Georgia football fans gobble up concessions in record numbers

091821 Athens: Georgia fans get the wave going during a 40-13 victory over South Carolina in a NCAA college football game on Saturday, Sept 18, 2021, in Athens.    ���Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@ajc.com���
Caption
091821 Athens: Georgia fans get the wave going during a 40-13 victory over South Carolina in a NCAA college football game on Saturday, Sept 18, 2021, in Athens. ���Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@ajc.com���

Credit: Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@

ATHENS – Remember last spring when Georgia Athletic Director Josh Brooks brought forth to the board of directors his plan to make attending the Bulldogs’ games a more family-friendly and affordable endeavor?

Well, apparently Georgia fans were listening, and they’re taking full advantage of the generosity.

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UGA has experienced record sales on virtually all of its concession-stand offerings at Sanford Stadium this season. The reduced-price offerings have resulted in an avalanche of transactions during the first three home games.

Georgia has had sellouts (92,746) for its three home games against Alabama-Birmingham, South Carolina and Arkansas. Saturday’s game against Kentucky also is sold out.

ESPN’s “College GameDay” and “SEC Nation” national pregame shows are in town for the festivities. That means Georgia fans will show up early, hungry, thirsty and motivated to buy.

That’s where Brooks’ initiative comes in. In an effort to reward UGA fans, who continue to support all the Bulldogs’ athletic endeavors, but especially football, Brooks announced last spring that they would reduce the prices of the five core concession items: Bottled water ($2), bottled soda ($2.50), jumbo hot dogs ($2.50), candy ($2) and popcorn ($5 bucket, $2 small).

The response has been overwhelming. According to John Bateman, UGA’s assistant athletic director for marketing, Georgia has logged record sales in each of the first three games. The Bulldogs expect those records to be broken Saturday as Georgia -- now the nation’s consensus No. 1 team -- plays host to No. 11-ranked and undefeated Kentucky for a 3:30 p.m. game (CBS).

Bateman said Georgia sold more than 160,000 “total units” for the Arkansas game two weeks ago. That followed record sales in each of the previous games, against UAB and then South Carolina.

Bottled water and hot dogs have been particularly popular. While UGA in the past averaged about 35,000 bottles of water per game, it sold more than 55,000 during the Arkansas contest. Meanwhile, Brooks conspired to offer jumbo hot dogs this year for the price that it sold regular hot dogs before. Where UGA averaged about 6,000 hot dogs sold in the past, Bateman said they moved 13,000 during the Arkansas game alone. They’re prepared for 15,000 to be snapped up Saturday.

“The pricing has created a rising demand and a higher volume of sales,” Bateman said. “So, with that, we’ve basically had to throw out our data from past years of concession sales. Those numbers are really irrelevant now.”

The demand has put a strain on UGA’s concessions operations during games. Georgia, which partners with Aramark, has remained at full staffing for all the games, unlike a lot of stadiums throughout college football and the SEC. But the increased demand has made it difficult to efficiently serve the number of people coming through the lines.

As a result, Georgia will introduce several “mitigation measures” Saturday that it hopes will reduce waiting times and increase efficiency. Those measures include:

  • Fans will be allowed to bring one unopened bottle of water into the stadium.
  • UGA added four water “refill stations,” bringing to 10 the number available around the stadium. The new locations are at Gate 9, Section 301, Section 337 and 600 Level. The others are at Gates 2, 4, 6, 7, Section 142 (under the bridge) and Section 314.
  • Portable concession stands are being added above Reed Plaza for Chick-fil-A sandwiches and for bottle drinks. They’re also expanding the existing Chick-fil-A stand located at Gate 2.

Bateman said they’ve averaged 8,000 Chick-fil-A sandwiches sold per game over the years. After selling 12,000 during the Arkansas game, they’ll have 14,000 prepared Saturday.

UGA also sells Zaxby’s chicken sandwiches and Papa John’s pizzas, which also have been flying off the shelves in record-breaking numbers. So, Georgia also doubled their orders from those franchises this week.

After going through 90,000 bottles of water during the first two home games, Georgia will have twice that at its disposal Saturday. Keep in mind, this is all taking place during a time in which the U.S. is experiencing supply-chain shortages.

But UGA said no amount of trouble is too great when it comes to letting the Bulldogs eat.

“We’re evaluating and studying everything and going to great lengths to try to figure out how we can get better,” Bateman said. “It’s not staffing or anything like that. We’re over here setting records and that’s great. Our challenge now is keeping up with record-setting demand.”

In short, business is good and winning keeps everybody hungry.

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