David Keitel, GM at First Tennessee Park for the Nashville Sounds, Dishes on the 2018 Season
What’s your typical day like when the Sounds are in the offseason?
Whether it’s the offseason or not, there really is no “typical” day in my line of work. During the season, especially on game days, there are definitely set routines to get the stadium ready. But, there are rarely two of the same days in a row, which is what I enjoy most.
I started working at concessions stands when I was 15, so have been in the food industry for over 20 years. It’s all I’ve known!
What’s the timeline like from when the season ends to when the new one begins?
Throughout the year, our team is constantly thinking of new ways to improve things. So, that aspect of my job never stops, especially because we work with executives from the Sounds who are fiercely committed to their fan base and the city.
It takes us basically through October after the Sounds season ends to get the venue fully winterized though, then we begin budgeting and planning immediately for next season. Along with our Executive Chef Jerry Infantino and Max Goldberg from Strategic Hospitality, we work closely with the team to revise and refine the product that we offer to fans who come through the gates to spend time with us.
In November and December, I am personally traveling a good amount to study other venues around the country. I’ll go to games and just walk around the whole time, without even watching the on-field action. This helps me keep my finger on the pulse of the latest trends, so I can bring key findings back to Nashville. Then, from January onward, it’s full steam ahead for opening day.
Granted, this offseason is different, with the local USL soccer team starting games here in February. And I am thrilled that Nashville SC has been selected for the next round of MLS expansion. Nashville is the perfect choice for a professional soccer club.
In staying ahead of the curve, do you study the latest food trends?
We are always studying what’s new. One thing that comes to mind specifically right now is the popularity of grab-and-go concepts in venues. And, the industry data backs this up. It lets us offer more choices for fans, without sacrificing lengthy wait times in line. It’s something that we may try to phase into Sounds games over the next few years.
My Centerplate colleagues at the Music City Center also are helpful, insofar as we bounce ideas off each other on a regular basis.
What do you love most about local food? What are some of your new favorite spots to eat?
I was lucky to have moved here about five years ago when the gastronomic scene was really starting to explode. It sounds cliché, but I love that there truly is something for everyone now.
Most often, I find myself next door at Von Elrod’s, which recently opened just outside the ballpark. They have delicious sausages and beer, and it’s always a pleasant experience. I also enjoy venturing into East Nashville. Fort Louise has a good mix of items that always does the trick.
If you had to pick one spot in town, what would you pick…
For Date Night? The Band Box here at First Tennessee Park!
To catch a show? Paradise Park
Sunday morning breakfast? The Hermitage Café
As a local, what do you think makes Nashville so special? Why is it so popular as a city hub right now? I travel a lot, so I see a lot of different cities – the difference that Southern hospitality makes, especially here in Nashville – cannot be overstated enough. Local residents are genuinely proud of their city, and it shows in how we treat our guests.
Anything you'd recommend to people who are in town just for a weekend—favorite spots or must-sees?
· Bastion for dinner.
· Batter’s Box for a dive bar.
· The Johnny Cash Museum is really cool too, and worth the trip.
Can we expect any new dishes available at Sounds games this year? Anything you can tease for us?
Fans can likely expect more prime rib options, more tacos, more seafood, expanded BBQ offerings and more. We’re also delving into new pulled chicken and brisket, and adding more sides and platters. As always, we will smoke all of our BBQ in-house and make our own special rubs. After all, we have to put our 750-pound smoker to good use! It runs almost 24/7 during baseball season, and fans can always come check it out for themselves.
We are also in the process of adding new catering areas to be built out before the first baseball game – one behind the scoreboard and one in left field. The suite and catering menus are getting tweaked too, but I can’t share those just yet. And, we are in the middle of the research and development phase for The Band Box in tandem with Strategic Hospitality. Stay tuned for news on that before April.
We look forward to another great year of Sounds baseball and our first year of Nashville SC soccer!
David Keitel, Centerplate GM at First Tennessee Park for the Nashville Sounds!