SUPER BOWL SPREAD: Craft Culinary Concepts’ game plan for Super Bowl LVII extends to building temporary kitchens outside State Farm Stadium to handle the large volume of food service. (Getty Images)
Food vendor fully staffed with 2,000 workers
Justin Hurd works his first Super Bowl on Sunday, but he’s got loads of experience with mega events such as the Kentucky Derby, where the crowds at Churchill Downs are twice the size of NFL championship games.
Hurd, general manager of Craft Culinary Concepts, the concessionaire at State Farm Stadium, spent 14 years with Levy before joining the Arizona Cardinals’ in-house operation just prior to the 2022 NFL season.
At Levy, he was director of operations at Staples Center before relocating to Arizona and overseeing the company’s Phoenix venues, including Chase Field and Footprint Center. He’s worked the Kentucky Derby, World Series and the NBA and NHL finals,, whether he was the business leader directly or part of the support effort.
Hurd’s 34 years in the food service industry covers hotels and restaurants in addition to sports venues. Prior to Levy, he served as director of beverage for the Scottsdale (Arizona) Fairmont Princess, a luxury resort, and managing partner of Hops Bistro & Brewery in Scottsdale.
Craft Culinary Concepts, which rebranded from Rojo Hospitality a few years ago, is a relative newcomer to the concessions space since Rojo launched in 2010. The firm runs the food at a few other venues outside of Phoenix, including Will Rogers Memorial Center in Fort Worth, Texas.
The company, owned by the Bidwill family, owner of the NFL Arizona Cardinals, has retained a large portion of its executive staff in place for the previous two Super Bowls in Glendale, Arizona, Hurd said.
Rojo was the operator for the 2015 event, posting a $72.14 per cap, a record number for the stadium, which opened in 2006.
Centerplate, the vendor for the Super Bowl in 2008, reported an average spend of $45.38, which included food and drink sales from the NFL Experience held on site.
For 2015 and this year, the NFL Experience is held at the Phoenix Convention Center in downtown Phoenix, about 17 miles southeast of State Farm Stadium.
For Sunday’s game, Craft Culinary Concepts will be 100% staffed with just over 2,000 workers, most of them part-timers. That number is double the 1,000 staffers in place for Cardinals games, Hurd said. Staffing hasn’t been an issue, considering labor shortages coming out of the pandemic and the fact that Craft Culinary Concepts doesn’t have the scale to draw support for Super Bowl compared with other food providers that have multiple big league accounts across the country.
“We did a mass hiring heading into the Fiesta Bowl to expand our staffing,” Hurd said. “There’s a lot of crossover with the other sports venues in Phoenix, which really allows them to be in effect full-time, but they’re part-time specifically due to the number of events.”
In addition, Instawork, a gig economy mobile application, has supported Craft Culinary Concepts with part-timers for a while now through Reggie Davis, the concessionaire’s senior vice president of business development, said Mike Tully, Instawork’s director of strategic partnerships.
Every one of those workers is needed to help staff hospitality spaces both inside and outside State Farm Stadium. Craft Culinary Concepts built multiple kitchens on the exterior to help support catering services distributed to those VIP areas, many of which are tied to the NFL On Location corporate ticket packages.
“The current infrastructure of our main kitchen is not sufficient to support the volume of food needed for the Super Bowl,” Hurd said. “It’s hard to quantify compared with Cardinals games. There are just a lot more areas to serve, including additional seating.”
The Fiesta Bowl on New Year’s Eve, which served as a semifinal for the College Football Playoff championship, helped the food vendor prepare for the Super Bowl. The announced crowd for that game was 71,723, similar to the attendance expected for Super Bowl LVII, Hurd said.
State Farm Stadium capacity is listed at 63,400 and to help reach the 70,000 mark, the NFL built 22 party patios on the main concourse. The 18-person patios, made up of three-sided structures, have a private lounge space with seating in front. Most of them are along the sidelines with a few set up in the corners of the 100 level, Hurd said.
Supply chain issues have improved over the course of the NFL season, he said. Currently, about 5% of products are affected, including eggs, which have skyrocketed in cost for a multitude of reasons, and certain cuts of meat that have to be brought in from outside the market.
Otherwise, Craft Culinary Concepts sources many food materials, such as grains, from Native American purveyors to produce food items such as the Navajoland fry bread avocado toast, among the Super Bowl specialty items to be served in premium areas.
General concession items on Sunday’s menu include a spicy Korean fried chicken sandwich, the Birria burger, made with a spicy, tangy sauce and Pizza Box nachos topped with prime rib. On the beverage side, the concessionaire expanded its selections with NFL league partners such as Barefoot Wines, a Gallo brand.