You will have to wait a few years to find out what food and drinks will be served in the new Buffalo Bills stadium, which doesn’t open till 2026. But the lease and construction documents for the $1.54 billion stadium do contain details that give Bills fans a glimpse at how, and where, they can indulge on game day.
For starters, you can begin thinking of food and beverage areas as shops or markets, not simply as food stands – though those will still exist.
“You won’t find that everything comes over a counter,” said Dan Smith, the president of Legends Hospitality, which last week was awarded the food and beverage contract for the stadium. (The current operator, Delaware North Cos., will continue at Highmark Stadium through the 2025 season.)
Here’s a snapshot of the details contained in the documents:
• You may shop for food, not just order it. The new stadium will have more places to purchase food than Highmark, which was built 50 years ago. “That’s not just quality of service, but quantity,” said Ron Raccuia, the Bills’ executive vice president and chief operating officer. “There’ll be a lot more points of sale for food and beverage throughout the entire stadium, on all levels.”
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Details are still to come. The mix of options “will be determined as the design progresses,” according to the documents. “The current goal is 35% food and 65% beverage.”
The documents differentiate between “concessions,” which resemble food stands as we think of them today, and “markets,” which are retail areas where you choose your meal “from self-service refrigerators, freezers and warmers and bring them to a cashier position for check-out, similar to a convenience store operation.”
• You should spend less time waiting. Those walk-in markets are designed to create less waiting and crowding while you’re in line to pay. While the methods of payment will be determined by the technology of the time, it could range from cashiers to self-swiping kiosks.
From the documents: “This provides concourse relief” – another way of saying it cuts down on crowded hallways – “as the patron’s queue inside the stand vs. outside the stand.”
Fans have asked the Bills to tackle that problem. Raccuia told The News that fan surveys have indicated “they want to make it easier, with shorter lines, more ability to get in and out of checkout.”
Many stadiums are now offering a checkout-free approach where fans scan a credit card or phone app on entry, and then are automatically charged when they lift an item from the shelf. The major stadium food and beverage operators, including both Legends and Delaware North, offer a version of this technology already. In his interview with The News, however, Smith noted that the checkout methods will significantly evolve in the next three years.
“It’s too early to even talk about technology” that will be used in the new stadium,” he said, “because if I told you what it was today, it’ll be obsolete (by 2026).”
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• The higher you go, the more drinks flow. The general food retail areas will have packaged drinks only. “No draft beer is anticipated in the markets or concessions,” according to the documents. “Draft beer is only anticipated at the feature concourse bars,” which will also have wine, cocktails and frozen drinks, along with bottled beverages. So if you have a regular – or nonpremium – ticket, you can get a bar experience but you may have to walk a bit farther.
Fans with club seating, however, will find draft beer, wine and cocktails accessible in lounges, which also will have food offered a la carte, market-style or as a buffet.
Suite patrons, meanwhile, may be able to order food restaurant-style. A kitchen located adjacent to the suites (the “west premium kitchen,” to be specific) “lends itself to the inclusion” of game-day food ordering for patrons who get a hunger for something specific, according to the documents, which also note the suites will include refrigeration, ice, sinks and counter space for food display.
• Your food won’t travel as far. The main kitchen and commissary will be “within the footprint of the New Stadium,” according to the documents. Placing the food prep and storage areas inside the stadium seems basic, but it’s an important differentiation from Highmark, which doesn’t have the space for a commissary within the physical venue. The Highmark commissary is located adjacent to the building, which makes it harder to transfer and prepare food efficiently.
In the new stadium, the primary and secondary kitchens are located near the suites, clubs and concessions they serve, with elevators available to transport food. Highmark’s layout necessitates using forklifts to drive food into the building.
In the new place, having closer kitchens and more kitchens should – in theory – mean the food is fresher.
The idea of strategically stacking suites and kitchens emanated from a February 2022 trip that Bills officials took to Los Angeles. At BMO Stadium, home of the Angel City FC and Los Angeles FC soccer teams, Bills co-owner Kim Pegula saw that the venue’s west grandstand included the majority of its premium seating as well as its main kitchen and elevators.
“It makes it more efficient to take food and beverage up to those levels,” said Dave Hatheway, a consultant for Legends Projects Development who took Pegula and team officials on a tour through the stadium. “I think that resonated with her.”