Georgia’s decision to bring a widely known barbecue brand to its food options at Sanford Stadium this season isn’t so popular in some corners.
The move to have “Dreamland” – with its roots in Tuscaloosa, Ala. – on sale between the hedges instead of selling chopped pork sandwiches from one of Georgia’s own barbecue joints was met with considerable derision on Twitter.
“Dreamland BBQ will have NINE locations inside Georgia’s football stadium this season. It’s like the BBQ version of the ‘Blackout,’” tweeted Travis Reier of BamaOnLine.com on Sunday, referring to Alabama’s 2008 beatdown of Georgia in Athens.
“Shameful,” was SI.com college football writer and barbecue enthusiast Andy Staples’ reaction when he was asked his thoughts on Twitter, “out of state BBQ in Sanford.”
This season’s food offerings were mentioned Sunday in Bill King’s Junkyard Blawg at Dawgnation.com. Dreamland is selling pork and chicken sandwiches at all nine spots in Sanford as well as barbecue pork nachos at a Gate 6 Plaza stand.
The Dreamland deal was initiated by Georgia’s media rights holder, IMG/JMI, which solicited proposals for businesses “who want to invest in our program on many levels,” including concessions, which is also reviewed by concession partner Aramark, according to John Bateman, Georgia’s assistant athletic director for marketing.
“When you deal with the volume of sales and pricing demands, staffing, standards such as health departments, maybe hours of functioning at a ballgame to handle our crowds, it does eliminate a certain population of vendors,” said Bateman, who said local barbecue vendors were contacted in the past, but few had the capabilities for it.
Georgia previously sold barbecue sandwiches from Sonny’s, which originated in Gainesville, Fla., at football games. Dreamland was one of two proposals Georgia decided on this year for barbecue, but the other also wasn’t from Georgia.
Staples suggested why not Athens own Pulaski Heights BBQ or others in the state.
Chuck Ramsey, owner of Pulaski Heights, heard about Dreamland coming to Sanford. He said Monday he was never contacted by the school.
“I would have loved for them to reach out for me to see if I was interested,” Ramsey said. “Honestly, I wouldn’t have the capability. Dreamland is a chain and they probably have a production facility that could do that for them.”
Dreamland now has 10 locations, according to its website, including seven in Alabama, one in Roswell, one in Duluth and another in Tallahassee. Bateman said it is “becoming very aggressive” in branding and marketing in Georgia.
Dreamland also has seven “concession locations,” including football stadiums at Mississippi State, Middle Tennessee and Auburn.
“We’re just a local little neighborhood restaurant,” Ramsey said. “We cook fresh every day.”
When asked if he would explore selling his food in Sanford if asked, he said “definitely.”
Georgia graduate and college football writer Mark Schlabach of ESPN.com wrote on Twitter “please tell me that Fox Bros. BBQ turned it down.”
“Unfortunately we were never asked! #FeedingTheHomeTeam,” the Atlanta establishment with two locations responded on Twitter.
Fox Brothers and Jim ‘N Nicks have been approached in the past, but those talks have “not gained any traction,” Bateman said.
Jonathan Fox, co-owner of Fox Brothers with twin Justin, said Monday via email that this year “no one reached out to us. There was never a discussion with anyone.” He said he can’t remember ever having an official discussion with Georgia or IMG regarding vending in Athens, but it’s possible another business partner may have.
“We do get a bunch of opportunities all the time, but this does not ring a bell,” he said.
He said they wouldn’t be able to now serve in Sanford if asked.
“We love opportunities of being able to serve our barbecue to more and more people, and exposing our brand to those unfamiliar with it, but with the new Mercedes-Benz Stadium opening this month, our hands are pretty full at the moment,” he said.
Fox said should an opportunity to serve barbecue at Sanford arise in the future, he would consider it.
Dreamland will also be served in Stegeman Coliseum and Foley Field. It was rated the No. 2 best barbecue joint this year by Southern Living behind Southern Soul Barbeque in St. Simons Island. Fox Brothers was No. 3. The only other from Alabama or Georgia to make the list of 10 was Big Bob Gibson Bar-B-Q in Decatur, Ala.
Schlabach still viewed Dreamland as “an upgrade in food selections. Now if they’ll get Taqueria del Sol.”
Meanwhile, a local franchise of Subway, a Georgia food sponsor, voiced its displeasure with athletic director Greg McGarity in a since-removed sign outside its Prince Avenue store. It said “New UGA Athletic Director Wanted Apply Here Go Dawgs.” On Monday morning, the sign read simply, “Go Dawgs.”
The anti-McGarity sentiment came from the store’s district manager, who is a “diehard fan,” and was put up Thursday, according to store manager Brandi Lavender. McGarity said on Monday he was unaware of it. The district manager did not return a message left for him Monday morning.