Legends fits the Bills F&B ‘bill’



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Legends win new F&B contract for new Bills stadium Image: Buffalo Bills

The sports consulting firm Legends has already been shaping the new stadium of the National Football League (NFL) team Buffalo Bills (US) on the inside and out, from concept to design to sales.

‘The Buffalo News’ stated that now the company is entering a long-term partnership with the Bills, one that will make Legends, which was co-founded by the NFL team Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, a significant and ongoing player in Western New York.

New York (US)-based Legends are a global premium experiences company that specializes in delivering holistic solutions for sports and entertainment organizations and venues.

The Buffalo Bills are a professional American football team based in the Buffalo metropolitan area. The Bills compete in the National Football League as a member club of the league’s American Football Conference East division. The team plays its home games at the Highmark Stadium in Orchard Park, New York, US.

The 71,608-capacity Highmark Stadium is a stadium in Orchard Park, New York (US), in the Southtowns of the Buffalo metropolitan area. The stadium opened in 1973 as the Rich Stadium and is the home venue of the Buffalo Bills of the National Football League.

The 62,000-capacity planned venue of the Bills will be built adjacent to the Erie Community College’s South campus across the street from the Highmark Stadium, which would be demolished. The stadium will be designed by the celebrated design studio Populous, who has previously designed 12 other active NFL stadiums, with which the new Orchard Park stadium will share numerous design elements and features.

‘The Buffalo News’ further stated that Legends Hospitality has been awarded the food and beverage rights for the new stadium, which is scheduled to open in 2026.

Legends were selected from a field of four bidders, which included Sodexo, Levy Restaurants and the Buffalo-based Delaware North Companies, which has held the Bills stadium contract since 1992.

Sodexo is a French food services and facilities management company headquartered in the Paris suburb of Issy-les-Moulineaux (commune in France)). It has 412,088 employees as of 2021, operates in 55 countries and serves 100 million customers on a daily basis.

Levy is a restaurant and hospitality company based in Chicago (US) specializing in providing food and beverage to major entertainment and sports venues. Founded in 1978, with a single family-run delicatessen in the Water Tower Place (Shopping mall in Chicago, Illinois), since 2006, it has been a wholly-owned subsidiary of Britain’s Compass Group.

Buffalo (US)-based Delaware North is a global leader in the hospitality and entertainment industry. The company annually serves more than a half-billion guests across three continents, including at high-profile sports venues, airports, national and state parks, restaurants, resorts, hotels, and casinos. Building on more than a century of enduring partnerships and a commitment to the local communities and sustainability, Delaware North’s vision is to delight guests by creating the world’s best experiences today while reimagining tomorrow.

Said Ron Raccuia, the Bills’ Executive Vice-President and Chief Operating Officer (COO), “They clearly have shown the ability to understand our marketplace at a very high level. Overall, we felt they offered us the best opportunity to deliver the type of food and beverage experience that we know our fans want in the new stadium.”

Terms of the deal, which Raccuia describes as a “long-term agreement”, were not disclosed.

Landing the contract, which Bills officials revealed recently, is a major win – if an unsurprising one – for Legends. The company is already working with the Bills and the architectural firm Populous on the design of the new stadium. Legends is also overseeing sales for the $1.54 billion facility, including the marketing of personal seat licenses and naming rights, and has conducted multiple studies of the Buffalo market and the Bills fan base.

Added Raccuia, “They’ve spent a lot of time with our fans on surveys, in small group settings, in Western New York. We feel very confident in their knowledge of our fan base and what we’re trying to deliver for an unbelievable Bills fan experience.”

Each of the bidders responded to an RFP (request for proposal) last year with a written document that Raccuia describes as a “vision statement”. That was followed by a series of interviews that probed into their philosophies on food and menu development, pricing strategy and approach to catering on non-gamedays. They discussed finances, leadership structure and sales strategies. Bills officials also visited venues run by each of the four finalists – sometimes officially, other times unannounced.

A request for proposal (RFP) is a document that solicits a proposal, often made through a bidding process, by an agency or company interested in procurement of a commodity, service, or valuable asset, to potential suppliers to submit business proposals.

Following a trend in sports arenas, the Bills’ menu will have what Raccuia calls a “hyperlocal” focus that celebrates the Western New York cuisine. He noted that all the finalists’ proposals “really nailed the local aspect of it”, and added, “Where I believe Legends was perhaps a little better than the rest on there was understanding how that fit into all the other things that we’re doing: How it fit into beverage service. How it fit into pre-game. How it fit into a postgame type of environment. It was one step different than some of the others.”

Legends handles food and beverage for several venues, including the 46,537-capacity Yankee Stadium in Bronx, New York City, the 80,000-capacity AT&T Stadium in Dallas, Texas, and the 70,000-capacity SoFi Stadium in Los Angeles, where it integrates the local cuisine into both everyday concessions and high-end, restaurant-style clubs.

Stated Dan Smith, President of Legends Hospitality, “Legends is proud to expand our long-term partnership with the Buffalo Bills to deliver a best-in-class hospitality experience for Bills Mafia (Bills fans) at games, showcasing the very best Buffalo has to offer and beyond.”

Smith further stated that Legends expects to have 30 full-time executives and 2,000 part-time gameday employees in place by 2026. Virtually all of the gameday workers will be from the Western New York market and many of the executive hires will likely be local too, he said.

Delaware North, meanwhile, will continue running the food and beverage program at the Highmark Stadium through the 2025 season. The decision puts a dent in Delaware North’s portfolio, although with $3.8 billion in revenues last year and operations around the world, it’s likely one the company can absorb.

Delaware North sent out a statement which read, “We are disappointed not to have been selected to continue to be the Buffalo Bills’ hospitality partner beyond the 2025 season. We continue to believe our local roots, partnerships and successful track record with implementing innovative hospitality programs would have made us an outstanding partner in the new stadium. As a Buffalo-based company, we are incredibly proud of our Delaware North team members who have worked tirelessly on behalf of the Buffalo Bills and their passionate fans for more than 30 years and remain committed to our longstanding partnership with the Bills organization.”

Raccuia referred to Delaware North as “a great partner of ours. I can’t say anything but great things about what they’ve done for us and what they will continue to do over the next three years, their professionalism in this process and their commitment to Western New York.”

The new stadium, which will be located across the street from the current venue, will have significantly more food offerings than Highmark. The Bills also hope to host non-football events “a couple hundred times a year”, Raccuia said, noting that the hiring Legends will likely expand local hiring to meet that need.

This Spring, Legends also took over operations of the current Buffalo Bills store, a year-round retail shop located at the Highmark Stadium, from the Delaware North Companies. Raccuia noted that the former Delaware North employees have joined Legends, which has “expanded that business. We feel the same thing will happen with food and beverage”.

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