PHILLY FILL UP: An Aramark worker attends one of the new concession stands at the Pennsylvania Convention Center. (Courtesy venue)

New stands offer flexibility, capability and better signage

Revamped concessions opened at the Pennsylvania Convention Center in Philadelphia on Jan. 26, with six new concession stands and five portables unveiled as the latest improvements in $78.8 million of capital investments in the facility in the last four years.

“It took about a year to get everything completed once we put our plans in place,” said Gene Donato, general manager for Aramark, the convention center’s food provider.

The permanent stands are located in Halls A through F and feature digital signage and menu boards.

The new stands went into vacant spaces without permanent infrastructure, necessitating the use of portables set up for each event, whereas the new stands have cooking, warming, refrigeration and ventilation systems.

As far as evaluating what was needed, Aramark worked with building manager ASM Global and had the full support of the Pennsylvania Convention Center Authority, which oversees the facility.

Aramark is headquartered in Philadelphia and has a major presence at venues in the city.

“We have Citizens Bank Park, Lincoln Financial Field, Wells Fargo Center, as well as business dining accounts in the city,” Donato said. “So, we’ve got a lot of input, a lot of experience and all the different food concepts that people really enjoy. We have a lot of creative chefs too. We’ve worked with our clients here at the convention center for many years and we know that for each of the groups that come in, there can be different cultures, different menu requests. We didn’t want to limit it to one concept per stand. We wanted to make them multi-dimensional and in a manner that works for the different show types.”

Gene Donato

When it comes to putting the city’s best foot forward for clients and their attendees and exhibitors, the food service can give a taste of the city to those who can’t necessarily leave the facility to go sightseeing and dining. The food service is also key to landing new business and getting existing ones to return, Donato said.

The latest improvements include new point-of-sale and integrated inventory systems.

“We also have state of the art visuals,” he said. “We have huge monitors on top of the stands that we can program, not only with our menus and visual signage, but we can put our clients’ information on there. If they want to flash their logos, or if they want to do sponsorships, we can program them. You can see them through the entire hall. They’re huge.”

Improvements made at the Pennsylvania Convention Center, the nation’s 14th largest, over the past four years include health and sanitization measures; new wi-fi infrastructure; better air-handling units and energy-efficient lighting.  There are also plans afoot for major renovation involving underused spaces.