Elevated Concessions Partners, Live Nation
Developed by Brian Siep, senior vice president of food and beverage; Andy Yates, West Coast director of food and beverage; and Brian Hart, director of premium food and beverage
Photo: Courtesy Live Nation
Connecting the fans with the right brands
Brian Siep, Live Nation senior vice president of food and beverage, knows fans anticipate the acts on stage when they arrive at shows.
That didn’t mean Siep and his colleagues couldn’t elevate the food to match that excitement. They made it a priority, then partnered with foodie celebrities, renowned chefs from across the country and Legends Hospitality to accomplish that.
“We worked hard to find the brands and the partners who really spoke to our fans,” said Andy Yates, Live Nation’s West Coast director of food and beverage. “We wanted what spoke to the overall fanbase, nationally — not looking at it through California eyes.
“The people we partnered with have great reputations and are instantly recognizable. Their products aren’t gimmicks.”
The offerings, introduced for the 2019 amphitheater season at more than 40 Live Nation properties, included The Roots drummer Questlove’s Cheesesteak with Impossible plant-based meat; Trejo’s Tacos, created by actor Danny Trejo; Art Bird’s fried chicken; Fabio Viviani’s Italian dishes; chef Tim Love’s signature smoked barbecue; hand-crafted gourmet hot dogs and sausages from Dog Haus; and a fan favorite, California Pizza Kitchen entrees.
“Danny Trejo — who doesn’t love the actor and the man?” Siep asked rhetorically. “His concept is in L.A. His taco shop is a huge hit. We met the people behind it, and it was a great fit. The reaction people have to him and his product is great for us to see. It’s an entire experience when you come to our venue.”
For this, Live Nation won Best New Concept as part of VenuesNow’s annual Excellence in Concessions Awards.
“I’m thrilled,” Yates said. “I can’t describe it in words. This is the first time I’ve been recognized in this way. This is wonderful.”
The process was an arduous and expensive one. Live Nation was required to upgrade infrastructure at select company-owned venues by building shipping container kitchens.
“We got the money to do this,” Siep said. “Andy went into the market and visited with dozens of chefs and partners to see what would fit best with us and our fans. We came up with great partners who were connected to the music world and some who weren’t to give us great products to offer.”
Along with the container kitchens were specially outfitted on-site smokers for Tim Love’s BBQ that cook whole pigs every show.
In additional to new food concepts, Live Nation introduced a signature cocktail program. Curated by mixologist Sean Kenyon, the specialty cocktails — including the Live Nation Cocktail — are available only at Live Nation amphitheaters.
“When you’re at a local restaurant or bar, you want a certain level of handcrafted cocktail,” Siep said. “Why can’t you get that when you see your favorite musician?”
Siep explained the process behind the movement was entertaining in its own right. “Sometimes our job doesn’t suck, and we get to eat and drink and play all day,” Siep said with a laugh.
“Seriously, our partners at Legends did a lot of sourcing with these new food partners,” he said. “We wanted everybody to get to the right place to serve at our standards.”
Live Nation’s director of premium food and beverage, Brian Hart, chalked up the success to beverage director Robert Zapf. Hart said Zapf “stepped it up” but, more important, helped “sell the dream locally to the guys on the floor.”
“We need to make sure the quality is there,” Hart said. “Creating a craft cocktail for a large-scale environment is tough. There’s a lot of attention that needs to be paid. We need to get the right products ordered. We have to make sure the supply chain is there, and we had to do it the way Sean envisioned it. It took a lot of work and buy-in.”
The challenges went beyond that, and varied from location to location. In North Carolina, the liquor boards are strict. In Chicago and Los Angeles, fans familiar with high-end cocktail culture have high expectations.
“Craft cocktail scenes jumped out in certain areas,” Kenyon said. “We were able to create something on a large scale that met a lot of those high standards.”
“St. Louis is a beer-drinking crowd,” he said, but a “large-scale gin-based cocktail in what is not necessarily the most gin-friendly crowd still came off well. We created a program that was accessible by everybody. We met those high standards.”
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