over 10 home games to make all their sales, and it’s imperative to remove any point of friction in that process, Olson said.
“You walk into the grab-and-go market and walk out with four items and we can tell the lift in sales and guest satisfaction is up,” he said. “That’s the biggest trend. Technology will change every year. It never stops.” — Don Muret