Global sports and entertainment company Oak View Group (OVG) has tapped NBA Hall-of-Famer Shaquille O’Neal, Grammy and Emmy award-winning performer and best-selling cookbook author Trisha Yearwood, and New York Times best-selling author and successful restaurateur Giada De Laurentiis to bring their distinctive culinary styles to venues around the world and elevate the guest experience food at sports and live events.
The three culinarians will lead OVG’s new Hospitality Advisory Council, and work with the company “to help infuse new thinking, new ambition, and new social conscious into a concessions industry that rarely meets the spectacle or passion of the shows the industry supports,” according to OVG’s news release announcing the move. “This trio of successful restaurateurs and globally revered personalities will be tasked with creative thinking around menu design and expansion, the elevation of premium fare, local food sourcing, and opportunities for community impact via MBE/WBE programs, sustainability, and animal welfare.”
“I’m proud to serve Big Chicken at Oak View Group venues, and I’m excited to work alongside Giada, Trisha and OVG to help millions of fans see how great food can positively impact their gameday or concert experience,” O’Neal says.
“Food at live events—whether it be a sporting event, a concert, or a festival—should be fast, but speed shouldn’t be at the expense of taste and creativity,” De Laurentiis adds. “We’ve proven that with Pronto by Giada at live events venues across the nation. And we’re going to show the industry our collective vision to transform arena food into something guests look forward to as part of their live event experience.”
“Home-cooking isn’t necessarily a style of cuisine you would typically associate with a concert or a sporting event,” Yearwood offers, “but we’re going to show the industry that food and beverage at large events doesn’t have to be status quo. Whether it’s country or pop or heavy metal, we’ll work to surprise and delight guests so that they can’t wait to get back in the venue for another helping.”
OVG Hospitality, which partners with over 350 diverse venue clients, provides a unique platform for experimentation and delivery, says the unit’s president, Ken Gaber.
“When it comes to attending today’s biggest concerts, shows, and sporting events, appealing to fans’ evolving tastebuds and aligning unique or customized food and beverage offerings (think Watermelon Sugar offerings at a Harry Styles concert) is a significant, though often-underestimated piece of the live experience,” he notes.
The three influencers will help shape the menus, culture and guest experience among OVG Hospitality managed venues. Already fans can find Shaq’s Big Chicken Sandwiches in several OVG-owned arenas like Seattle’s Climate Pledge Arena and Baltimore’s new CFG Bank Arena while Giada-inspired menu items are featured in the new Acrisure Arena in Palm Springs, Calif. and UBS Arena in Belmont Park, N.Y., and Yearwood’s comfort food recipes and family favorites will debut soon in Austin’s Moody Center at the University of Texas. OVG will roll out the branded concepts to more venues in the future.
“Trisha, Shaq, and Giada are successful restauranteurs, globally revered personalities, and unabashedly authentic in their approach to memorable cuisine,” says OVG Chairman/CEO Tim Leiweke. “They know great food and we’re excited to infuse a dose of creativity, fun and personality—that ‘wow factor’—into the food and beverage we serve at our venues across the globe.”
OVG’s Hospitality division, which launched in February 2022 following OVG’s acquisition of FM Top 50 firm Spectra Food Services & Hospitality the previous November, currently manages food and beverage operations at 356 venues across the world. Last year, OVG Hospitality also acquired Spectrum Catering, Concessions & Event Services, which expanded OVG’s reach into non-traditional areas such golf tournaments, music festivals and immersive experiences, and UK-based Bovingdons, which marked OVG’s official foray into international full-service hospitality.