The menu at Camp Randall Stadium concession stands could be limited when the University of Wisconsin football season opens Saturday.
Some points of sale might not even be open as UW officials struggle with staffing levels for the first game with fans at the stadium since 2019.
UW hasn't been able to return to pre-pandemic employment, especially in food service areas, director of football brand communications Brian Lucas said Monday.
"We have to be creative and try to minimize the effect that that has on our fans' game-day experience," he said. "That is a real issue that we're tackling."
UW officials hope the cutbacks are temporary, Lucas said, and they're working with their concessions provider, Levy, to recruit more workers. The shortage is part of a wider issue in service industries, he said.
Service groups and non-profit organizations also are being sought to fill out the concessions staff. They earn a commission for their organization by working on game days.
The Badgers are putting a focus on getting fans into Camp Randall in a timely manner for Saturday's first game of the season, Lucas said. Tickets are either scanned in from a mobile device or from paper printed at home starting this season, which could lead to delays as spectators get used to the change.
Gates are scheduled to open at 9:30 a.m. for Saturday's game against Penn State, which starts just after 11. In past seasons, Lucas said, fans arriving between 9:30 and 10:15 encountered no line at entry gates. The wait was five to 10 minutes if they showed up between 10:15 and 10:35, and 15-25 minutes after that.
"We're going to put a lot of attention on gates and entry, especially with digital ticketing and trying to have people out there to educate people and make that process as efficient as possible," Lucas said. "We may have to get creative with personnel we put out there as well ... to make sure that runs smoothly."
Senior associate athletic director Jason King compared the new ticketing process to the 2016 addition of metal detectors at Kohl Center gates. The first three or four games after that change challenged both fans and staff, he said.
"But frankly, now people know exactly what they need to do on game day at the Kohl Center and we get people in very efficiently," King said. "We're going to get our fans in efficiently (at Camp Randall) but there's going to be a learning curve."
UW is stepping up messaging on the subject — it has rented digital road signs to spread the word — in hopes that fans will know to have their phones or paper tickets out before they get to the scanners.
The Badgers also have been more visible than in previous years in recruiting game-day workers for Levy and Contemporary Services Corporation, which handles security, ushers and those who work at ticket gates.
An online hiring site on Monday showed job openings for a number of positions connected to Badgers football games through Levy, including cooks and suite attendants.
"We're taking applications and trying to get people, literally every single day, to work for us," King said. "We've been doing that for months. Our concessionaire has been doing that for months. They've taken, frankly, avenues to try to get new staff, more staff. They've done more there than they've ever done before but it's a huge challenge."
The shortage is more acute for food service roles than for security jobs, King said.
Concessions already were set to undergo a transition to cashless operations at Badgers games this season but having fewer workers adds another challenge.
If UW and Levy can't raise staffing levels before Saturday's game, they likely will have to shut down some of the 26 permanent or 15 portable concession stands around the stadium, Lucas said. The food offerings at the locations that remain open also might need to be limited to core items like brats, hot dogs, popcorn and nachos, he said.
"By focusing on those types of items we can maximize efficiency and maximize quality of the items," Lucas said. "All the concession stands going cashless, that hopefully enhances efficiency, speeds up the lines, we're able to move more people through that way."
Badgers roster breakdown: Everything you need to know about every position on Wisconsin's football team
As the University of Wisconsin football team prepares to kick off the 2021 season, the Wisconsin State Journal is offering an unprecedented inside look at this year's roster.
From players breaking down their teammates' performances in camp and what to expect this season, to beat reporter Colten Bartholomew sharing his expertise on key position battles and players to watch, we've got Badgers fans covered.
Check out the complete 11-part series below:
In the first part of our position-by-position breakdown series, tight end Jake Ferguson discusses this year's quarterback corps as we take an in-depth look at Graham Mertz and Co.
In the second part of our position-by-position preview series, UW linebacker Noah Burks discusses this year's backfield as we take an in-depth look at the running backs and fullbacks.
In the third part of our position-by-position breakdown series, UW linebacker Jack Sanborn discusses the tight ends on this year's roster as we take an in-depth look at the talented group.
In the fourth part of our position-by-position breakdown series, UW quarterback Graham Mertz analyzes his targets this season as we take an in-depth look at the receiving corps.
In the fifth part of our position-by-position breakdown series, UW nose tackle Keeanu Benton breaks down the offensive line as we take an in-depth look at the group tasked with protecting Graham Mertz.
In the sixth part of our position-by-position breakdown series, UW offensive lineman Tyler Beach discusses the Badgers' defensive line as we take an in-depth look at how the group is coming together for this season.
In the seventh part of our position-by-position breakdown series, UW fullback John Chenal breaks down the Badgers' inside linebackers as we take an in-depth look at the veteran-led group.
In the eighth part of our position-by-position breakdown series, UW offensive lineman Tyler Beach discusses the Badgers' outside linebackers as we take an in-depth look at the group.
In the ninth part of our position-by-position breakdown series, UW wide receiver Kendric Pryor breaks down the Badgers cornerbacks as we take an in-depth look at the group.
In the 10th part of our position-by-position breakdown series, UW cornerback Caesar Williams discusses his teammates in the secondary as we take an in-depth look at the Badgers' safeties.
In the final installment of our 11-part position-by-position breakdown series, UW long snapper Peter Bowden discusses the Badgers' specialists as we take an in-depth look at this year's special teams.