Thanks to a comprehensive overhaul that has been in the works since March of 2013, when the Buccaneers partnered with Aramark as the team's food and beverage and retail services partner, guests at Raymond James Stadium will find a whole new menu and a higher level of customer service when they visit the concession stands this season.
The new menus at 14 state-of-the-art locations in the stadium's main concourse include many new items as well as familiar staples produced with more care and higher quality standards. Buccaneer fans will also find they have more time to see the action on the field because the new stands, rebuilt from the ground up, are designed to serve customers quickly.
These important upgrades to guest service at Raymond James Stadium events were the product of specific requests from Buccaneer fans.
"We got a lot of feedback," said Buccaneers Chief Operating Officer Brian Ford. "The feedback that we got was [they wanted] variety and speed of service. I don't want to stand in line when I came here to watch a football game, or any other event at Raymond James. We want to get in and out. We want variety and we want to feel like we're getting quality for the price point that we're paying. Those were the main points of feedback that we got through our surveys with our members."
A large group of those season pass members were invited to a special unveiling and taste test of the new concession stands on Wednesday afternoon. The guests had an opportunity to sample a wide variety of the items that will be available at the 14 new stands this year, from freshly-pressed Cuban sandwiches to crispy chicken wings in a jalapeno honey mustard sauce to hot pastrami deli sandwiches with Swiss cheese on marble rye.
Kevin Riley, Aramark's executive chef at Raymond James Stadium, helped introduce some new menu items on Wednesday
Jim Cameron, a season pass member from Lakeland, made a point of stopping at all the new stands. (Don't worry! The portions were small to allow more sampling, and a guest could always go back for more of his favorites.) Cameron quickly identified a few new favorites he'll be enjoying on Sundays this fall.
"I've tasted a few things – I tried a Cuban and loved those," he said. "I've pretty much tried all the spicy things, and they were delicious, too."
Just as importantly, Cameron was impressed with the level of service, which is a major organizational focus for the Buccaneers and all of their partners in creating the best possible game day experience.
"They did a great job," said Cameron. "I tried each different stand, and all the people that I talked to were friendly and very inactive. They knew exactly what they were serving and they were quick."
After partnering with the Buccaneers 17 months ago, Aramark used the 2013 season to study the stadium and its concession stands and to get acclimated to the community and the fan base. In 2014, they were told to treat the situation as if Raymond James Stadium was opening its doors for the first time and they had an opportunity to start fresh. The Buccaneers' directive, as gleaned from fan feedback was to focus on select menu items and speed of service.
"If this was a brand new stadium and you had a clean sheet of paper, what would you do differently to offer our fans the best experience they can have?" said Ford. "This was the result of that. It's all about the fan experience and offering variety as well as speed of service. You'll notice the construction and set-up of the concession stands is different. Instead of that back wall where it was inefficient [for the service members] to turn around, this is all back-forward and efficient. Each concession stand has been set up and designed so that they're independent of each other and they're self-equipped. They can produce, store and execute all within those four walls."
"It's exciting to see it all come to life today and we're excited to see it in action Saturday night."
Again, while some fans will enjoy such new offerings as a fried chicken torta, a smoked bacon BLT or a Bocadillo shaved serrano ham deli sandwiches, others will be looking for the concession items they've always associated with football games. They'll find burgers and nachos and hot dogs, too, but carefully designed and prepared versions of them. The new Cuban sandwich, for instance, is made from locally-produced Cuban bread, house mustards and sauces prepared on the spot, and it is pressed in the concession stand right before it is served. Cameron wasn't the only guest raving about that particular item on Wednesday.
"Since becoming partners with the Bucs back in March of 2013, we've really had a common goal to arrive at a better experience from a quality standpoint," explained Kevin Riley, Aramark's executive chef at Raymond James Stadium. "[We're] really going with brand-new chef-driven concepts and working together as a team from our corporate chef down through some of the senior executive chefs throughout the company to collaborate and come up with concepts that make sense. We felt that overall, generally speaking, the sports entertainment world was really missing the bar as far in providing good food quality for our guests. This year, we're really excited to have the opportunity to put this new spin on what we're doing here at Raymond James Stadium.
"What we've done in each stand, too, is provide the opportunity to focus on those specific items so that we can really care for that product from start to finish and make sure it's as fresh as possible. We're keeping staple items that people are familiar with; we're just making sure that we do our best to care for the product from start to finish so everyone can have a great experience."
Fans attending Saturday's Bucs-Dolphins will be the first to have that experience, and the Buccaneers and Aramark are certain they will enjoy it.