By Chuck Pool (cpool@Rice.edu) - Fans at Rice Athletic events will soon enjoy an enhanced selection of food and beverage options as the Owls have selected Melange Events to become the primary concessionaire for all of their athletic venues.
The new partnership will provide expanded menu options at all Rice Athletics venues in addition to expanded availability of alcoholic beverages in all public areas of Rice Stadium and Tudor Fieldhouse.
The selection of Melange, who officially debuted their offerings at the Rice women's soccer game vs. Houston Baptist on August 26, is the culmination of an extensive process that began with a comprehensive set of surveys conducted over the past two years. Respondents overwhelmingly indicated concessions were one of the most important aspects of their game experience and ranked the offerings at Owls events as just above average.
"We have made it a priority to partner with organizations that share our vision," Tanner Gardner, Senior Associate Athletic Director and Chief Revenue Officer said. "Through our extensive evaluation process, it quickly became clear that Melange is an innovative, forward-thinking organization that strives to create great product and an excellent fan experience, which what we heard our fans desire. We're thrilled to partner with Melange," he added.
"Melange Events is proud to partner with Rice University Athletics," Blake McMullin, Corporate Accounts Manager at Melange stated. "For 30 years, we've listened to our clients, interpreted their needs, and produced memorable events! Customer service and a quality product are what we prioritize for guests. Our goal is to extend the Rice experience beyond traditional fare. By offering dynamic menus and friendly staff, fans can enjoy the games on a modern level."
New food concepts at football will include the Burger Shack which will feature items such as the Bayou City Burger, Sweet Potato Fries, Venison Chili Hot Dogs, and an Ahi Tuna Salad in addition to a full complement of drinks. Additionally, Melange will introduce Midfield, which will offer grab-and-go drinks and snacks.
Melange will also provide catering services for the premium areas of Rice Stadium, including the R Room and Stadium Club.
Rice introduced in-stadium sales of beer and wine in 2008 at Rice Stadium and expanded the concept to both Reckling Park and Tudor Fieldhouse in specific areas which were branded as "The Roost". Based on the success of these locations and results from the fan surveys, a test program of expanded alcohol sales to all areas of Tudor Fieldhouse was conducted during the 2015-16 season.
"We are constantly looking for ways to improve the fan experience at our athletics events," Gardner stated. "We heard from our fans that there was a desire to expand beer and wine sales at Rice Stadium and immediately took action and studied the suggestion. After extensive research and pilots, we decided to expand beer and wine sales to all of Rice Stadium. We're confident it will provide a boost to the fan experience, and we have a plan to implement it in a way that is safe for all spectators."
As part of decision to expand alcohol sales, the Owls studied recent moves at other universities to offer alcohol throughout their sporting venues. The department collaborated with multiple university partners including RUPD, Risk Management, and Melange to design a plan that addresses both safety and an improved fan experience.
The Owls will offer an alcohol-free family zone in section 107 at Rice Stadium.
About Melange: Melange has managed food services for the City of Houston and Freedom Over Texas on 4th of July weekend in recent years. Melange is also the preferred caterer for the Rice Jones Graduate School of Business, Museum of Natural Science, Museum of Fine Arts, and the Parador, The Historic Magnolia Ballroom, The Julia Ideson Library, among others.
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