From neon hot dogs to wagyu beef, Chicago-based Levy cooks up Vegas-style menu for Super Bowl at Allegiant Stadium

As Bears followers are as soon as once more left cheering for a prime draft choose within the waning weeks of a dropping NFL season, one other native crew is busy gearing up for its sixth Super Bowl because the daybreak of the brand new millennium.

Chicago-based Levy might be again within the Big Game in February because the meals and beverage supplier for Super Bowl LVIII at Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas. The firm is planning a glitzy Vegas-style menu with every little thing from carved lobster tail and wagyu tenderloin to neon sizzling canines, hoping to sate 65,000 soccer followers and rating factors within the aggressive hospitality business.

With seats promoting for between $10,000 and $45,000 every on the official NFL Ticket Exchange, attendees predict much more than a heat sizzling canine and a chilly beer.

“The Super Bowl is the NFL’s biggest stage,” mentioned Andy Lansing, 63, president and chief government of Levy. “And so the Super Bowl for us is our biggest stage.”

Launched as a Chicago restaurant group greater than 45 years in the past, Levy has advanced into a number one sports activities and leisure hospitality firm with greater than 300 venues in North America. That consists of offering meals and beverage service for 112 skilled sports activities groups in 36 arenas, 24 stadiums and 42 ballparks.

Chicago-area sports activities venues served by Levy embrace Wrigley Field, United Center, Guaranteed Rate Field and Now Arena in Hoffman Estates.

Levy has been the meals and beverage accomplice for Allegiant Stadium, dwelling of the Las Vegas Raiders, because it opened in 2020. When the NFL named Allegiant the host venue for Super Bowl LVIII, it meant Levy was again within the Big Game for the primary time since feeding 70,000 followers at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta in 2019.

With success from the final Super Bowl including dozens of shoppers to Levy’s roster, the corporate has been all in on the upcoming recreation for months, cooking up menu choices in its Chicago check kitchen, vetting every little thing from soup to nuts.

On a November morning, Lansing, the corporate’s prime cooks and the on-site government crew from Allegiant Stadium gathered at Levy’s North Michigan Avenue headquarters for a vital style testing, hoping to winnow down the objects that might be served on the suites and personal golf equipment on Super Bowl Sunday.

Despite the early hour, every little thing was on the desk, together with gridiron smash burgers, crispy Asian wings, rooster and waffles, lobster tail and big double-stuffed potatoes.

“It’s not the easiest thing in the world to eat all day long, most days of the week,” Lansing mentioned. “It comes with its happy challenges.”

The mission to make tens of hundreds of followers completely happy on any given Sunday started with one Chicago restaurant.

The firm began in 1978 when brothers Larry and Mark Levy took over D.B. Kaplan’s, a delicatessen in Water Tower Place, enlisting their mom, Eadie, to shore up the restaurant together with her household recipes. While D.B. Kaplan’s closed in 1995, Levy’s has since constructed a small, well-regarded restaurant group, with a few dozen areas scattered throughout the nation, together with Jake Melnick’s Corner Tap and River Roast in Chicago.

Its bread-and-butter, nonetheless, is sports activities and leisure hospitality, which launched as a facet gig in 1982 when the White Sox recruited Levy to cater the skyboxes at Comiskey Park. Since then, Levy has advanced right into a hospitality big with $4.4 billion in annual income and venues that run the gamut from minor league ballparks and NASCAR racetracks to NBA arenas and NFL stadiums.

Levy’s first Super Bowl was 25 years in the past in Miami, when the Denver Broncos defeated the Atlanta Falcons 34-19. Lansing’s most vivid reminiscence of the sport was racing round city earlier than kickoff to seek out the proper inexperienced tea for Cher, who sang the nationwide anthem.

Lansing, a lawyer who grew up in north suburban Highland Park, joined Levy in 1988 as normal counsel earlier than shifting to the enterprise facet three years later. He was named president in 1995, and succeeded Larry Levy as chief government in 2004.

Levy is now owned by British meals service big Compass Group, which purchased a 49% stake for $87 million in 2000, and bought the remainder of the corporate for $250 million in 2006.

Its prime rivals within the sports activities and leisure hospitality enterprise embrace Aramark, which is headquartered in Philadelphia, and Buffalo-based Delaware North.

In 2013, Aramark struck a 10-year deal to offer meals and beverage at Soldier Field, which is owned by the Chicago Park District and residential — a minimum of for now — of the Chicago Bears. The Park District and Bears have put out a request for proposal for a brand new hospitality contract starting subsequent yr.

The rights to feed Bears followers would presumably even be up for grabs if the crew builds a brand new stadium in Arlington Heights or one other locale. In February, the crew closed on its $197 million buy of Arlington International Racecourse, however plans to develop the 326-acre website into an leisure district anchored by a domed stadium have stalled over property tax issues.

“As we said publicly back in September, we continue to have dialogue with officials in Arlington Heights,” the Bears mentioned in an announcement this month.

While the Bears have performed in two Super Bowls, together with the crew’s 1986 drubbing of the New England Patriots in New Orleans, Chicago has by no means hosted the Big Game, which is normally held in heat climate climates or inside a dome. Soldier Field can also be the smallest venue within the NFL with a 61,500-seat capability.

The Bears have touted a brand new enclosed stadium in Arlington Heights as “worthy of hosting global events such as the Super Bowl.”

Allegiant Stadium, which drew the Raiders to maneuver from Oakland to Las Vegas, additionally landed the town its first Super Bowl, which is about for Sunday, Feb. 11. That put Levy, which has contracts for 9 of the 32 NFL stadiums, again within the Big Game for the primary time in 5 years.

Lansing mentioned the corporate’s 2019 Super Bowl efficiency at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta generated vital new enterprise.

“People loved what we did in Atlanta for the Super Bowl,” Lansing mentioned. “And it led to a lot of conversation and a lot of business growth between that year and today.”

There was, nonetheless, vital disruption within the progress curve.

In 2019, Levy generated about $2 billion in income. When the pandemic hit in March 2020 and the NBA suspended its season, Levy noticed revenues plummet to about $1,000 per week, principally from takeout rooster wings at Jake Melnick’s and rotisserie chickens at River Roast, the corporate mentioned.

But as followers returned to the stands, Levy’s enterprise resumed a pointy upward trajectory, with revenues greater than doubling over 4 years, the corporate mentioned. Likening it to a bungee soar, Lansing mentioned the rise was pushed each by new shoppers and the “optimization” of current venues as Levy and the occasions enterprise bounced again from the pandemic.

While Levy’s post-pandemic enterprise is booming, there have been some rising pains. The firm, which has 50,000 staff throughout the nation, needed to navigate labor strife amongst employees at two of its Chicago venues this yr.

About 650 meals service employees went on strike throughout a Chicago Bulls dwelling recreation in March, shortly reaching a tentative settlement earlier than the Big Ten males’s basketball event was set to happen on the United Center. In September, about 700 employees at Wrigley Field licensed a strike earlier than the Cubs remaining homestand, however stayed on the job to finish the season.

The employees, lots of whom are represented by Unite Here Local 1, had been in search of pay will increase and expanded well being care advantages.

“We reached an agreement with the union in both venues,” Lansing mentioned.

Hoping for an additional massive increase in enterprise subsequent yr, Levy is placing its finest meals ahead on the upcoming Super Bowl, which has led to some onerous selections on the November check menu.

At the highest of the meals chain, carved wagyu tenderloin and lobster tail each made the grade as a becoming surf-and-turf centerpiece for Las Vegas, Lansing mentioned.

But wagyu burnt ends hit the reducing room ground as too dry, mentioned Lansing, who workouts presidential veto energy in all menu selections.

While Lansing likewise panned the burger sliders as too dry, they stayed on the menu with a serious preparation revamp to maintain them juicier, he mentioned.

Lansing additionally nixed little spoons used for “taster’s welcome” appetizers of handed ceviche and tartare, opting as a substitute to serve them on a painter’s palette.

“I thought that the initial presentation was a little bit too contrived and a little too formal for the Super Bowl,” Lansing mentioned. “And then people have to deal with the little spoons and stuff.”

Chicken and waffles served with maple syrup in a pipette had been a unanimous hit and might be on the Super Bowl menu, as will a colossal double stuffed potato and Vegas wedge salad, the place Lansing was effusive concerning the croutons.

He was initially much less enthused, nonetheless, concerning the neon sizzling canines, a Frankensteinian mixture of shiny inexperienced Chicago relish and Vegas glitz. It one way or the other labored, regardless of such unconventional toppings as pickled onions and spicy Tajin seasoning.

“Even though I’m a Chicago dog traditionalist, they convinced me that the neon dog was perfect for Vegas,” Lansing mentioned.

After tackling the membership and suites menu, Levy will shift focus to beefing up conventional concession areas at Allegiant for the Super Bowl plenty. The total menu will then should go muster with the NFL earlier than being finalized.

Down the street, if the Bears construct it and the Super Bowl involves the Chicago space, Lansing mentioned there may be one merchandise that any meals and beverage supplier value its celery salt ought to put on the prime of the menu.

“It would be the world’s greatest Chicago dog on steroids for the Super Bowl,” Lansing mentioned.

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