Sports Arenas Fail When It Comes To Food, Drink And Consumer Expectations

A new study from CGA and multi-discipline brand design consultancy Harrison has revealed that UK sports arenas and stadiums are falling short of customer expectations, failing to keep up with changing consumer habits and lagging behind the rest of the out-of-home food and drink market.  When it comes to food and drink, more than half of consumers rate the food and drink on offer as either ‘okay’, ‘poor’ or ‘awful’.

The CGA Harrison Stadia F&B report – which pairs CGA’s knowledge of Britain’s eating and drinking-out market with Harrison’s expertise in hospitality architecture, design and branding – provides much-needed analysis of the current food and drink provision in major sporting venues across the UK and suggests there is a significant opportunity to drive the experience for, and spend from, an affluent audience.

The in-depth study also reveals that of the 12.1 million British adults who have visited a major sports arena in the last 12 months, as many as 70% are male and nearly 60% are white-collar workers. Their average monthly eating and drinking out spend is £113.48 – 27% more than the national average – and half of them (51%) drink out weekly, compared to a third (33%) of the wider adult population.

Over 54% consider themselves to be foodies, against a national average of 49%, and more than two in three (71%) say they take a keen interest in food and drink.

What’s more, 68% of stadia consumers say they proactively try to lead a healthy lifestyle and 69% attempt to live in an environmentally-friendly way.

Despite having more disposable income, 42% of consumers cited expensive food and drink as their biggest frustration when visiting stadia, with 38% citing lengthy queues as a common annoyance, and one in five (18%) saying poor Wi-Fi service is a big irritation.

Karl Chessell, business unit director for food and retail at CGA, said: “This report highlights the huge potential for stadia to increase their food and drink sales. The data shows that consumers have money in their pockets to spend on snacks, meals and drinks as part of their day or evening out—but it is all too often a time-consuming, expensive and poor-quality experience. With more than two-thirds of stadia-goers considering themselves knowledgeable about food and drink, it is clear that menus, service and value in many venues are simply not good enough yet.

“But the research also shows that things are changing. Forward-thinking stadia in the UK and US, as well as dynamic casual dining and bar brands, show how it is possible to make eating and drinking out compelling and memorable, and technology is adding exciting new ways to improve engagement and efficiency even further. By understanding the key trends and learning from others, all stadia operators can make food and drink a bigger part of their revenues.”

Philip Harrison, founder at Harrison, said: “The findings from this report indicate three very clear demands from consumers: better quality of food and drink, better value and better service.

“Some stadia – for example, Wembley and the new White Hart Lane, or Carrow Road in Norwich – are leading the way when it comes to expanding and diversifying their F&B offerings, but many venues have not kept pace with the evolution in out-of-home eating and drinking, and are falling well short of their customers’ expectations. In the US, arenas are typically some way ahead, their stadia events can be an all-day affair and clearly, there are best practices that need to be reflected in the UK.

“Stadia operators, planners, retailers and creators must meet these changing consumer demands and expectations if they are to improve customer satisfaction and ultimately increase their sales in the years ahead.”