New concessionaire brings cashless payments, menu changes to Gerald R. Ford Amphitheater in Vail | VailDaily.com

New concessionaire brings cashless payments, menu changes to Gerald R. Ford Amphitheater in Vail

Lindsay Bribiescas
lindsay@vaildaily.com

The Gerald R. Ford Amphitheater in Vail is celebrating its 30th anniversary this year — and it also marks a significant change for the popular venue, hosting everything from Bravo! Vail classical music concerts to the Vail Dance Festival. Gore Creek Concessions has taken over concessions for the amphitheater, and the food and beverage vendor is making some changes, including cashless transactions and nightly specials.

OPTIMUM EVENTS

Ford Amphitheater's former concessionaire, Vail Myriad, stepped out at the end of the 2016 summer season to pursue other business interests after almost 30 years of managing the concessions at the amphitheater. The need to fill this role led the Vail Valley Foundation to consider what it looks for in a concessionaire.

"The concession experience: how fast you get your food, the service, the friendliness of the staff, the quality of the food, all of that is really important," said Mike Imhof, president of the Vail Valley Foundation. "If we're putting on world-class performing arts, we want to make sure that the overall experience, including the concession experience, is excellent."

This search resulted in Optimum Events, which has proved themselves at other events. But Optimum Events needed a specific company for the venue — thus Gore Creek Concessions was created. Gore Creek Concessions came into the venue with a team of experienced event caterers.

Optimum Events, created by Ted Wenninger and Nick Rader, has worked with the Vail Valley Foundation on a number of other events, including the GoPro Mountain Games. Once the opportunity came up to bid for the concessionaire role, a need for Gore Creek Concessions arose, so it was created.

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"They're affiliate companies, you could say, like sister companies," Rader said. "Optimum does provide some consulting and back end services to Gore Creek, and Gore Creek is the entity that runs the amphitheater. That's the very easy way to put it."

GORE CREEK CONCESSIONS

When the team got the bid for the amphitheater, they came in with a plan to change up the their part of the venue.

"When we were bidding this project, our concept was, you know, we'd been around the clientele, and what we really wanted to do is not come in and change everything, but change a few things that we really thought could be enhanced. And the food was the primary opportunity," Wenninger said. "We hired Hunter Smith and his company Big Delicious to come and do the food, and we're fortunate to have basically three executive chefs back there for the summer."

The biggest food changes at the moment focus on the freshness of the food, local sources and nightly specials. Although there is a static menu featuring burgers and bratwursts, there is also a chalkboard special put together by the executive chefs, which has included dishes such as shrimp po' boys and duck empanadas.

"We're in Vail, it's the Ford Amphitheater and the food and beverage should be at the level of the facility," Rader said. "It's a beautiful facility with a beautiful setting and we're getting the whole consumer experience to match that same level of expectation. This is a different, more elevated experience than just a municipal venue in Denver."

TECHNOLOGY UPDATES

For Gore Creek Concessions and Optimum Events, customer service is about more than food. One of the first investments that Wenninger and Rader made was in point of sale technology. Now at each concession stand in the amphitheater, there's an iPad terminal and Square stand to read credit cards and other forms of cashless payment.

"Optimum and Gore Creek are both very retail and consumer focused companies, and so elevating the food menu is part of that experience. Elevating the point of sale technology is also part of that experience," Rader said.

Gore Creek Concessions isn't looking to make drastic changes. While the current changes are not the only way that Gore Creek Concessions plans to update the amphitheater, the company wants to wait until it has a full season under its belt to best assess how to improve the consumer experience.

"Our expectation is to be here as long as we can," Wenninger said. "We love being out here, and our goal when we bid the project was to be out here for a long time."

By the numbers

Around 3,500 items can be sold on a busy night.

Gore Creek Concessions will serve food and beverages for 45 total events this season.

The bar serves six different kinds of beer, more than 10 types of wine, three “bubblies” and other beverages.

IF YOU GO …

What: Gerald R. Ford Amphitheater’s 30th Anniversary Concerts featuring Third Eye Blind & Rodrigo y Gabriela.

When: Friday, Aug. 18: Rodrigo y Gabriela, Lukas Nelson & the Promise of the Real and special guests; Saturday, Aug. 19: Third Eye Blind, Dead Man Winter and special guests. Doors open at 5 p.m.

Where: Gerald R. Ford Amphitheater, Vail.

Cost: Reserved seat single-day: $60; reserved seat two-day: $95; general admission single-day: $35; general admission two-day: $60.

More information: VIP packages are available. Learn more at http://www.grfavail.com or visit http://www.vvf.org.