You couldn’t design a worse situation for Delaware North than what happened in early 2020 when the COVID pandemic hit the U.S., forcing months-long shutdowns, cancellations and, at best, limited operation in just about all of the company’s core markets—sports/recreation concessions/catering, airport retail, casinos, public parks, etc. Nevertheless, the company has been bouncing back in 2021, generating revenue of around $2.8 billion that comes within striking distance of its pre-pandemic 2019 total of $3.3 billion.
To help achieve that, Delaware North moved aggressively, establishing a Health and Safety Committee with representation by leadership from all its business lines that developed a comprehensive COVID Handbook and continually updates its content, providing a playbook for its unit operators to ensure guest and associate safety protocols to best protect them from the pandemic’s challenges.
Operationally, it continued implementation of touchless technologies in the form of QR Coded menus and cashless touchless payment options through deployment of self-serve, market-style concepts across its sports division in venues like the new UBS Arena on Long Island, its partnerships with Amazon’s Just Walk Out technology at Climate Pledge Arena in Seattle and the company-owned-and-operated TD Garden in Boston, and a similar relationship with Mastercard at TIAA Bank Field in Jacksonville.
Also, a new partnership with Shaquille O’Neal’s Big Chicken brand brought the fast-casual chicken concept to Delaware North’s operations at Climate Pledge and UBS Arenas while the Patina Restaurant Group brought an enhanced level of food and beverage service to both concessions and premium areas for the PGA of America’s 2021 PGA Championship as part of a new contract.
To increase procurement and product usage efficiencies, Delaware North leveraged internal and external analytics in areas like sales, market conditions and trends, both internally and collaboratively with supplier partners, while its culinary teams conducted menu reviews and developed strategies to focus menu content on guest favorites, comfort food and other trends, ensuring menus appropriately supported the concepts and businesses they were for.
Culinary teams also worked closely with the company’s procurement team to align product needs and availability regarding supply change challenges so menus could be proactively adjusted accordingly.