Fans break bread in stadia pitchside dining


Dinner in stadiums Image: REWE, Michael Breuer, JC Arena & Ashton Gate Stadium

Of late, more and more stadiums are hosting pitchside dining experience – an al fresco affair. A gourmet spread is laid out before customers so that they can break bread together and enjoy a unique dine-out experience. With the revenue mills drying up and little or no gate income due to COVID-19 which has put the whole sport venue industry up against the wall, stadia are coming up with ingenious ideas like dinner-on-the-pitch to overcome the financial stress and bring in little moolah as well and let gastronomes beat the coronavirus stress and enjoy sumptuous spread.

RheinEnergieSTADION (Couples’ night out)

Recently, REWE (supermarket chain of Germany) organized the Mittelkreis-Dinner at the German football stadium in Cologne – RheinEnergieSTADION. Twenty-two couples who had taken a trip down the aisle this year relished a three-course menu dinner at the stadium.

The couples – sticking to strict coronavirus rules in place at the State of North Rhine-Westphalia – spent treasured moments together on the lawns of the venue.

The small pavilions, which were placed at considerable distance from each other due to the coronavirus scourge – formed a huge heart shape when viewed from above. Under the pointed roofs, a white ceramic billy goat and FC mugs with the respective names of the couples engraved on them were given to each couple as gifts. German-Italian singer Giovanni Zarrella made the evening lively and one to remember.

The REWE Marketing Partnerships team had raffled off the tickets beforehand. A competition was held and 400 couples applied for the same. Since July 2007, REWE has been the exclusive partner of the primary tenant of RheinEnergieSTADIONFC Cologne – the German professional football club. The club and the REWE Group extended their long-term partnership early in May 2020 for at least one additional season.

Ashton Gate Stadium (Family affair)

Bristol’s (England) Ashton Gate Stadium is hoping to repeat its pitchside dining experience after tasting success with its launch over the Bank Holiday weekend.

Mark Kelly, Managing Director, Ashton Gate Ltd., UK, is a Member of Coliseum, Global Sports Venue Alliance.

Around 200 diners tickled their taste buds at the side of the pitch recently at the home facility of English Football League club Bristol City and Premiership rugby side Bristol Bears.

Some 30 tables were utilized for lunch and dinner services which proved to be gourmet delight. With each table catering to four people, families enjoyed to the hilt to sit at the side of the pitch in the afternoon for a pizza lunch, with a date night and steak night theme in the evening.

Diners were able to walk through the tunnel and out into the stadium bowl, enjoying photo sessions before being seated for al fresco dining on pitchside picnic benches. They could also display a red card if they required the staff to be at their service.

“Lunchtime was more of a family event – the kids loved running out of the tunnel. We played Seven Nation Army about a thousand times for them! We had a lovely email from a couple enjoying their anniversary as well,” said Jenny Hutchinson, Head of Venue & Events, Ashton Gate Stadium.

Lunchtime diners could choose from an array of Pizza Workshop pizzas, while those in the evening were spoilt for choice – offered a package including a welcome drink of Prosecco, beer or soft drink, followed by a sharing tomahawk steak, potato salad, green salad and a selection of breads.

Ashton Gate also hosted a comedy night over the weekend, which was also a first since lockdown as the venue looks at opportunities to lure customers and drive revenue as with the COVID-threat still very much on, uncertainty shrouds as to how much revenue can be generated in the coming months with fans still banned from sporting events.

Hutchinson said the events were inspired by the need for creative thinking in the post-lockdown era of social distancing.

Remarked Hutchinson, “We took inspiration from other venues doing all sorts of different things. Possibly, the glasshouse restaurant in Amsterdam (Netherlands) was one that struck us when Europe was first emerging from lockdown and restaurants were trying to attract diners back we saw it and thought we could perhaps recreate something similar at the stadium because of all the space that the stadia naturally have.”

She added, “We definitely hope to repeat it as so many people had such a great time and it is a unique space. Naturally, the pitch side area is exposed to the elements so it’s always going to be more of a summer event plus of course we are home to Bristol City and Bristol Bears so our opportunity to fit these experiences in around their sporting calendars can be challenging!”

“That said, it is great to have the stadium back in operation – albeit us having to think differently about the events we can put on,” Hutchinson concluded.

Johan Cruijff ArenA (Pop-up restaurant)

With little income from football matches at their stadiums, clubs everywhere are looking at innovative means of raising revenue.

Since July, Ajax fans were being able to dine right next to the pitch in the Johan Cruijff ArenA, Amsterdam (Netherlands). The Johan Cruijff ArenA is the residence of the Dutch professional football club Ajax.

In the pop-up restaurant, guests, at an appropriate, 1 ½ meters distance from each other, were savoring high-end cuisine. The temporary restaurant was open from July 9th up to Sunday August 2nd, every Thursday through to Sunday evening and for lunch on Saturday and Sunday. A reservation was must.

Also on the menu were a visit to the Ajax dressing room, the players’ tunnel and the dugout.

Stated Henk Markerink, CEO of Johan Cruijff ArenA, “Fans have had to miss out on soccer in the Johan Cruijff ArenA for quite a while now. That’s why we wanted to offer this unique experience to everyone.”

Henk Markerink, CEO, Johan Cruijff ArenA, Netherlands, is a Member of Coliseum’s Strategic Committee.

A maximum of 100 guests could dine each evening in the impressive ArenA in a space where normally fans are not allowed to enter. Established ArenA-catering partners Label Hospitality and Maison van den Boer provided the culinary three-course menus.

One of the world’s most sustainable stadiums, the Johan Cruijff ArenA is regarded internationally as a role model and consultant for modern stadium construction and operation.

The Amsterdam Innovation Arena serves as a living lab for developing novel concepts for stadium management and event experience.

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