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Suns introduce OVG Hospitality to provide ‘top-quality food and beverage options and unrivaled service’

Mat Ishbia continues to focus on creative ways to enhance the fan experience.

Burger... Photo by Silas Stein/picture alliance via Getty Images

Phoenix Suns owner Mat Ishbia continues to shape the franchise in his image. On Tuesday morning, the organization released more information about how they are changing the fan experience for the better, this time not doing so via TV rights or new uniforms, but with the food and beverage experience located at the Footprint Center.

OVG Hospitality, a division of Oak View Group, will now handle the food and beverage service on-site during all arena events. This news presumably is a severance of the ties with Levy Restaurants, a sector of $23 billion company Compass Group, who has managed operations for quite some time at the Footprint Center. This is OVG’s first-ever partnership with an NBA and WNBA venue.

The company was co-founded by Irving Azoff, who has served as the exclusive manager for global acts such the Eagles, Fleetwood Mac, Steely Dan, Journey, Bon Jovi, and Van Halen, and has expanded to include current performers such as Lizzo, Travis Scott, Harry Styles, Christina Aguilera, and Meghan Trainor. Irving has also served as the CEO of Ticketmaster, the Chairman of Live Nation, and the Chairman and CEO of MSG Entertainment.

“Our commitment is to continue to find innovative ways to invest in our community and put forth our championship mentality in everything we do, on and off the floor,” said Mat Ishbia of the partnership. “From the moment fans walk through our doors, we want every part of their game-day experience to be world-class and something they can only have in Phoenix – the best basketball city in the world.”

Per a statement released by the Suns:

As the exclusive food and beverage provider, OVG Hospitality brings an experience unlike any other in the Valley to Suns and Mercury games with first-class food and beverage, service and state-of-the-art technologies. Features include premier food and beverage in all clubs, suites and concessions throughout the lower and upper concourses, new technology to ensure faster lines at concessions to allow fans to spend less time in line and more time enjoying the game or concert, and a robust selection of new menu items that will roll out throughout the year.

The partnership is the first in the sports and entertainment industry to feature OVG Hospitality’s newly-acquired luxury hospitality and catering company, Rhubarb Hospitality Collection (RHC) – elevating the Suns and Mercury’s premium services to unprecedented standards. RHC will create and provide a unique culinary journey for all club and suite guests. From specialized beverages as fans enter the arena and customized food offerings by locally renowned chefs to an elevated wine program for connoisseurs of every variety, fans will be treated to a bespoke culinary experience.

OVG’s mission statement is to, “be a positive disruption to business as usual in the sports, live entertainment, and hospitality industries. We disrupt, develop and deliver the best venues and experiences in the world, shaping our future and leaving it better than it was”

Suns and Mercury CEO Josh Bartelstein added, “Every fan should be treated to a best-in-class experience, and that includes providing top-quality food and beverage options and unrivaled service. Through our partnership with OVG we are significantly raising the standards of excellence for our fans and further elevating Phoenix as the preeminent city for sports and entertainment”.

Here is where I’ll put my two cents in, as I am a food and beverage guy who works, knows, and understands this space.

This partnership is another step in the right direction for Ishbia as he has identified the most common thread for the shared fan experience that isn’t being played out on the court. Food is at the heart of the social experience, for every consumes it. Subjectivity exists as everyone has wants, needs, and expectations, but quality must be the foundation of what is provided, both in food and service.

OVG, which was founded in 2015, is an up-and-coming company at the forefront of utilizing technology to be innovative. We can expect more of an immersive and streamlined approach to food and beverage at the Footprint Center with their addition, whether that be utilized an app or having quick service kiosks. My assumption is this new partnership will be felt primarily on the suite level, with a focus on the quality of the banquet food provided.

It is a tough space navigate, stadium hospitality. Due to it’s seasonality, coupled with inconsistent scheduling, staffing is a challenge. Factor in the post-pandemic workforce in which millions stepped away from the hospitality industry as they found other methods of generating revenue without the rudeness and frustration that goes with assisting people, and the quality of the workforce has vastly diminished.

You can have the best food in the world, but if the service is sub-standard, the overall experience is compromised. I’m sure we have all experienced that. It will be interesting to see how OVG Hospitality approaches instituting their vision with these challenges.

Now if Ishbia could get the price of a beer to be under $4, I think we’d all be over the moon.

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