Aramark has been at Arrowhead Stadium since 2010; Levy has handled premium dining there for more than 25 years. (Getty Images)

Aramark and Levy are retaining roles at Arrowhead Stadium

There’s a possibility that a big chunk of the 2020 NFL season could be played in empty venues, but one thing is clear: The Kansas City Chiefs are sticking with two concessionaires at Arrowhead Stadium.

Aramark and Levy, food providers for general concessions and premium dining, respectively, remain in place for the defending Super Bowl champions and their 76,416-seat facility. The decision was made a few months ago prior to the COVID-19 crisis, Chiefs officials confirmed.

“After a detailed review of our concessions operation and a thorough RFP process, we have agreed in principle to long-term contracts with Aramark and Levy,” the team said in a statement provided to VenuesNow. “Both vendors have been an integral part of developing the fan experience at Arrowhead Stadium.”

The decision to retain both firms positions the Chiefs as one of the few big league teams that has split their food service among multiple providers over the past three decades. Last summer, team President Mark Donovan told VenuesNow that all options were on the table, including going with one vendor exclusively. 

The trend over the past 15 years has been to consolidate all aspects of food service under one company, in part to simplify operations for concessions, plus suites and club spaces that have expanded across all levels of sports facilities.

In some cases, though, there is value in going with two food providers in bigger venues such as NFL stadiums under the “Kansas City model,” according to consultant Mike Plutino, founder and CEO of Food Service Matters. 

Three years ago, the Tennessee Titans switched from one vendor, Centerplate, to Legends for general concessions and Levy for premium dining. Since that time, the Titans have seen close to a 40 percent increase in sales at Nissan Stadium, Plutino said. Food Service Matters consulted with the Titans at the time and recommended that the team go with two providers, in part to maximize revenue.

“It was pretty remarkable in a market where staffing was a nightmare,” he said. “Now, you’ve got some healthy competition going on, very productive and professional. It’s the magnitude of football and you’ve got square footage, so if you have the extra kitchen, it’s not as complicated as you would think.” 

For Levy, the contract extension at Arrowhead Stadium maintains a relationship with the Chiefs that dates back more than 25 years. It was one of Levy’s first accounts outside of its home base in Chicago. Aramark keeps a key piece of business under the leadership of Alison Birdwell, who replaced Carl Mittleman as president of Aramark Sports & Entertainment in February. (Mittleman is now chief operating officer for the firm’s international group after Brent Franks retired).

Aramark enters its second decade at Arrowhead after replacing Centerplate in 2010. The switch came at the time the stadium underwent $375 million in renovations. Three years ago, the vendor positioned Arrowhead Stadium to become the first professional sports facility to sell a prepacked compostable bag of peanuts. 

Aramark also runs Arrowhead Stadium’s merchandise. Next door, Aramark runs all food service at Kauffman Stadium, home of the Kansas City Royals. 

Arrowhead Stadium, which opened in 1972 and is the NFL’s third-oldest venue, has gone through more upgrades in recent years with a focus on food. For the 2019 season, the Chiefs opened the Foolish Lounge, an all-inclusive space encompassing two 80-person rooms in the east end zone. Seasonlong memberships sold for $155 a person per game, separate from the cost to buy game tickets.

Outside Arrowhead, Aramark runs the Ford Tailgate District, a free pregame hospitality area featuring $5 beers along the stadium’s north side, next to the Lamar Hunt statue. It’s been a successful venture for the Chiefs, who enjoy a reputation for top-shelf tailgating among fans creating their own elaborate spreads in the parking lots.