How would you like to serve more than 67,000 people and try to make them all happy?
That’s exactly what Centerplate does during every Colts home game. The foodservice company has been the official caterer of game day going back to the RCA dome. Their goal is to offer fans something that enhances the game day experience.
“That’s what we’re trying to do, make it another piece besides what’s on the field. From the time you check in and give your ticket and all the way through, we’re trying to make it a great experience for them,” says Assistant General Manager Lynda Fonderoli.
In order to do that, they try to stay on top of the food game year round.
“During the offseason, we’re looking around at what the trends are, new restaurants that are coming in – what are those people bringing to the city that’s becoming popular? Special dietary needs – the gluten, the vegetarian – all that stuff just keeps growing. So, we try to incorporate or recognize new ideas that are out there.”
They also experiment on their own.
“We do a national meeting every year and there are chefs from different venues and they taste test and develop a new menu and they have a contest. All of us who attend the national meeting get to vote on which one we introduce.”
With an international presence in sports venues, including NFL stadiums in places like Denver, Miami, New Orleans, Santa Clara, and Washington, Centerplate likes to incorporate different fares from different regions to bring more diversity to the menu – because game day looks a little different for every fan.
“People come to the game and most people, you get your hotdog and your beer, it’s just what you do at a football game. But, you still get people trying to eat a little better,” Fonderoli says. “You’re always going to have your old staples, those are always going to be popular. But people come to a game for different reasons and finding new and exciting items is what we do.”
How about celebrating touchdowns with tacos?
“Again, following the trends that are out there – tacos are the hit right now. We haven’t done them before,” she says.
This season, mini beef, chicken, and veggie tacos will be on the menu at Lucas Oil Stadium.
“And it’s nice that we’re able to make them fresh and to order. So, it’s not like it’s something that’s sitting back in a warmer or anything.”
They’re also introducing a Johnsonville hot and spicy sausage, BBQ chicken sandwich, BBQ beef sandwich, turkey burger topped with coleslaw on a pretzel bun, and quesadilla egg rolls.
“Anywhere from six to eight items we try. Some are great – they work. Like last year, we tried the loaded tater tots – those were a hit. The chicken panini was a hit, we’re expanding that so more people get the opportunity to try it.”
Also returning from last season, the garlic fries, Colts Nation chicken sausage dog, Baja chicken wrap, and veggies and hummus.
But just like football plays, not every experiment works.
“There are some that the previous year, it didn’t go so well. But, at least we tried to give everybody a little bit of a different flavor and taste.”
The items they can never lose with?
“Probably the hotdogs and chicken tenders. They’re a very big hit. They’re really good. And we go through a lot of nachos.”
A mix of old and new, relying on what works, while throwing in an occasional Hail Mary – the hospitality game isn’t all that different from the game being played on the field.
For Centerplate, it’s about elevating game day. It’s in their mission statement, “Making it better to be there since 1929.”
Fear not, football fans. Your old favorites will be there when you walk into Lucas Oil Stadium for the first Colts preseason game.
But it’s a new season, so don’t be afraid to try something new.
Until then, keep counting the days.
And get ready to cheer on the Colts!