VenuesNow: Legends Hospitality Beats Super Bowl Per-Cap Record
Getty Images – Super Sales
A merchandise vendor was feeling good about things Sunday at Super Bowl LV.
Legends Hospitality smashed the record for Super Bowl food and retail spending at Sunday’s Super Bowl LV in Tampa, Florida, a function of factors such as concession stand lines shortened by restricted venue capacity during the pandemic.
The per cap was $132 for food and drink, covering general concessions and premium dining, plus $80 for merchandise. The numbers are for game day sales at Raymond James Stadium only, Legends officials said.
The previous Super Bowl record was $95.41 for food and drink sales in 2017 at NRG Stadium in Houston, where Aramark runs concessions and catering. For retail, the old record was Super Bowl 50 at Levi’s Stadium in 2016, where Legends posted a $65 per cap.
In Tampa, the official game attendance was 24,835 in a stadium that seats 65,890. Doing the math, fans spent about $3.28 million for food and drink and $1.99 million on retail items.
“This was a Super Bowl like no other,” said Dan Smith, president of Legends Hospitality. “The confluence of factors that went into the planning was just surreal. In my 45-year career, I don’t remember having to put all of that into the mix and to come out with a plan, and then on top of the plan, have five to six contingency plans ready to activate at any given time.”
Legends never really know how many fans would be in the stadium. The number was all over the map, Smith said. Regardless, he said virtually every point of sale was operating to provide quicker and more efficient service in a socially distanced setup.
“The availability and menu selection is what drove the per cap up,” Smith said. “You could pretty much walk up to any counter at will, get what you want and get back to your seat.”
In addition, concessions pricing was at a premium as typically structured for Super Bowl. Souvenir sodas cost $14 and domestic beers were $13, but there were also “fan friendly” priced items such as $5 hot dogs and nachos, a trend that started two years ago in Atlanta. High-end items for Super Bowl LV included the BBQ platter ($22), smoked wings ($20) and a double cheeseburger ($18).
“Particularly at a Super Bowl, nobody is there to save money,” consultant Chris Bigelow said.
The numbers sound right, considering suite catering runs $400 to $500 a person, said consultant Mike Plutino, founder and CEO of Food Service Matters. Those figures were the range at Hard Rock Stadium and Mercedes-Benz Stadium, site of the past two Super Bowls, Plutino said.
Raymond James Stadium has 195 suites, and all were sold for the Super Bowl. There were fewer occupants in the suites because of social distance measures, said Peter O’Reilly, the NFL’s executive vice president of club business and league events.
“There was likely a heavier concentration of premium dollars that propped up the per cap with less general concession fans,” Plutino said. “They had the high-paying customers all over the place and were lighter in the bowl. Plus, the health care workers that were there (as NFL guests) didn’t pay for tickets so maybe they spent $50 to $70 that they wouldn’t have spent before. Who knows?”
O’Reilly touched on Super Bowl per caps Wednesday during his annual postmortem on the event during a Stadium Managers Association seminar. A crowd of less than 25,000 in the stadium resulted in shorter lines, which produced a better experience, O’Reilly said.
“The reality is, you’ve got a lot less, almost no pregame hospitality,” he said. “We didn’t have any (official) tailgate events. It was a later-arriving crowd than normal for the Super Bowl because a lot of people are (typically) inside the secure perimeter early enjoying hospitality.”
Some experts thought the merchandise per cap should’ve been higher considering that, for the first time in its 55-year history, the Super Bowl was held in the home venue for one of the competitors, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Others say the number was strong and pointed to what was most likely a less corporate crowd flying to Tampa to attend the game and take home Super Bowl souvenirs this year.
There were about 20 merchandise locations inside the stadium, including the main team store, but with increased protocols in place, it wasn’t the easiest space to access during the Super Bowl, Smith said. There were also some portable retail trailers outside of the venue.
The real story was the NFL’s vendors worked closely with Legends in-market and produced goods as they needed them on site. Typically, suppliers produce Super Bowl merchandise, ship it and they’re done, Smith said.
“Demand for the product actually started early and we were limited in terms of setup facilities because the NFL Experience was limited,” he said. “We had to follow all the safety protocols, so given the footprint that was established, I don’t think we could have done 10 cents more. The sales velocity was unlike any Super Bowl I’ve been a part of.”
In general, the higher spend on food and drink fell in line with a trend many NFL teams experienced during the regular season because of faster speed of service with stadiums filled to a fraction of capacity.
“We’ve always said the average customer has $20 more to spend if we can move the lines faster,” Plutino said.
The move to cashless concessions and an increased focus on mobile ordering also expedited service as teams eliminate cash transactions as a safety measure. Super Bowl LV was part of the shift at Raymond James Stadium, with reverse ATM machines installed for fans to convert cash to a debit card to use at concession stands.
“It was smooth,” O’Reilly said. “There’s no going back on all-mobile Super Bowls. We checked with our team on the concessions side and there were really no issues. We messaged it pretty hard on the lead-up. Give credit to Visa, which is one of our partners and on the cutting edge on this and has helped a lot of buildings do it effectively.”