Last week, a group of fans joined representatives from Brentford FC and the Club’s catering partner Levy UK and our in-house catering consultant to review the food and drink options on sale in the general admission areas at Brentford Community Stadium.
The attendees were drawn from 233 replies to a survey about the food and drink offerings at the stadium shared by Brentford Independent Association of Supporters (BIAS) to its members. The meeting started with an overview from Levy UK, including their business strategy, key objectives in working with Brentford, some of the challenges they have faced to date and their plans for the future. There was also an opportunity for some food tastings – both of the current and future food offerings in the general admission areas.
Some of the main topics discussed at the meeting included the following:
Chips, burgers and fried foods – perhaps one of the most-asked questions in the survey feedback was why there aren’t chips or other fried products on offer at the stadium. In essence, this was down to a decision taken when reviewing the stadium design in 2016/17. Providing fried products like chips requires not just deep fat fryers but also impacts on the overall design of the catering spaces as it requires extract ducts and fire compartments to ensure safety. That ductwork would also extend to the exterior of the stadium making it extremely costly. This cost and impact on the design was ruled out during the stadium review – particularly with the trend towards providing healthier food options at football.
Pricing – the feedback indicated that fans felt that prices are too high for certain food and drink items in the stadium. The team explained that, unlike some catering relationships at other clubs, ours is very much a partnership, with pricing decisions taken together and with profits from the catering and beverage business benefitting the Club overall - both on and off the pitch. This also allows us some flexibility on the prices charged – something that we’ve already put into practice with the Early Bird pricing up to one hour before kick-off with beers, pies and sausage rolls all available at £3.50. Prices are also benchmarked against other nearby pubs and across other football clubs and are kept under constant review.
Food choices – a key challenge is getting the right balance between the number of options available and the ability to be able to keep all of those items available whilst delivering a quick service. There are two types of concessions/kiosks around the stadium: the Four Corners Bar (with a wider range of drink options and more simple food choices) and the Griffin Kitchen (with less drink options but a wider choice of food). The food options available are constantly reviewed and changed when they are not popular – for example the Lamb Shawarma dish, that wasn’t a hit with fans was replaced with a new hot dog option. From the food tastings, there was general consensus for a new Cumberland-style hot dog, chicken and ham pie, chicken wrap and pizzas (where possible) so we are looking at where and when we can introduce some of those. We are also trying to find a new supplier of vegan pies as the previous supplier is no longer able to work with us.
Staffing challenges – fans will no doubt be aware of the staffing challenges currently being experienced within the catering and hospitality industry. Our catering partner, Levy UK, has also been affected by this, but are working with their own recruitment team and external teams to attract new talent and train them at Brentford to deliver a great experience for our fans. Levy UK is a London Living wage employer. They are doing everything they can during this time to recruit and retain the staff they need, and would ask that fans bear with them while new team members gain experience.
Quality and range of drinks – the main concern related to the quality of draught beers, particularly those that had been pre-poured. We’ve acted on this by reducing the number of pints pre-poured and will introduce more bottled beers into particular locations like the South Stand (where they are not currently available). The lack of Bovril was also highlighted – we have been experiencing some supply issues with Bovril but it’s hoped that we can bring it back very soon!
Sustainability – Levy UK were the main catering partner for the COP26 event in Glasgow recently and explained that they have committed as a business to going zero carbon by 2027. They use locally sourced produce wherever possible, have less beef options on the menu and are looking to highlight to fans the low carbon options on the menu going forward.
Use of technology – we are currently reviewing different technology providers that will allow the pre-ordering of food. This will help us to know in advance how many of certain lower-sale items like vegan options we need and also to guarantee to fans that they will be available at the collection points.
The overwhelming message from this Food and Drink Fan Focus group is that the Club is working very closely with our catering partner Levy UK and will continue to listen to feedback from fans to try to ensure the best food and drink experience for everyone on matchdays. Whilst we can’t cater for everyone’s personal preferences given the need to have limited options to ensure speed of service and availability, we do want to provide a good range of choices with great service from our matchday staff. We agreed to hold another meeting in a few months’ time to review progress and continue to monitor the popularity of all the food and drink options on the menu for fans. In the meantime, fans are encouraged to continue to send in any feedback on the food and drink at the stadium via firstname.lastname@example.org.