Back in 2016, we told you the Atlanta Falcons were going to try something revolutionary with their concessions – make them affordable. Team owner Arthur Blank announced then that when Falcons opened their new Mercedes-Benz Stadium, they would charge Chevy prices for food and drinks. A hot dog would go for $2. Same for a regular Coke – and refills will be free. Those prices and others are the lowest of any concessions at any major sports stadium or arena.
If you’ve stood in line for a burger at a Carolina Panthers or Charlotte Hornets game – or pretty much any big league sports event – you know what a big and unusual deal that is. This season was the first for the Falcons at Mercedes-Benz. How did the concessions experiment work?
Fans loved it, of course. But so might the bottom line. From the New York Times:
“Despite a 50 percent decrease in prices for food and nonalcoholic drinks compared to prices in the Georgia Dome, the amount spent per fan increased by 16 percent, Blank’s sports company, AMB Sports and Entertainment, said on Thursday.”
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That was exactly the idea. The goal, team officials said back in 2016, was to match food and drink prices that fans would pay nearby. The bigger goal was to take a stadium experience that fans barked about in survey after survey and make it better. Both things happened. Fans came to the stadium earlier instead of stopping someplace nearby, and the Falcons finished first in a food and drink survey of NFL teams after finishing in the lower half of surveys in previous years.
For teams considering a similar move, there’s another perk to consider: Fans might buy more tickets if they know a trip to game won’t torch the monthly budget. The Falcons, like lots of teams, have a harder time selling cheaper seats than expensive ones, in part because the customers who buy those cheaper seats are more cost-sensitive. So lower concession prices can be good for everyone.
That doesn’t mean you should expect to see the same at Bank of America Stadium, where the Panthers have little trouble selling their seats. The Hornets, however, find filling Spectrum arena to be a bit more challenging. That might have something to do with the product on the floor, but it also might be because a snack and drink almost doubles the price of an upper bowl ticket.
Two cautions: The Falcons haven’t said if increased sales actually led to more profit, and mimicking the Falcons’ concessions approach is not simply a matter of a team deciding to mark down prices. Blank and his staff did it by abandoning the traditional vendor structure and crafting an operator relationship that allowed the Falcons more control over prices.
We think Charlotte’s teams should consider it. The Hornets might get some help with ticket sales, and the new Panthers ownership could generate some important goodwill in advance of possibly asking for some help with a new stadium. Better yet, as Atlanta has shown, both teams might realize that it’s possible to make more money enticing customers than gouging them. How revolutionary.