By Travis Wood
The University of Nebraska at Omaha’s recently opened Baxter Arena has won a Silver Spoon Award from Venues Today, a publication based around entertainment, events and venues for best new concept in food and drink.
Venues Today cited the arena’s UNO-centric restaurants and portable kiosks as an award-winning way for consumers to customize their personal tastes. The restaurants were born out of UNO’s partnership with SAVOR, the food provider responsible for the menu options and restaurant designs.
Mike Cera, the arena’s general manager, said SAVOR delivered on key aspects they were looking for as a food provider: emphasis on student focus, local and regional menu options, and alcohol responsibility. He said the teamwork between UNO and SAVOR helped win the award.
“I think it shows our synergy with our food service company… and it shows that we’re all on the same page when it comes to what we need. In a lot of other facilities you don’t have that,” Cera said. “This award showcases that we work together, we collaborated and we are 100 percent focused on the same goal.”
Several restaurants were designed around UNO-centric themes. Some examples include the “Nine-teen 08,” named after the year UNO was founded. The Nineteen 08 serves chicken-fried steak sandwiches, angus burgers and corn-dogs. The “Blue Line Bar” is named after the Blue Liners, a club that has supported UNO hockey from its beginning, and serves blue margaritas and specialty cocktails.
A portable barbecue station called “Bulls & Brew” is also available to consumers.
Cera said it was important for fans to have several choices at their disposal.
“I want them to have the best food experience possible,” Cera said. “I want them to be able to get their food in a timely manner, have a variety of options for them to choose from and be able to get the options that they want…I want it to be the right temperature and I want it to taste good.”
Apart from the restaurants, Cera said there are still plenty of standard concession options available like hamburgers, hot dogs, chicken fingers, fries, nachos and pretzels. He said there is also emphasis on local food from companies such as Rotella and ConAgra.
Cera said the food options, quality and service add to the entire atmosphere of an event and the fans’ overall experience.
“Everybody remembers the food portion of it,” Cera said. “You could have the greatest experience from a guest service standpoint…and see an amazing game where it goes into double overtime, but if your chicken tenders were cold, everyone’s going to remember that, and that’s what they’re going to pass along.”
Overall, Cera said the partnership with SAVOR has been beneficial, and he is ready to keep improving upon the fan experience moving forward.
“I think it’s a great partnership between…UNO athletics and SAVOR right now,” Cera said. “I think this certainly speaks to their ability to meet the client’s needs and be creative when they’re asked to be creative, but still conform to what the vision of their client is.”