Sunday, September 14, 2014

Behind a food service vendor switch at the Nassau Coliseum (and the switch that didn't happen at Barclays)

Advertisement for Coliseum pitch, featuring Legends,
as in the references to Yankee and Cowboys stadiums
It's worth tracing back some behind--the-scenes business in Forest City Ratner's arena operations, in which one food service vendor, Legends, was swapped for another, Levy Restaurants.

When Forest City Ratner assembled a team to renovate the Nassau Coliseum last year, the lunch for Nassau County's Business Advisory Council was prepared by "sports food service company Legends," one member of the team, Long Island Business News reported 5/2/13

What Ratner appeared on Bloomberg TV's Street Smart 6/28/13, he declared, "We have great partners. We have the Yankees providing the food, with the Dallas Cowboys, for a company called Legends." 

According to Ratner's proposal:
Legends is a pioneering sports and entertainment company owned by the New York  Yankees, the Dallas Cowboys, and Checketts Partners Investment Fund. Legends provides food service operations in its two first-class stadiums and partners with some of the most iconic properties in sports, including Manchester City FC, San Francisco 49ers, Churchill Downs, Rose Bowl, and the Cleveland Browns. Legends would oversee the building’s food and beverage program, and its experience would be augmented by Barclays Center’s success with its “Brooklyn Taste” program. This program, whereby  Brooklyn’s diverse eateries are brought into the arena, has proven tremendously popular  and is setting sales records.
The switch

Then came an 8/18/14 press release,  Barclays Center Extends Partnership with Levy Restaurants
Barclays Center and Levy Restaurants have extended their partnership with a multi-year deal, building on their acclaimed BrooklynTaste™ food program, which features selections from 55 popular Brooklyn restaurants and vendors. In addition to extending their partnership at the home of the Brooklyn Nets, Levy will become the food and beverage partner for the soon to be re-imagined Nassau Coliseum, scheduled to open at the end of 2016. The recreated venue will deliver a world-class sports, entertainment and retail center to Nassau County and its residents.
“We are thrilled to extend and expand our relationship with Levy Restaurants,” said Brett Yormark, CEO of Barclays Center and the Brooklyn Nets. “Levy has done an outstanding job at Barclays Center, co-authoring the renowned BrooklynTaste program, and we are looking forward to delivering the same level of service to guests at Nassau Coliseum. We want to thank Legends for being a part of the team that secured the winning bid for Nassau Coliseum. After further consideration, we felt that the synergy created by Levy being involved with both venues was the ultimate way to deliver best-in-class food and beverage programs.” Levy has been the food and beverage operator for Barclays Center since the venue opened in 2012.
The split

Newsday reported 8/19/14, in Nassau Coliseum makes food service vendor switch, that there was a little more conflict behind the scenes:
Yormark said Legends pitched itself as a "premium" player that would operate only in select venues. But he said it became a "volume player" that operates at Yankee Stadium, the Prudential Center in Newark and a host of universities and smaller venues.
Levy operates at only one arena in the New York region -- the Barclays Center -- and can provide the Coliseum greater attention, Yormark said. "It comes down to philosophically what's in the best interest of the Nassau Coliseum," he said.
Yankees president Randy Levine said Legends was an "integral" part of Ratner's winning bid to renovate the Coliseum.
Levine said Barclays officials provided "representation" during the Coliseum bidding process that Legends also would be in line to win the Barclays Center food and beverage contract. But he said Barclays officials ignored their calls for months. When the Barclays Center renewed its contract with Levy last week, Legends dropped out of the Coliseum deal, Levine said.
Sports Business Daily, in an 8/18/14 article headlined Legends Withdraws As Equity Partner In Nassau Coliseum Project,:
The split comes as the result of an apparent disagreement over whether Legends would take over the food service at Barclays Center.... Nets and Barclays Center CEO Brett Yormark confirmed that there were discussions over Legends potentially taking over at Barclays Center but there was no written contract regarding a potential switch in food vendors in Brooklyn.
In other words, Barclays may be "thrilled to extend and expand our relationship with Levy Restaurants,” as long as the deal is mutually advantageous.

Volume players?

As noted in a 6/23/14 Sports Business Daily article, Legends gets Devil of a deal, the New Jersey Devils signed a deal lasting at least five years with Legends Hospitality for food service at Prudential Center, part of the firm's "launch into the arena business."

But it's not like Levy is not a volume player. Consider this description of Levy, surely part of a press handout:
Founded 1985, Levy has pioneered premium sports and entertainment dining and remains one of America’s fastest growing and most critically acclaimed restaurant companies. Named one of the 10 most innovative companies in sports by Fast Company magazine, Levy’s diverse portfolio includes award-winning restaurants, Spiaggia and River Roast in Chicago, Fulton’s Crab House at Walt Disney World Resort Orlando, iconic venues like Wrigley Field in Chicago and STAPLES Center in Los Angeles, premier convention centers, including the Boston Exhibition and Convention Center, and many more. In 2014, the company acquired Professional Sports Catering, leaders in minor league baseball concessions.
So if there are two volume players, likely the decision is driven significantly by price.

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