Celtic Supporters Make Their Voices Heard
“…The best that Celtic stands for is supporting the charitable principles of its founder. The best that Celtic stands for is promoting health and well-being, understanding and positive social integration. The best that Celtic stands for is as an inclusive organisation being open to all regardless of age, sex, race, religion or disability…”
These are the words that can be found on the official social charter of Celtic Football Club (available here).
Late last week (Thursday lunchtime), as many of you will know, I opened up a survey regarding the catering available to average fans at Celtic Park on match days. My personal aim was that at least a thousand people would reply within a week or so, before I published the results online, and sent them to Peter Lawwell (Chief Executive of Celtic Football Club) along with comments left by members of the support, and an accompanying letter from myself.
However, within 48 hours of opening the survey, I had been inundated with almost 1500 replies. Of course, the internet is a fantastic tool with regards to reaching significant numbers of people quickly, but I must say I was surprised at the uptake within the fan base. Anyway, having exceeded the target number of responses in less than a day, I closed the initial survey at 5.30pm, on Saturday.
In my opinion, the results of our survey, published here for the first time, are fairly damning in many areas. I will quickly run through these results, whilst discussing the responses given to each question briefly, before summing up in more detail at the end of this article.
As you can see above, almost three quarters of the individuals who responded to our survey are current season ticket holders at Celtic Park. These people attend matches at Celtic Park many times every season, and will always sit in the same area, meaning they are able to build up an average view of the services available to them within the section of the stadium they visit.
When we questioned how people felt regarding catering on a whole at Celtic Park, more than 70% of respondents said they thought it was either unsatisfactory, or very unsatisfactory, with 27.5% stating they felt the standard was acceptable. Only 27 people, from approximately 1600 asked, told us they were very satisfied with the catering on offer. Comparing the two extremes, those in the very unsatisfactory camp outnumber those with the opposite opinion by almost 14 to 1.
With regards to people’s thoughts on the quality of the food and drink available, we can see similar results to those found above, with approximately 70% once again describing themselves as unsatisfied or very unsatisfied, while around 30% felt more positive about the situation.
We see similar results once again with question four, as approximately 65% of people describing the choices available as unsatisfactory or very unsatisfactory. However, it should be noted there has been a slight increase in the numbers of those describing their view of the situation as very satisfactory or satisfactory, despite the fact these individuals are still in a significant minority.
Now, the subject of our questioning has moved onto pricing within the stadium. As you can see, the Celtic supporters clearly feel this is a big issue. Almost half of those asked said they thought the catering was expensive, whilst almost another 45% said they thought it was very expensive. Only 120 people, or 7% of those asked, said they thought the pricing was fair. Not one person said they thought the catering was cheap, while one solitary person told us they thought it was very cheap. All in all, this is clearly an area where the paying public feel the Club can, and has to, improve.
Above, we can see a statistic that could, and should, interest those running the Football Club from a financial point of view. Over half of those asked said they would pay current prices, or potentially even a little more, if the quality and choices of the food on offer was to increase significantly. Another 16% said they were unsure, with 30% saying they simply would not pay more. This is an interesting statistic, when coupled with the results thrown up by the previous question. The vast majority of the support feel the current prices are too high for the product available. Either a decrease in price for a product similar to what is currently on offer, or a dramatic increase in the quality of the product is required, although a combination of the two would be the best option.
Next, let me draw your attention to the subject of the staff members at Celtic Park. The result of this question may surprise some of you, as I often hear people bemoan the actions of counter staff and their supervisors inside the ground. However, according to this poll, almost two thirds of those asked stated they were either satisfied or very satisfied with those catering staff employed on match days. However, the fact there is a wide spectrum of opinions perhaps points to two factors, one being people’s differing expectations of service, and two being the different staff they come across on match days. For example, if people are served well by a member of staff, they’ll probably soon forget about it within hours if not sooner. However, if they are served badly, this will undoubtedly stick in their mind and they are more likely to mention it to friends and family etc. I’ll discuss the staffing, and my views regarding it, in a little more detail later on in this article.
When asked whether or not they felt they often have to wait longer than they should need to in queues at Celtic Park, over 75% of respondents answered yes. These delays and long queues are likely a result of a variety of factors, which will be dissected in more detail later. However, this is undoubtedly another area the Club should aim to improve upon.
The results shown on the table above are fairly clear to see. The majority of people wait an average of between 5-15 minutes to purchase food and drink inside Celtic Park, with similar numbers waiting 2-5 minutes and 15-20 minutes. Interestingly, an almost identical amount of people said they waited under 2 minutes or over 20 minutes.
Comparing this table with the one above, we can see a noticeable difference between the waiting times people report and the waiting times people feel would be acceptable. Whilst 806 (48.5%) people report they currently wait 10 minutes or more for service inside Celtic Park, only 53 (3.2%) believe that anything in excess of 10 minutes is a realistically acceptable waiting time. The vast majority (56.5%) of those polled believe 2-5 minutes is the ideal and realistic waiting time, and while 292 (17.6%) currently say they wait less than 5 minutes.
This is always a disappointing event; you wait in a queue only to reach the front and discover that your desired purchase is out of stock. Of course, this isn’t totally avoidable. If, for example, one day everyone decides they want one particular product, it will almost inevitably run out. However, as with many things in life, people often buy the same thing every time they visit Celtic Park, be it a scotch pie, a hot dog, or anything else. This means that, with a bit of pre-planning, items really shouldn’t run out as often as they seem to, especially when fairly consistent demand is there. Of course, the times on match days at which people go to the stalls will also affect the likelihood of products being sold out when they reach the counter (i.e. pre-match, half time etc). Items running out once or twice a season is acceptable in my mind, but for almost half (46%) of individuals polled to be saying it happens regularly, there is clearly an issue which needs addressed.
In many senses, this question harks back to the earlier ones regarding waiting times. We all know the feeling of waiting in a queue when you know kick off is approaching, or even worse, when you can hear the music signalling the entrance of the teams. Depending on the match in question, this can be very frustrating. For example, I’m fairly sure no one would happily miss the Champions League theme tune this season because they were waiting to buy a pie. Again, the likelihood of you being caught in such a situation is dependent on your time of arrival at the ground to a degree, but we must remember that not everyone can get to stadium half an hour or an hour before kick off, even if they wanted to. With 50% saying they miss some of the match because they are waiting in line, and another 37% saying they simply give up and head for their seats, this is something that needs to change. Not only are customers unhappy with this, potential revenue is being lost on a regular basis.
These results, coupled with those of the next question, are some of the most telling this survey has produced. Here, we see that only 39% of people ever eat inside Celtic Park. Respondents were able to select more than one option, and this is why the total number of responses appears to be significantly higher than those of the other questions in the survey. Approximately a third of people eat directly outside the ground, from food vans or local fast food outlets. There are a variety of reasons for this, although the people I have spoken to have highlighted price, product quality, and lesser waiting times as the main causes. Once again, this shows that more money could be made by the Club, if only they could attract more supporters to eat within the stadium itself.
These results show that only 23% of supporters polled currently eat inside the ground regularly. In truth, I would imagine the real percentage will be somewhat higher, as many people attend Celtic Park who do not have access to the internet and thus have not had access to this survey. However, I doubt it would be any higher than the 40% (approximately speaking) mentioned in the previous question. The important statistic here is that of the remaining 77% of individuals surveyed, 97.4% of them said they would be more likely to eat inside the ground if the product and service provided were significantly improved. Only 2% said this would not make them more likely to eat inside the ground. Surely this is a massive incentive for the Football Club?
The final questioned posed by our survey was, as you can see, a simple yes or no answer. While some were sceptical (less than 2%) that the results should be sent to the Football Club, an overwhelming 98% of you believed that Celtic Football Club should strive to improve it’s current standards, and that it was worth making the thoughts of the fans known to them by sending Mr Lawwell a copy of our results. Without doubt, the Celtic support would like to see efforts made to improve the service available to them on match days at Celtic Park.
N.B. Please note that all of the percentages shown in the diagrams above have been rounded to the nearest individual percent.
Aims and Ideas
- Clean, cold tap water should be made available, for free, to any member of the support who desires it, anywhere in the ground. This does not mean they should have to pay for a cup, or wait in the normal food counter queues for the privilege, as this would only slow the already inflated queues. Several people have said to me they would happily take a bottle of water in with them if they were allowed to do so. However, as containers such as bottles are prohibited within Celtic Park, this is not an option. If this idea is impossible, then bottled water much cheaper than what is currently available should be introduced.
- Additional small stalls, similar to those manned by programme sellers outside, should be introduced within the existing concourses in order to take some of the strain away from the main food counters. Sweets, crisps, water, and fruit juice should be available at these smaller stalls. In future, this should be extended to include items such as fresh, sealed sandwiches (once contracts allow).
- Hot, reasonably priced soup should be made available to the supporters in future winters. With ingredients which are generally cheap to purchase, I feel this would be seen as a welcome addition from the Celtic support, who regularly brave bitterly cold conditions to support their team. Also, when I say soup, I do not refer to something which comes in the form of a powder which water is added to; I mean “real” soup.
- “Traditional” football food, such as pies and Bovril, should not disappear from sale. However, the variety of foods available should be expanded and improved upon, offering healthier options, such as pastas and sandwiches. A wider array of these healthy options, particularly aimed at children, should also be made available.
- Options regarding franchising and/or allowing local businesses to rent and operate food counters should be considered. Not every food counter should necessarily be the same. Of course, in certain areas of the ground, there are more counters available to the support than others, but this should not prohibit this possibility. Potentially, there could be “default” counters offering traditional football food in all areas of the ground, with other counters offering more diverse options as well. Businesses renting space would hire their own staff, or bring current staff who normally work at other premises. This would improve both staff efficiency and familiarity, as well as customer choice, and the inevitable competitiveness between stalls could potentially lead to an overall increase in the standards of food and service available.
- Incidences of products “running out” should be minimised, with improved pre-planning from those in management roles. Examples such as stalls running out of pies before games as well attended as the Glasgow Derbies of old must not be repeated.
- A marginal increase in staff numbers may be an idea, but efforts to improve both efficiency and organisation are of the utmost importance. The quality of management from those in supervisory roles should also be improved upon.
- Faster payment methods would shorten waiting times. Nowadays, the vast majority of us hold electronic season ticket cards, capable of collecting up points in Celtic stores and outlets, as well as allowing us access to the stadium without the need for turnstile operators. Why not copy the likes of Bayern Munich, and allow individuals to put money onto their cards which they could then scan when paying for food and drinks? This would save time and make the process almost instantaneous for many. Of course, cash would still be acceptable too.
Comments and Feedback
As well as inviting respondents to answer our survey questions, we also gave them the opportunity to leave individual comments, both on the quality of the catering at Celtic Park and on the survey itself. You can find all of these (with names removed, and some minor editing to remove abbreviations such as “u” and “r” etc) below. I should also highlight the fact that I have included all of the comments sent to us, regardless of whether or not I agree with them personally. There are a number of different views expressed below, and many of them contradict each other. However, as everyone is as entitled to their opinion, I have done all I can to publish these for others to read.
“At last a survey on what can only be described as pathetic catering at Celtic Park. Last season on more than one visit with my daughter after a 20 min wait we were told they didn’t have what we wanted left. On another visit again after a long wait they told us the unit we waited at didn’t sell what we wanted despite saying it did. Oh and don’t start me on the catering staff; not a brain cell between them. Rant over. Oh and good luck i won’t hold my breath, Hail Hail.”
“Standard of food and quality at celtic park is poor and very over priced. I feel sorry for the counter staff due to poor mismanagement they will always get the abuse from fans due to products not being available. Spare a thought for them as they are on minimum wage, and me personally I wouldn’t do the job they do.“
“It’s good doing this, I have been on both sides of the fence, worked there last year and got to see what was it like. Sometimes drinks were warm, food was ok and prices where a bit steep and I have been at games waiting while the 2nd half kicks off so I know its frustrating and I do feel for the workers. Also they do what they’re told so instead of moaning to them I would take it up with supervisors after the game when they show face. Trust me they’re always there at the kiosks making sure everybody is tiding up cause you can’t leave till money is counted etc. Plus the kiosks are sub-contracted out so if you send it to Peter Lawwell I would also send to the company at runs the kiosks. Hope this helps you in your quest.”
“I always arrive about 60 minutes before the match and eat at the start – hate standing in the queue. My daughter sometimes goes down for things as the second half kicks off. Its over priced for what it is. I now settle for water as the juice is flat – similar to others – it has become part of the match day experience so we always do it. I am not shy in taking food back and telling them that its over cooked, hard or just rotten (to the distaste of my daughter) – I feel sorry for the staff and try and have a wee laugh with them as they are just doing a wee job.“
“The vans (one in particular) regularly get in excess of £10 of my hard earned as the Celtic Park catering is downright awful. Unimaginative, unhealthy, overpriced dross. Maybe Mr Lawwell should pop down and join us to savour our match day “experience”. Better still get a focus group of supporters to inform the direction of future catering provision. I’d be up for it.”
“My main issue is firstly that you cannot bring water into the stadium. Because of this there should be access to free drinking water. Instead I have to pay £1.80 I think for a bottle of water. I’d be happy to bring in my own water and have that poured into a cup rather than pay for the over-priced water in the stadium.”
“Pizza that looks like linoleum and probably doesn’t taste any better, overpriced stodge its a complete rip off. Nothing on sale of a healthy nature just typical west of Scotland coffin nail fodder, its a disgrace, half the staff don’t speak english and the overall standard is abysmal. Anyone who spends a penny at any of the in house stalls is being seriously ripped off and quite how Celtic can support football fans in training whilst offering up this nonsense as match day food is bewildering.”
“The food quality at the kiosks is poor and the prices are ridiculous. I offer my thanks to the staff at the “sharp end” however as they are, by and large, kids trying their best.“
“Shockingly bad food concessions inside CP. Primarily what they have is poorly prepared. The choice is terrible and that doesn’t really matter as what you choose is 9/10 times not what you get. You get what’s left. I’m surprised the poll doesn’t address opinion on cleanliness. The concessions always look filthy after about 10 minutes!“
“To be honest I use it as my 6 year old son who has his first season ticket thinks the chips and a capri sun are part of his match day experience. I have to leave during the game so I’m not standing in a massive queue. The prices are awful and my biggest complaint really. I’ve tried taking him a packed lunch but it’s just not the done thing at football and he ‘wants’ Celtic chips. The food itself is average but grossly overpriced and £2.50 for flat coke ??”
“Lazy and very short sighted catering for such a faithful support, we deserve much better. Overpriced stodgy fodder, get it sorted!“
“Last season a hot dog and coke was 5 pounds . This season they have added a packet of crisps and called it a meal deal charging 7 pounds for it, and twice they haven’t had coke. It’s just not on, we will bring our own from now on.”
“Celtic PLC employ very young staff, at their “food” outlets inside Celtic Park, dont know if they pay them the National minimum wages on match days, or what the training is like for staff. Are the staff told about joining a Trade Union? Made aware of Health & Safety? I personally would not eat or drink anything from these “food” outlets…quality of the food is very poor & far too expensive for working class Celtic fans . I don’t think Peter Lawwell and his Celtic PLC board members are eating this s**** before & after games, and drinking over priced flat Coca Cola & the p*** served up as tea & coffee.”
“A simple solution to the counter staff problem is more counter staff. They are run off their feet selling poor quality, overpriced food. I now eat before I reach ground as does everyone I know. Thank you for your efforts. Hail Hail.”
“(name removed) – look up the law of diminishing returns. More counter staff would solve nothing.”
“Put it this way I avoid eating from the catering booths/counters at Parkhead. Would rather wait till afterwards on way home. I’ve sometimes eaten prior arriving to the games.”
“The prices are terrible at parkhead.”
“I would like a McDonalds franchise at CP. The idea of a Big Mac at half time really appeals. Choice would be limited of course due to logistics but I believe you could utilise the current space available. Thanks for your consideration.”
“Coke is somewhat flat and can be warmish or not cold enough. Prices are a tad expensive. Steak pies are not too bad but can be a bit dried up. Staff can be very slow and not too efficient. I’d give it 6 out of 10″
“Food outlets are shocking at Celtic Park. I will not pay for burnt stodgy food. Improve Celtic or lose much business. Prices are terrible too. Would sell much more produce if it was better quality and cheaper.“
“The food at Celtic Park is seriously over priced and rotten, it really needs a new approach and quick!!! 0/10″
“Also do a great variety of homemade pasta and different kinds of rolls and sandwiches more options on drinks too they are terrible. Also not enough places to sit your drink down while you eat should maybe consider more round the wall shelving too.“
“Yeah take the prices down need a bank loan to get food from here.”
“Why don’t they sell the humble square slice in a roll?”
“Go to clubs in Germany to see how catering for 60,000 works and the club will earn more money and the fans will be happier with a varied and more healthy menu. Fast food does not need to be unhealthy or expensive but the food at Celtic Park is both and I will never touch it. Change it by having experts do it. Instead of having just sponsored burger vans outside why don’t the club franchise out space to a soup vans, one that sells felafel & giros, Polish food, Spanish or something from anywhere in the world that is both healthy and provides a bit of variety. Even providing fruit would be nice.”
“Bitten into a mince pie and fat as hot as candle wax scolded me.”
“How about offering a few places in the stadium to Subway or Greggs or another company of that type. They keep the food profits and the club gets the rent money. Trained staff, prices that are comparable to the high street and better quality than the tripe served at games.”
“Franchises allowed to trade, basic level of customer service training given to staff.”
“The queuing time is absolutely outrageous, rarely takes less than twenty minutes to queue at half time. Catering staff are also useless, not enough of them and they are unable to cope. Food is also overpriced and sub-standard.”
“Get more staff and operating tills.”
“The pizza is overpriced farmfoods garbage.”
“Get McDonald’s in.”
“On entry to the stadium, immediately after the turnstiles open there are never any hot dogs ready. Always say it takes 15-20 minutes.”
“Prices could be cut a wee bit and food could be ready as soon as the supporters enter the ground.”
“I don’t eat at Celtic Park unless I really, really, really have to. The food is just terrible, but let’s face it- it’s there to make a high profit margin and to fill the belly, not provide a gastromic thrill. To single out the cashiers for criticism is ridiculous. When I was unemployed a couple of years ago I had a meeting at the agency that provides the catering staff- I was very nearly a supervisor. It’s minimum wage stuff, and nobody’s there to carve out a career in pie-serving. Leave the kids alone!“
“Allowing franchises would potentially get people into the stadium earlier and this could result in them spending more.“
“The food is rotten and the toilets are full off empty beer bottles and very smokey, won’t take my young son to parkhead again!!!”
“Wait too long in queues for poor quality, often burnt food which is overpriced.”
“Reduce cost, increase staffing and improve quality. This will actually increase profit due to increase in sales.”
“Cheaper prices on the meal deals which have gone up quite a bit. Some healthier options, better trained staff and less watered down soft drinks.“
“Burnt pizzas, chips hit or miss, coffee quite often lukewarm. Some of the assistants can barely count and struggle with orders.”
“How come I can buy a rollover hot dog from my local shop for £1.69 and it’s treble the price at Parkhead?”
“For the past 2 seasons my son and i have been drinking flat cola every week and it’s not fair because they still charge full price.”
“I would be happy with the junk food if it was fairly priced but it’s a complete rip off.”
“Lower the prices.”
“The fact that can now only buy one size of overpriced juice which just happens to be large has me blazing and I have now explained to my son that if he waits till end of game I will take him to mcdonalds on way home and save myself some money.“
“Reduce the prices, they are a disgrace.”
Analysis and Conclusions
I have spent several days reiterating the following point, and I shall do so once more, for the record. I have not publicised my personal views with regards to the catering at Celtic Park until now, as I did not want to risk being seen as influencing the outcome of the survey. However, now that the survey is closed, I feel I can do this without any risk attached.
Firstly, I should state unequivocally that I believe the quality of the catering on offer on match days inside Celtic Park is, at best, poor. The products are, generally, severely lacking in quality, and the respective prices being asked for them are high. The clear lack of any healthy options, from a Club which prides itself on promoting the message of good health, fitness and exercise to it’s supporters, is also an important issue which I feel must be addressed.
Many of the staff, who are predominantly young men and women looking to earn a bit of extra money, appear poorly trained, and even more poorly organised. Of course, as some of you will no doubt point out, it is debatable how much training a few hours work every fortnight or so should warrant, and I accept this. In truth, I am not criticising the staff behind the counters themselves, as I feel the majority of them do their best. However, the organisation and management skills of those assigned to supervise the efficient running of the food counters appears to be an area in which significant improvements are long overdue.
Fundamentally, my belief is this; simply because the majority of food available within football grounds in Scotland is, and has always been, terrible, it does not mean that it should always be terrible.
I do not claim to have all the answers. I am simply a fan like the rest of you reading this. However, I adamantly believe that a few simple changes, coupled with increased levels of consultation between the Football Club and it’s supporters, could lead to an almost immediate improvement in the quality and efficiency of the service available at Celtic Park.
In terms of significant improvements in the longer term (regarding the products themselves), I would expect current contracts to be an issue, as they must be upheld. However, this does not mean that the Club should not take the time to consider all of it’s options for the future (with regards to the time these contracts expire), and it does not mean that the Club should readily disregard the opinion of the fans, who are, at least in terms of catering, paying customers.
In summary, I wholeheartedly believe that everyone involved could benefit from improvements in catering; the fans, the staff, and the Club. Firstly, with a better quality of service and product, the match day experience would undoubtedly improve, and this would lead to a happier fan base visiting Celtic Park. Secondly, with a more structured and well organised work environment, not to mention more content supporters, the staff working on match days would see an improvement too. Thirdly, with happier supporters, a better quality of service and product on offer, increased efficiency and sensible pricing, the Club could undoubtedly exploit an improved revenue stream and benefit financially in the future.
Finally, I would like to take the opportunity to thank you all again for taking the time to respond to this survey, and to digest it’s results. Discussions and consultations are the way forward, not blaming individuals are arguments amongst friends. When I receive word back from the Football Club, I will of course notify you all. Until then, if anyone would like to leave further comments, please feel free to do so.