The food at many concert venues won’t even get called back for an encore, let alone a standing ovation, and most events leave a mountain of trash in their wake. That’s not the case at Vina Robles Amphitheatre, where quality food concessions are harmonious with a zero-waste program.
“Food is very important to me,” admitted Terri McKeown, the amphitheatre’s director of food and beverage and part of the team that developed the venue from start to finish.
The Vina Robles project is the latest gig in a 30-year career for McKeown, who started selling concessions as a teenager for Bill Graham Presents, the venerable Bay Area concert promotion company. From there, she worked her way up to director of catering services for the business, which ultimately became Live Nation, one of the world’s largest concert promotion companies.
“Food and beverage, rock and roll, and now wine — I couldn’t ask to be in a better industry,” she said. “Here at Vina Robles, I wanted to offer the standard concession-type items, but my goal is to elevate that experience and upgrade the quality,” she explained. “I didn’t want to have 20 items I knew I could sell — I wanted to have 10 awesome items.”
As a result, concert goers can order such fare as a Meyer all-beef hot dog or a Meyer corn dog with housemade batter, a Mary’s free-range chicken sandwich or a Southwestern chipotle black bean sandwich, even a Caesar salad or a Greek salad. Thanks to the venue’s wood-fired pizza ovens, you can enjoy any one of six pizzas — all cooked to order with housemade dough and sauce. Options include prosciutto and arugula, spicy Italian sausage and mushroom, and classic fresh tomato, basil and mozzarella.
“It’s also very important for us to use as many local products as possible, to support our community,” added McKeown. Among the additional menu items featuring those purveyors are the Ray’s Own Brand Italian sausage sandwich, Stein’s Famous Pulled Pork sliders, G Brothers’ Kettle Corn, Joebella coffee and sweet treats made by Delightful Desserts. Obviously, Vina Robles’ white and red wines are available, including a white sangria made with their sauvignon blanc, as are several Firestone beers.
Another of McKeown’s key goals for concert nights was to make Vina Robles Amphitheatre a zero-waste facility. Because “the phrase ‘green’ has kind of lost its meaning,” the overall goal for the venue is referred to as “environmental efficiency.”
“I had done this before at Shoreline Amphitheatre in Mountain View,” said McKeown. “When I came down here, one of my first calls was to Paso Robles Waste & Recycle.
“I spoke to general manager Ian Hoover and asked about a composting program for the amphitheatre. He said they were in the development phase of starting a composting program and would be very interested in working with us to do a ‘beta’ program.”
Armed with the motto “If you eat it, you compost it; If you drink it, you recycle it,” McKeown’s “first challenge was to find packaging and containers that were compostable.” She ended up asking every vendor how they packaged their product, and one local company — G Brothers Kettle Corn — even took it upon themselves to go out and find a compostable bag for their product.
“My second challenge was to teach our guests what gets thrown in what containers,” said McKeown. “We offer two different kinds of cans to dispose of items: 1) compost 2) recycle. There are no ‘trash’ cans, and in the end of our first season, Vina Robles Amphitheatre was a zero-waste facility.”
Vina Robles Amphitheatre
3800 Mill Road, Paso Robles | 286-3680 | vinaroblesamphitheatre.com
Hours: Food and beverage service is available during concert events.
The scene: The comfortable venue offers several tables behind the lawn seating where you can opt to enjoy your food and beverage while still having a great view of the stage.
The cuisine: Sandwiches, salads and pizzas that are a notch above the usual concession fare; Vina Robles wines are available, as are Firestone beers. No outside food and drink is allowed.
Expect to spend: Food items about $3-12, beer and wine $7-12/glass.