Food Finds New Feet on the Court

Why food is becoming a major part of sporting events around the world

Every year, Melbourne is host to one of the world’s biggest tennis tournaments, The Australian Open. Rocking up to these events in years gone by has been little more than a spectator experience as you watch the top tennis players battle it out on the court. But times have changed and now it’s not only the top tennis players taking centre court. Some of the world’s best chefs are setting up shop this year to make the Open a sporting event like no other.

We are pushing boundaries in the food and entertainment space, with our hospitality experiences continuing to grow and evolve, providing a unique platform for fans to enjoy world-class tennis.
— Australian Open hospitality head, Enda Cunningham for The Herald Sun

From high end dining to your standard event food, The Australian Open is using a customer-centric strategy, much like Future Food’s masterplanning approach, that ensures there is a wide variety of experiences, over a number of different price points and during different times of the day to guarantee all customers are satisfied with the hospitality offer. Neil Perry and the Rockpool Group will be setting up a top tier steakhouse overlooking Grand Slam Oval, Collingwood Football Club’s Glasshouse function space will house a number of pop-up restaurants throughout the event and the AO village will be a “hospitality hub” offering a relaxed environment with food, music and entertainment being offered in the space.

So why are they putting such a strong focus on food at this sporting event? Because bringing a food and hospitality strategy into the event not only benefits the people coming to the event, it also benefits business. This was proven by 2017’s Open where they saw a 32% increase in overall revenue. And it makes sense, if there is more for people to do in the precinct aside from watching the tennis they’re more likely to take part in the event, linger longer in the precinct and spend more money while doing so. With such a diverse and noteworthy hospitality offer, friends are able to meet at the precinct straight after work, sit and have a drink, eat a variety of food and catch up before finally scanning their tickets and watching the game. Families can set up on the grass and gather food for a picnic without having to organise anything prior. Corporate groups can book out on-court private dining areas to host clients and experience some of the best international food. In other words, people can do all their spending under the one roof to have their social, dining and experiential needs met.

Club Aperol  image via The F

Club Aperol image via The F

With the uprising of the ‘experience economy’, people are preferring to spend on activities rather than physical goods and sporting events such as The Australian Open are enhancing this aspect of their program to take advantage of this shift in spending habits. As we have seen in retail centres and other precincts, food and hospitality has become a centrepiece in providing an edge to the customer journey that goes beyond the single purpose these spaces or events were once for (i.e. shopping, offices or watching sport). This approach attracts greater customer spend, promotes visitations and overall, boosts asset value as people continue to seek experiences that go beyond their expectations. With ticket sales at their highest in 2017, The Australian Open is case and point for this and shows that food and hospitality will continue to grow as a major player in sporting events and other events around the globe.


See the Complete Australian Open 2018 Food and Beverage Mix 


Cover image credit - Michelle Jarni for The Urban List