"OO ate all the pies?" Not me HONEST!

Those who know my XXXXL Fat Bastard rotundness will immediately put me down as a prime suspect for having eaten all the pies.
I have indeed consumed more than my fair share of that delicious comestible in my time. Not at our beloved home of football however. There are many amongst us who don’t “get” why so many of the Gooner Nation seem more interested in eating and drinking in the ground than watching the football. I’m amongst them. I’m sick to the back teeth of having my watching of the game interrupted by Gooners who seem incapable of abstaining from the consumption of food and beverages for a couple of hours.
There are some in my row in block 112 (you know who you are) who always arrive after kick-off laden with food and drink, who always leave their seats 5-7 minutes before half-time, arriving back after the second half has started, again laden and then proceed to leave as the game clock winds down to 5 minutes to go (which, of course, usually means 7-8 minutes before the final whistle with time added on). Presumably to beat the crowds to their favourite watering hole, feeding trough or the Tube, train or bus.
Aside from being INTENSELY irritating, why the bloody hell pay £64.50 (or £92 for a category A game, or an average of £70.19 for Gold members) for a seat then miss a significant percentage of play AND spoil the enjoyment of fellow supporters? It baffles me.
All that said, I’m delighted for the club to offer catering facilities to those who want it. A LOT more consideration from those wishing to eat and/or drink in the ground for those who don’t would be welcome though.
I’m not against drinking and/or eating in the ground as a matter of principle. I have eaten in the ground on a number of occasions when I’ve arrived too late to eat in a café or restaurant or at home before leaving for an evening match. All that stopped at the end of the first season at the Grove however. The quality of the food had been raised from horrible to mediocre, only to descend very quickly back to close to horrible. The portions have also been decreased and the prices increased. The service remains a complete joke. Employing motivationally challenged youngsters on (I imagine) the minimum wage in facilities that must have been designed by somebody with no grip whatsoever on the science of ergonomics is no recipe for happy customers or staff.
A drop of beer has never passed my lips in the ground. The two “brews” sold, John Smith’s and Fosters are, in my personal opinion, two bilious swills that I wouldn’t serve to Spurs fans. The price of a pint just puts a top hat on it for me.
Now I know the caterers Delaware North (an American transnational with many catering concession contracts at stadia and arena across North America and elsewhere in Europe) have paid a big concession fee to Arsenal for the exclusive right to serve food and beverages. They’re not a charity. They need to make a return on their investment. A very wise sage once told me however that if you set out in business to make money you almost certainly won’t. The way to healthy profits is to provide the customer with a quality product that he or she wants at a price he or she is prepared to pay, whilst keeping an eye on costs. That way you get lots of repeat business, happy customers, happy shareholders and happy staff.
Here’s my recipe (excuse the rather obvious pun) for sorting out the catering at the Grove (setting aside the luxury market in the Club area and the executive boxes of which I know nothing):

  • Re-design and revamp the service areas. At the moment the staff is cramped and unable to work efficiently. This certainly frustrates the punters and no doubt the staff. To my non-expert eye most of the problems could be solved by building out the counters about 2 metres to allow the servers more room to move. There’s plenty of room to do this with the wide concourses in both the upper and lower tiers. At the moment the staff has to squeeze past each other wasting time and lower efficiency and speed.
  • Go back to basics on what’s offered for sale in terms of price, range and quality.
  • Put the staff on sales bonuses giving them an incentive to work fast and efficiently, particularly at half-time. Motivated staff with the right tools to do the job and well-managed equals satisfied customers equals profit.
  • Employ the facility on all Arsenal membership cards to offer the possibility of cashless payment. This works VERY well at the Veltins Arena in Gelsenkirchen and really cuts down the queues.

I’d like to be able to advise new visitors to the Grove that the facilities are world-class in every respect. They aren’t I’m afraid. My advice, at least at the moment, to anybody who asks about eating and drinking in the ground is don’t. The quality is poor, the prices scandalous and the service worse. A perfect storm really. Despite all the promises of improvements, the catering at the Grove remains a classic example of football’s policy of mind over matter towards fans. They don’t mind and we don’t matter. I for one refuse to be taken for granted and Delaware North shall not see one penny from my pocket until the service, quality and price is RADICALLY better.
I finish my views on this subject with two examples the club would do well to look at. The Veltins Arena in Gelsenkirchen (home of Bundesliga club Schalke 04) and Ford Field in Detroit, home of the NFL’s Detroit Lions. Both have excellent catering in terms of service, quality and price.
Those good people at Arsenal Independent Supporters’ Association (AISA) have raised this with chief executive Ivan Gazidis and have a follow-up meeting with Delaware North. They want to hear ideas and views from YOU.
That’s all for today, apart from news that our injury gremlins show no signs of easing up. Reports from Basel indicate that Johan Djourou has withdrawn from the Swiss squad to play Italy in a friendly tonight and has flown back to London with a knee injury. Marvellous. And with Thomas Vermaelen a doubt for Saturday too.
Keep the faith!

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