Sports fans who have long criticized their favorite teams for the prices they charge at the stadium might finally get their wish of cheaper concessions.
That's what could happen if others follow the lead of Atlanta Falcons and United owner Arthur Blank, whose group revealed Thursday that, despite lowering their food and beverage prices to the lowest in all of major professional American sports, fans actually spent more.
Steve Cannon, CEO of the AMB Group, Blank's holding company, told ESPN that although food and beverage prices were 50 percent lower in its new Mercedes-Benz Stadium than the prices in the Georgia Dome the previous year, fans spent 16 percent more.
"There's a huge value in delighting your fan base, to make them as happy as they could possibly be," Cannon said. "We started with one of the biggest pain points and it paid off."
To coincide with opening Mercedes-Benz Stadium, the AMB Group announced their "Fan First Menu Pricing." Unlimited Coca-Cola would cost $2, so too would a bottle of water, popcorn, a hot dog and a pretzel. For $3 each, fans could get waffle fries, a slice of pizza, or nachos with cheese. Those prices included tax. No change would help serve to speed the ease of transactions.
The new stadium also had 65 percent more points of sale and 1,264 more beer taps than the Georgia Dome did as well as self-serve soda machines.
Cannon said Thursday that the Falcons recently finished No. 1 among all NFL teams, in an internal survey conducted by the league, in food quality, price to value ratio, speed of service and variety.
Not only did the team make more money by lowering the prices, but the move also led to a domino effect for the entire game-day experience.
Because fans weren't deterred by the concession prices, Cannon said that, on average, 6,000 more fans walked through the gates two hours before the game, which not only meant more time to sell food and drink, but also helped to ease wait times at the games to the goal of no more than five minutes.
A happier fan experience will lead to sustained ticket sales, Cannon reasons, leading to sponsors more interested in having a presence at the stadium.
Since AMB announced the fan-first pricing in May 2016, the reaction by the rest of the sports world has, for the most part, has been to ignore it. Few teams have sought to replicate the model, partly because it was believed that the group in Atlanta would be leaving money on the table.
"Arthur wants other teams to do this," Cannon said. "We are an open playbook. "We're happy to show anybody how we've done it."
In order for Blank to allow him the flexibility of controlling the pricing, he has a more loose relationship with his concessionaire than what is typically found in sports. AMB runs the entire operation and with Levy being the group's business partner.
Despite not being open for many of the stadium's major events, including seven of the eight regular-season Falcons home games, the stadium's Chick-fil-A stand sold the third-most items of any stand in the structure.
Merchandise sales were also up 88 percent.