The new Vikings stadium won't open until July 2016, but it apparently isn't too early to start mulling over the menu — whether it's peanuts or prime rib.
On Friday, the Minnesota Sports Facilities Authority and the Vikings said they are negotiating with Aramark to provide the food and beverage service at the $975 million stadium.
The Philadelphia-based company is no stranger to Minnesota — it already provides services at TCF Bank Stadium at the University of Minnesota as well as the premium dining options at the Metrodome. Nationally, Aramark services 13 of the nation's 32 NFL stadiums, including Soldier Field in Chicago, Reliant Stadium in Houston and Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia.
"We've been in the business a long time, and over that period, concessions have grown into an integral part of the game experience," said David Freireich, a spokesman for Aramark. "Obviously, details have yet to be worked out for the new Vikings stadium, but we will be creating menus that take into account the great tastes of the neighborhoods and regions there."
Aramark was among six firms that responded to the authority's call for food concessionaires, a list that included Levy Restaurants, which serves the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul, and Delaware North, the vendor at Target Field. Tentative terms of the deal with Aramark were not released, but typically concessionaires get a percentage of food sales.
Michele Kelm-Helgen, the authority's chairwoman, said it is important to engage the food and beverage concessionaire early in the design and construction process. "Concessions are a big piece of the stadium's design; they take up such a large footprint in the building," she said.
"It's very important to design space intelligently and efficiently and getting the concessionaire on board early will help us with that," said Lester Bagley, a Vikings vice president.
Kelm-Helgen noted that local tastes and ingredients for stadium fare will be an important topic during the negotiations process, which should wrap up in a few weeks.
She said Target Field, which has partnered with several local restaurants and vendors, has "set the bar" for stadium concessions.
Talks also will touch on a stadium restaurant that will remain open all year, as well as concessions on a planned outdoor plaza outside the facility that will spill into a two-block public park planned nearby.
Aramark's other Minnesota clients include 3M, Hamline University, General Mills and UnitedHealth Group.
The most-pointed question of the morning came from bemused authority member Duane Benson. "Do they make good food?" he asked. "That's the important thing."