This month I’m giving an apology in writing to a company I never thought I would. I don’t know how many of you have ever planned an event at a stadium during a major sporting event, but I have. And I have this to say about it: It’s hard, expensive and oftentimes frustrating.
That’s exactly what I expected when I was contracted by MELT, a sports marketing and experiential agency that does work for the Coca-Cola Co. I was asked to do an event at AT&T Stadium in Dallas, where the NFL’s Dallas Cowboys play.
Another glitch in this picture is that AT&T Stadium is a Pepsi facility. My event was supposed to be a hospitality tent for Coca-Cola’s local customers. It happened to be at a large college football game. On opening weekend. In 100-degree heat. And even though we were in the parking lot, we had to buy our food from the stadium’s in-house catering company, Legends.
I’ve worked with many stadium catering companies, and the one thing you can usually expect is expensive food that isn’t very good. With this in mind, I went to work with a strict budget and the knowledge that since we were off-premise, everything had to be hauled out to the tent at this mega-large complex.
If you’re ever planning an event like this:
- Do a move-in and move-out timeline. It keeps everyone on task.
- Negotiate what equipment will be coming from inside the stadium to your event. Make sure you have a hand-washing station.
- Negotiate what will be cooked at the tent and what will be cooked inside stadium kitchens.
- Design a menu that will hold two hours in a hot box.
- Don’t go with foods that are heavy in tomato sauce or BBQ. They get gloppy.
- Find out in advance what the facility will provide in terms of banqueting tables and what must be rented.
- Make sure you leave enough room for a field kitchen.
- Determine where you’ll get ice. We were able to contract with the stadium’s ice provider to lend us a machine and bought the ice through Legends.
- Make sure you have staff seating outside for break times.
- Get everyone’s power requirements in a spreadsheet, so you don’t run short when you rent a generator.
- Pay for all crucial staff to be there throughout the event in case something goes wrong.
What actually happened is that Legends did a fantastic job. The entire team deserves a huge bravo because:
- Its catering director understood quickly that I wasn’t the average customer and let me design a menu with their lovely executive chef.
- I was able to get their entire staff emotionally engaged in what MELT, Coke and I were trying to accomplish, and they went out of their way on a busy game day to execute the menu that I wanted for the group.
- This part blew me away: The culinary team brought out the most amazing field kitchen I’ve ever seen for a 200-person event. It had refrigerators, cooktops, two grills, an oven, prep tables and a hand-washing station.
- All the food was made fresh in this amazing field kitchen.
The attendees were blown away that day by the entire Legends team and the quality of event we were able to have on a busy game day at the stadium. I applaud them and thank them for giving our customers an event of which legends are made.
This is my college game day story, and I’m sticking to it.