With 2-million-square-foot Mercedes-Benz Stadium and its unique retractable roof set to open with an Atlanta Falcons preseason game Aug. 26 and an Atlanta United game Sept. 10, attention is turning to the food and beverages to be offered at the stadium and their low prices.
Mercedes-Benz Stadium will sell $2 refillable sodas, $5 beers and $2 hot dogs in a family-friendly approach to pricing, said Brian Lapinskas, the director of operations for Levy Restaurants at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.
“About three years ago we started looking at what are the pain points for our fans, and one of them was pricing. It was really dedication from Arthur Blank to sit down and say, ‘How do we solve this?’ ” Lapinskas said during a media preview of the stadium concessions Friday, July 21. “Part of that was lowering pricing. It wasn’t cheap pricing or below-market pricing, but we wanted to charge our fans what they’re paying on the street inside the stadium.”
The pricing extends to craft and imported beers, where the tastes of football and soccer fans diverge. Falcons fans want more popular beers, while United fans prefer craft beers, said Michael Gomes, the senior vice president of fan experience for AMB Sports + Entertainment.
“We made sure to not go super-low with pure beer pricing, so we wanted to make sure it is also fairly priced,” he said.
The mainstream beer selection ranges from Miller Lite and Bud Light to Modelo and Stella Artois. National and local craft beers, such as Sweetwater 420, also are being sold. The prices start at $5 for a 12-ounce mass-produced domestic beer and $7 for a 20-ounce beer.
Gomes said it is important to take a holistic approach to the stadium and ensure the availability of craft and imported beers.
“From an alcoholic beverage standpoint, we have 1,264 beer taps in the building. The Georgia Dome has 30,” Gomes said. “The ability to serve fresh beer and draft beer across our entire building is fantastic and amazing.”
The beer stands are strategically placed to accommodate the stadium’s capacity of 75,000 people, who won’t have to walk across the stadium to find what they want, Lapinskas said.
“We were very deliberate as to make sure we had import, domestic or craft, but to also make sure there was an even distribution throughout the stadium,” he said. “We felt we achieved a great placement in the stadium that you’re never out of eyesight from what you’re looking for.”
The stadium also is selling specialty cocktails, including a signature margarita. The signature Bloody Mary contains ingredients from the stadium garden, which also supplies the mint for the Moscow mule.
“We think that we have a nice, well-rounded beverage program — not just cocktails, beer and spirits, but something to appeal to all level of fans in the stadium,” Lapinskas said.
For sweet treats, Sublime Doughnuts is in one of the club areas, and Bruster’s Ice Cream is offered throughout the building. The management team at Mercedes-Benz Stadium surveyed a variety of ice creams, and Gomes said Bruster’s was No. 1 among the fans.
“All of our local partners have been chosen by Falcons and United fans,” he said. “Bruster’s has a national footprint, and they’re locally based and minority-owned.”
The stadium will offer kosher food upon request, but for now Sublime is the only kosher vendor. Lapinskas said Levy Restaurants is focusing on menus for everyone.
“We’re concentrating our efforts around gluten-free, vegan and so forth,” he said. “On all three levels, you can experience those items, and on our premium efforts we are working with chefs to accommodate special needs like kosher.”
Southern chophouse Molly B’s, named after owner Arthur Blank’s late mother and located on the 100-level concourse, is the only stadium restaurant that will be open outside game days.
Club spaces will stay open later than concession stands after games, Gomes said.
“We’re going to flex a little bit on that — when you have your 1 o’clock and 4 o’clock games, to be able to hang back and have cocktail or dessert. It allows us to let traffic dissipate, and that’s something we’re going to work toward,” he said. “You’re seeing a trend in some of the stadiums: When you get fans to hang back a little bit, it’s better for everyone. It depressurizes your traffic and allows you to have a place in the building where you feel comfortable and not have people sweeping up around you.”