In some ways, once football season begins, the stadium becomes the second home of a dedicated football fan. Traditionally, it’s a place where family and friends gather together to cheer on their favorite team to victory, but some would argue that good food and beverages make up a big component of a positive game-day experience.
As consumers become increasingly immersed into food culture, they are demanding better quality food and diverse choices throughout the restaurant industry. Football concession stands are no different and are feeling the same pressures from fans.
At Hard Rock Stadium, in Miami Gardens, choices beyond hot dogs, burgers, and fries are available. As the food scene continues to grow in Miami local restaurants and recognized chefs are flocking over to the home of the Miami Dolphins to showcase their selections.
With Miami being so diverse, it only makes sense that transplant concepts, like Fuku— a fast-casual concept featuring spicy fried chicken from New York’s popular Momofuku Group — would also be featured at the stadium.
Fuku at Hard Rock Stadium is celebrity chef David Chang’s first venture into South Florida, but it’s the third time he opens one of his fast-casual concepts inside an establishment that features sporting events (Fuku can also be found inside Citi Field stadium and Madison Square Garden arena in New York).
Other stadiums across the country have also opted to collaborate with celebrity chefs, like U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis where Andrew Zimmern’s Canteen serves rotisserie beef, lamb, poultry, pork and goat sandwiches to provide Vikings fans an alternative to the typical game day food.
Another chef who was eager to join the stadium food revolution was “Top Chef” contestant, Kevin Gillespie who opened his restaurant Game Changer at the recently built Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta for all visitors to enjoy.
But do fans really care if their concession food comes from a celebrity chef’s concept or do they just care about choices and the quality of the food?
“To tell you the truth, at the beginning I thought it was going to be longer, more stuff…” says Armando Amaro about the number of choices available on Fuku’s menu. “I mean, for the stadium it’s fine. There’s no way you are going to have a bowl of soup or anything on the stadium.”
Fuku’s menu at the Hard Rock Stadium only offers two main items both featuring Chang's famous spicy fried chicken. Their signature sandwich features a fried chicken thigh with habanero sauce, pickles, and Fuku butter inside a potato roll. Fuku Fingers & Fries is the second meal choice along with side snacks and drink options.
Some football fans, like Rachel Kopelow, who tried the food at Fuku to see what her friends from New York were raving about, had higher expectations for the food from a concept by a celebrity chef.
Others, like Steve Garcia, did not know the concept was owned by a recognized culinary persona. “As long as they make good food, that’s all I really care about,” said Garcia, who decided to eat at Fuku because he thought the restaurant name was funny.
It’s impossible to ignore that the movement towards more food choices happened after many stadiums had recently been built or went through significant renovations like Hard Rock Stadium did last year for $425 million. A "New York Times" article points out, “in professional sports, baseball has led the way, driven in part by 22 major league stadiums that have been built since 1990” referring to the recent food improvement in places “where people gather for reasons other than to eat.”
One such example, is Marlins Park, which finished construction in 2012. Since its completion, the ball park has been leading the way to diversify the typical stadium food menu in Miami, by choosing to source some of their breads from local Zak the Baker and incorporating unique offerings like Velvet Crème doughnuts. The venue even created a section where only gluten-free options are sold— Avoiding Gluten (Section 40).
To add excitement to its own concessions, Hard Rock Stadium has added menu items from popular restaurants like Coyo Taco, Jackson Soul Food, Los Ranchos, and Shorty's BBQ, which are now available alongside Cuban food favorites from the emblematic Café Versailles, and Venezuelan arepas from small food carts located throughout. Stadium-goers will even find a restaurant called OB House serving breakfast options all-day, as well as various Tap Rooms that offer nearly 60 beer choices, including many craft beer options for Dolfans and other visitors to enjoy.
Even though football venues have been lagging behind baseball, it’s evident they are moving in the right direction and the offerings at the Dolphins’ stadium reflect the melting pot of cultures that characterizes the Magic City.
Are you ready to eat and drink your way through football season? #MiamiFoodGameStrong
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