BUFFALO NEWS: Legends wins Bills stadium food and beverage contract
The sports consulting firm Legends has already been shaping the new Buffalo Bills stadium on the inside and out, from concept to design to sales.
Now the company is entering a long-term partnership with the Bills, one that will make Legends, which was co-founded by Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, a significant and ongoing player in Western New York.
Legends Hospitality has been awarded the food and beverage rights for the new stadium, which is scheduled to open in 2026.
Legends was selected from a field of four bidders, which included Sodexo, Levy Restaurants and the Buffalo-based Delaware North Cos., which has held the Bills stadium contract since 1992.
“They clearly have shown the ability to understand our marketplace at a very high level,” said Ron Raccuia, the Bills’ executive vice president and chief operating officer. “Overall, we felt they offered us the best opportunity to deliver the type of food and beverage experience that we know our fans want in the new stadium.”
Terms of the deal, which Raccuia describes as a “long-term agreement,” were not disclosed.
“The Bills have a great vision, great understanding of the business and great knowledge of the market and their fans,” Tomon said. “When the fans approach this, they’ll sit back and think, ‘they thought of everything.’ “
Landing the contract, which Bills officials revealed Tuesday night to The Buffalo News, is a major win – if an unsurprising one – for Legends. The company is already working with the Bills and the architectural firm Populous on the design of the new stadium. Legends is also overseeing sales for the $1.54 billion facility, including the marketing of personal seat licenses and naming rights, and has conducted multiple studies of the Buffalo market and the Bills fan base.
“They’ve spent a lot of time with our fans on surveys, in small group settings, in Western New York,” Raccuia said. “We feel very confident in their knowledge of our fan base and what we’re trying to deliver for an unbelievable Bills fan experience.”
Each of the bidders responded to an RFP (request for proposal) last year with a written document that Raccuia describes as a “vision statement.” That was followed by a series of interviews that probed into their philosophies on food and menu development, pricing strategy and approach to catering on non-game days. They discussed finances, leadership structure and sales strategies. Bills officials also visited venues run by each of the four finalists – sometimes officially, other times unannounced.
Following a trend in sports arenas, the Bills’ menu will have what Raccuia calls a “hyperlocal” focus that celebrates Western New York cuisine. He noted that all the finalists’ proposals “really nailed the local aspect of it,” and added, “Where I believe Legends was perhaps a little better than the rest on there was understanding how that fit into all the other things that we’re doing: How it fit into beverage service. How it fit into pre-game. How it fit into a postgame type of environment. It was one step different than some of the others.”
Legends handles food and beverage for several venues, including Yankee Stadium in the Bronx, AT&T Stadium in Dallas and SoFi Stadium in Los Angeles, where it integrates local cuisine into both everyday concessions and high-end, restaurant-style clubs.
In an email to The News on Tuesday night, Dan Smith, the president of Legends Hospitality, said, “Legends is proud to expand our long-term partnership with the Buffalo Bills to deliver a best-in-class hospitality experience for Bills Mafia at games, showcasing the very best Buffalo has to offer and beyond.”
Delaware North will continue running the food and beverage program at Highmark through the 2025 season. The decision puts a dent in Delaware North’s portfolio, although with $3.8 billion in revenues last year and operations around the world, it’s likely one the company can absorb. Delaware North officials couldn’t immediately be reached for comment.
“Delaware North has been a great partner of ours,” Raccuia said. “I can’t say anything but great things about what they’ve done for us and what they will continue to do over the next three years, their professionalism in this process, and their commitment to Western New York.”
The new stadium, which will be located across the street from the current venue, will have significantly more food offerings than Highmark. The Bills also hope to host non-football events “a couple hundred times a year,” Raccuia said, noting that the hiring Legends will likely expand local hiring to meet that need.
This spring, Legends also took over operations of the current Buffalo Bills store, a year-round retail shop located at Highmark Stadium, from Delaware North Cos. Raccuia noted that the former Delaware North employees have joined Legends, which has “expanded that business. We feel the same thing will happen with food and beverage.”