Mercedes-Benz Stadium tops league surveys for food and beverage

Falcons owner Arthur Blank (right) and team president and CEO Rich McKay unveiled their plan to reduce concession-stand prices at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. (AJC file photo)

Sales data and fan surveys appear to have validated Mercedes-Benz Stadium’s strategy of bucking sports-industry tradition with sharply reduced prices on some popular concession-stand items.

Steve Cannon, CEO of Falcons and Atlanta United parent company AMB Group, said spending per person on food and beverage at Falcons games this season was up 16 percent from the final season at the Georgia Dome, despite the lower prices. He said the number of concession-stand transactions was up 30 percent and the number of items sold was up 50 percent.

He also said voice-of-the-fan surveys done by both the NFL and MLS ranked Mercedes-Benz Stadium No. 1 in the respective leagues for food and beverage experience.

“I really believe this is a kind of approach that could very well point the way for the sports and entertainment industry,” Cannon said.

Mercedes-Benz Stadium opened in August with a much-publicized “fan first menu” that set concession prices for all events well below what most fans are accustomed to paying. For example, hot dogs, popcorn, bottled water and soft drinks were priced at $2 – the latter with unlimited free refills – and nachos, pizza slices and waffle fries at $3.

The plan, which included sharp increases in points of sale and cooking capacity, was a response to long-standing complaints about overpriced stadium food, locally and nationally.

In the NFL and MLS fan surveys, Cannon said Mercedes-Benz Stadium ranked No. 1 in all food-and-beverage categories, including price/value, quality, speed of service and variety.

“Across every dimension that makes up the food and beverage component of the fan experience, we made a major leap forward,” Cannon said. By comparison, he said the Falcons ranked 18th in 2016 in the NFL survey for overall food and beverage experience.

All 32 teams participate in the NFL survey and 12 teams in the MLS version, Cannon said.

Cannon said an average of 6,000 more Falcons fans entered Mercedes-Benz Stadium an hour or more before kickoff than at the Georgia Dome the previous season and that on average more food-and-beverage items were sold by the end of the first quarters of games in 2017 than during full games in 2016. The earlier arrivals contributed, Cannon said, to an 88-percent increase in merchandise sales at Falcons games from 2016 levels.