Grey Cup 2021: How to hit the mark with an outstanding guest experience

Published on : 5/9/22
  • The Canadian Football League’s season wrapped up in December 2021, culminating with the 108th Grey Cup at the Tim Horton’s Field (THF) in Hamilton, Ontario. The home of the Hamilton Tiger Cats welcomed 26,000 fans, excited to celebrate Canadian football’s biggest event of the year.

    Sodexo Live! provides all hospitality, food and beverage services at Tim Hortons Field in Hamilton, Ontario, enriching the live event dining experience for guests, members, fans and athletes alike.

    Matt Afinec, President and Chief Operating Officer of Hamilton Sports Group, says:

    Thank you to our friends at Sodexo Live! for providing our amazing fans and guests with an outstanding culinary experience during the 108th Grey Cup and throughout the 2021 season.

    Overview of the Story

    As part of its post-pandemic rebound,  Tim Hortons Field (THF) in Hamilton, Ontario underwent a transformation to become a sought-after event destination – concluding right on time for the 2021 CFL Grey Cup. A top priority, the live event food and beverage experience was reimagined to deliver a wide variety of options emphasizing local vendors and suppliers.  

    To deliver a one-of-a-kind experience that highlights and champions the culinary creations of local vendors, Tim Hortons Field partnered with Sodexo Live! to deliver hospitality that exceeds the expectations of guests while connecting them to their community of food fanatics.

    As well as home games for the Tiger-Cats (CFL) and Forge FC (CPL), Sodexo Live! caters to corporate and social events at THF.

    Representing the growing local population, vendors include a diverse range of offerings for the expanding Hamilton fan base. Led by executive chef and proud Hamiltonian Tina Rousseaux, menus are crafted to provide fans with a taste of the neighborhood, focusing on locally sourced and sustainable ingredients — up to 70% of ingredients come from local suppliers found within 65 miles of Tim Hortons Field — as well promoting healthy options alongside traditional stadium fare

    Our new high-quality and locally inspired food and beverage partners include Bon Temps HamiltonThe Cookie DOH! Factory and Bar Sazerac. Teams, caretakers, alumni, press and fans on the Club Levels can also choose from specialized catering options.

    To keep our food and beverage programs fresh and exciting, THF vendors develop chef-driven seasonal menus, as well as a craft beverage program featuring on-trend cocktails, a creative assortment of refreshing nonalcoholic drinks, and a superb selection of beers and wines. And let’s not forget the coffee!

    In addition to these new in-house concepts, the team operates the successful social gathering bars throughout the stadium including the Stipley Bar, Coors Original Bar, Craft Corner Bar, Canadian Club Bar and Brugal Bar.

    Sodexo Live!’s hospitality management is bringing the Hamilton and Canadian culinary scene to life inside Tim Hortons Field. Together we are reimaging live event experiences for fans, families and the entire foodie community.


    • Providing an elevated food and beverage experience: For decades, the culinary options at stadiums have been limited to traditional fare and simple options, translating into the most easily produced items for the previous generation’s mainstream palate. This generally meant limited options and few dietary considerations.
    • Enhancing environmental sustainability: Providing food and beverages to thousands of guests takes a considerable number of resources. Internationally sourced food, mass processing and transportation create an unsustainable environmental footprint.
    • Making payment options quicker and easier: The pandemic increased the length of lines due to physical-distancing requirements and increased the desire for cashless payment options.
    • Drawing in the community, retaining and growing the fan base: Due to COVID-19, all major live events were canceled, with Tim Hortons Field closed for nearly 18 months. Creating a safe, fun and exciting atmosphere that offered new experiences was necessary to draw guests back.


    Solutions & Results

    Reimagining diverse and local cuisine: Working with Sodexo Live! culinarians, local operational leadership and partners, our Hospitality Solutions Group developed a robust food and beverage plan for Tim Hortons Field. Catering to the next generation of diverse and expanding food preferences as well as eco-conscious consumers, our menus provide an exciting and memorable food and beverage experience. Seasonally created by a variety of local chefs and suppliers, Sodexo Live! is delivering a one-of-a-kind Hamilton food and beverage experience while staying true to the THF brand. Creating real value through an enhanced reputation, per capita sales have increased.

    Reducing environmental impact: Using local and sustainable products and ingredients throughout our concessions menus creates a Hamilton-centric food and beverage program that resonates with fans and guests while decreasing our carbon footprint. Sodexo Live! maintains sustainable and locally sourced purchasing with as much as 70% of food purchased from local suppliers found within 65 miles of Tim Hortons Field. We work with each of these suppliers to ensure product availability and production scalability, promoting these efforts on our digital menu board system and integrating local partner spotlights. Reducing the carbon footprint of Tim Hortons Field, local agriculture, livestock and restaurant businesses are also supported in maintaining a sustainable cuisine.

    Making payment systems more efficient: Sodexo Live! partnered with Connect&Go, a global leader in RFID solutions, to introduce a cashless payment option to guests of Tim Hortons Field. With Connect&GO, guests link a credit card or load funds onto their RFID wristband to pay for concessions with a simple scan of the wrist. This cashless payment system integrates with existing Point of Sales (POS) solutions and guests can use the same wristband all season long, branded with the team’s logo and colors. The wristbands have proven to generate 42% increases in revenue and a 50% decrease in transaction times; 75% of first-time users continue to use their Connect&Go wristband game after game.

    Enhancing stadium use and the guest experience: Sodexo Live! identified special event planners and decision makers from local companies and organizations to further enhance Tim Hortons Field’s brand and business. Redesigning premium spaces for non-game day events, the stadium can be used as an interesting location for corporate and nonprofit social gatherings, private events, product launches and fundraisers with custom menu options. Tim Hortons Field is now a social hub with a dynamic and authentically Hamiltonian food and beverage experience that brings people together in a fun and festive environment. We are defining THF for the next generation of fans by creating an innovative food, entertainment and sports destination that is a vital component of the Hamilton community.

    A Winning Strategy for the 2021 Grey Cup

    Leaning on these extensive culinary and hospitality offerings available throughout the season, Chef Tina and her 500 team members were ready to deliver an outstanding game day experience when the fans started pouring into Hamilton’s Tim Hortons Field (THF) for the 2021 Grey Cup. With chefs and team members from Vancouver, Ottawa and Toronto, the game-changing menu displayed the absolute best in Canadian hospitality.

    By the Numbers

    • 26,000 fans
    • 500+ employees
    • 1,148 Club Level seats
    • 30 private suites
    • 5 social gathering bars on the Concourse
    • 4,500 hot dogs and 4,600 pizza slices
    • 49,000 beers 

    With revenues exceeding expectations by 22%, the reimagined offerings at THF have made it clear that our culinary and hospitality expertise is unmatched when catering for over 26,000 fans at one of Canada’s most anticipated events.

    Sodexo Live!’s hospitality management is bringing the Hamilton and Canadian culinary scene to life inside Tim Hortons Field. Together we are reimaging live event experiences for fans, families and the entire foodie community.

    Watch a video wrap-up of the event.

    Learn more about Chef Tina Rousseaux, the culinary MVP behind the 2021 Grey Cup. 

    Find out more about how we work with  stadiumconvention centers and other live entertainment venues.