The price drop represents the latest step in Falcons and United owner Arthur Blank’s “fan friendly” concessions crusade. Architects designed Mercedes-Benz Stadium with cheap food options in mind, Falcons President Rich McKay said in an interview last year, building more concession venues and adding space in the kitchens for extra cooks.
Executives from AMB Sports and Entertainment, Blank’s parent company for sports holdings, have insisted that the move reflects the organization’s philosophy and isn’t just a public relations stunt meant to endear fans to the new building, which replaced the Georgia Dome as the Falcons’ home in 2017. They have also called it the potential beginning of a broader reset of stadium concession prices.
Executives suggested to Blank the stadium could raise prices slightly in 2019 and still keep fans happy, but the owner demurred, according to Greg Beadles, AMB’s chief operating officer.
Instead, he asked for the stadium to cut prices again, telling staff he wanted fans to think “Uncle Arthur,” as he is known in Atlanta, was “crazy,” Beadles said.
The price drops, Beadles said, are “our way of putting a flag in the ground and saying we’re doing this for the long haul and it’s our vision.”
Since Mercedes-Benz Stadium debuted cheaper food prices, other professional and college sports franchises have followed suit with price cuts, albeit not as extreme. The Baltimore Ravens tried lower prices in 2018 as part of a plan to solve a “disconnect” with fans, according to team president Dick Cass. The University of Texas slashed food prices at football games and launched a pregame street fair to goose attendance numbers.
AMB is encouraging more major sports venues to try out a similar strategy and has been advising interested NFL teams.
“We’re the evangelists on this,” Beadles said in a phone interview this week. “You can give back to the fans here, and the dollars might not be the same as before, but the brand equity and the relationship you have with your fans is much improved.”
But AMB is still making money, even though the profit margin on concessions is much slimmer. Sales volume increased by 50 percent after the price cuts, Beadles said. Ten percent of fans arrived an hour or earlier before kickoff of Falcons games, which led to a jump in pregame food sales and merchandise sales.
And AMB’s market research suggests Mercedes-Benz Stadium still has not met demand for the cheap eats; hence, the latest price cuts and move toward cashless transactions. Executives hope the inexpensive food and quicker lines will induce more customers to spend money inside the stadium.
If it works — and Beadles said he is optimistic — AMB will take those results back to NFL franchises and other national sports venues.
“It’s not just a flash in the pan for us,” Beadles said. “This is what we’re about.”
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