Signal Iduna Park was built back in 1974, with expansion work undertaken at various stages from 1995 to 2003. As such, it's no surprise that the stadium doesn't exactly provide optimal conditions for the sale of food and drink. However, Borussia Dortmund is now doing all it can to improve the matchday experience for stadium visitors.
It's within a narrow timeframe, generally either the last half hour before kick-off or the 15 minute half-time interval, that 80,000 spectators all share a common goal: to be served as quickly as possible at the counter. The simplest response to this problem of ''peak'' times would be to simply increase the number of sales stands, to create more space. But as Arne Brügmann, managing director of BVB Event & Catering GmbH, explains: ''That isn't an option. We're currently having very productive discussions with the authorities and the fire department, but certain rules and regulations just can't be changed.''
Along with his colleague Merlin Zepter, Brügmann has come across a few projects and ideas which may help to optimise certain procedures, distribute customers more evenly, and improve the overall quality of the products on offer. ''For us, it's not about maximising revenue,'' says Brügmann, a statement which is more than backed up by the fact that the best value beer and bratwurst in the Bundesliga can be found at Signal Iduna Park, with a recent survey conducted by the magazine SPONSOR even unveiling that the club is placed 33rd in a rankings table of the 36 clubs in the first and second tiers of German football when it comes to most expensive food and drink. ''We want people to be satisfied, and we're happy to go without an extra euro or two.''
Instead, investments are being made. Three high-performance ''Beerjet'' tap devices are being installed in circulation zones (with three more to follow in the near future) and should help increase speed of service behind the bar, while a fundamental modernisation of all tap infrastructure (refrigerated containers, kegs and counters) should also improve availability. New storage spaces will also lead to greater efficiency.
What is more, sales stands are being divided into different categories. ''People should now be able to wait in line depending on what they are looking to buy,'' says Merlin Zepter. Coffee, for example, will be sold by BVB partner Niehaves, a traditional confectioner from Menden in the Sauerland. ''Niehaves have taken it upon themselves to install an expensive portafilter machine which will provide fans with coffee of the very highest quality,'' says Zepter. In addition, another BVB commercial partner, Düzgün, are offering their ''Premium-Döner'', while ''Rügenwalder Mühle“ will provide the vegetarian options. ''Consumer habits have changed, notably through an increase in the number of female fans,'' states Arne Brügmann: ''We have a responsibility to provide for them too.'' An example of this comes in the form of the sale of wine spritzers.
At six beer stands, the ''Purity law'' applies: Brinkhoff's No.1 is the only beer for sale - and that's also the case for home matches in the Champions League. UEFA have lifted the ban on draught beer containing alcohol. This is a provisional measure, which has certainly been met with little in the way of complaints. Another key feature is the bonus beer. ''Until now, there's often been an argument in the stands about which member of the group has to go and get the half-time beers. Now a lot of people are volunteering to go and do it,'' says Brügmann with a twinkle in his eye. Now, should they order six 0.5l Brinkhoffs, the person who goes and picks up the beers is entitled to an additional complimentary 0.3l beer. For the road.
The programme is complemented by a wide variety of seasonal offers and campaigns (sweet pretzels, warm-ups, wine spritzers, kale stew, pea soup, freshly-cooked Asian vegan noodles). In addition, the introduction of a hybrid-cup system (South stand and away fan zone: disposable cups made from 100% recycled material; all other zones: reusable cups) is planned for the 2019/20 season. A pilot project is currently underway in the REWE family zone.
And to top it all off: Borussia Dortmund are simplifying the payment process! In addition to the ''Stadiondeckel'' (stadium payment card), the six sales stands on all four levels which currently offer multiple payment options are now accepting all forms of contactless payment (Girocard, Apple-Pay etc.). Payment with cash is also available in the away fans zone. Those in possession of a ''Stadiondeckel'' can update their balance via the BVB app using either a credit card or PayPal. The introduction last season of an automatic balance update system means that the desired balance only has to be entered once. If card balance drops below the stipulated amount, the balance will be automatically updated when the card is next used for payment at a sales stand within the stadium.