Cristiano Ferreira Vieira: My wish is to get closer to all Benfica fans around the world
Today, the Benfica stadium is opened specially for the Business ML Magazine. And we have come here to interview Cristiano Ferreira Vieira.
Cristiano has been working in Benfica for 7 years. Firstly, he was an Innovation and Business Development Manager, and 3 years ago he also became an F&B Manager. Recently, Cristiano left Innovation and Business Development, and now he is F&B and Hospitality Manager at Benfica and Events Director. Let’s get to know him better!
Hi, Cristiano! Thank you for meeting with us today. Tell us a bit about yourself.
So, my name is Christiano Vieira. I am 31 years old. I work for Benfica for seven years. I studied Sports management. I was in Real Madrid for one year. I took my Master’s there. And after that, I came to Lisbon to Benfica. And since then I’m working here. I started working in innovation and business development and right now I’m the Director of events and food and beverage of the stadium.
What led you to these 3 business areas of the club: innovation and business development / F&B /events?
Yeah, it’s three areas that I really like. In an industry like ours, where we have several business areas, innovation is fundamental for the growth of the Club in all areas.
You always need to innovate inside of the field and outside of the field to make sure you can win inside and outside the field, in terms of business and football.
Last season we launched our Corporate application, which made it easier for all users to come to the stadium, with digital access to the parking lot, digital game tickets where they can share them with guests, allows users to order food and drinks, among other facilities that make the whole process of coming to the stadium easier and without issuing papers, also thinking about the environment.
We also have our Official Club APP, where besides all the news the member has all the Benfica universe in his hand. They can have their season ticket in the APP to enter the stadium, they can borrow their season ticket, they can put their season ticket for resale in case they don’t come to the game or have someone to lend it to, they can buy tickets, buy merchandising, pay their membership fees, and in the APP members also have their virtual wallet. There are thousands of stores in Portugal where Benfica members can shop and receive the discount in their virtual wallet and can spend that money on their Benfica purchases.
And in terms of food and beverage, the food and beverage is really important for us because we have more than 440 companies that are working here with us, that are our partners.
We have 154 cabins and 6 lounge spaces that on game day have food and beverage service included. These are very important spaces for companies where they can bring their clients, guests, employees… and it also allows them to create a good network. In terms of business for Benfica, this area represents an important income for the Club.
All these spaces are spaces of great importance to the club where we have to guarantee the best possible food and beverage service, to ensure the satisfaction of all our partners, because it is a very complex operation in 160 different spaces in the Estadio.
In terms of events, we increasingly want to be a reference point in the world for the organization of events. We have a stadium with capacity for 65,000 people and several rooms equipped with the best conditions for organizing corporate and private events, concerts, conferences, and all kinds of events that you can imagine.
How would you describe a normal daily routine as an F&B manager at Benfica?
About the daily routine here, you never have a normal routine. Every day is different because we have 26-28 games per year. But you have 365 days, so you need to see what kind of income you can have from the other days.
What we want is to have our stadium always with events, and the events mean that we always need to have also the food and beverage for the events that we receive here. So, every day we try to do something different, something to attract more and more fans and more public and more companies to our stadium, to make sure we can get more revenues and we can work with more people, more companies. And this is really important for us.
The games are always an unpredictable event, because every game is a mix of emotions, with thousands of people where the result interferes a lot in all the services. And besides the games we host hundreds of events where we welcome people from all continents and religions, and when it comes to food and drink we have to be able to provide a good service to all requests.
How do you see the F&B and the Hospitality Landscape in the football industry now?
In the past when stadiums were built, they were built just thinking about football matches.
Today it is very different. A football stadium is much more than football matches and when stadiums are designed, they are already designed with all the comfort and multifunctionality that can be given to the stadium in mind in order to give the stadiums the greatest possible profitability.
Something that is increasingly important in the Stadiums are the Hospitality spaces, very focused on the F&B service and I am sure that in the future all Stadiums, in addition to thinking about the comfort of fans watching the game, one of the most important in addition to security in the Stadiums, will be the hospitality spaces that will increasingly be on a larger scale in the Stadiums and with spaces designed to be able to provide the best possible service in terms of catering.
Guaranteed that all Stadiums in the future will be spaces to receive the most varied types of events and with the best conditions to receive companies, family and friends moments, parties… with all the conditions to create unique and unforgettable memories for everyone.
What makes working in a football club so special for you?
For me it’s very special. I’ve always been a big fan of Benfica since I was little and I’ve always loved football. I played football for over 15 years and nowadays being able to work at my favorite club is something that gives me great pleasure. When you work with love, it’s much easier to work every day, even if you have to work more than 12/14 hours a day, as sometimes happens on game days and when we organize big events.
What has been one of the biggest challenges for you recently?
The biggest challenge is to make everyone happy. Sometimes especially in the games, if the ball does not go inside, everything changes. So, we need to take care of everything that we do. Because soccer has something that other companies don’t have. It is the passion.
When you work in food and beverage, when you go to a restaurant, the people go there to eat. And here is different. They come here to stay with the clients, to eat, but also to see the match. And if the ball doesn’t go inside, the perspective is completely different. So, you need to always focus on that to make sure you have your clients satisfied, even if the result is not the best for you.
We always play to win whether it’s on the pitch or off the pitch and that’s the only way to guarantee everyone’s satisfaction.
What tips do you have for your fellow professionals?
The best tip that I can give is always to work with passion. Because here when you do something, you need to think not only about one person or two persons but you need to think about all the people who are at the Stadium and also all the millions of people who like Benfica. Working in football is working in a territory of emotions of millions of people.
It’s a job that makes you smile as easily as it makes you cry. So we have to know how to manage all emotions very well, always putting the Club’s main interests at the forefront.
A club like Benfica is a club of members so when we do something we always have to think about the more than 260,000 members we have.
But for everyone that works in this industry, the tip is focus on winning and focus on doing your best to ensure the satisfaction of members and fans.
What are your plans for the future, professionally and personally?
In professional terms, my desire is to grow more and more at Benfica and be important to the Club, where I want to help the Club grow more and more.
I’m still young and I have a lot of work ahead of me.
Our desire every year is to be Champions and give the Club more and more notoriety in the world of Football and in all areas of business.
My wish this year is to reach the end of the season and be able to organize another Champion’s Party event with all the fans.
My wish is also to get closer and closer to all Benfica fans around the world. We will have to think of new ways to impact all our fans, make them feel very close to Benfica, whether they are in America, Africa, Europe…
On a personal and family level, I hope to continue for many years at Benfica and one day to build a family and have some children so they can go to one of our football schools in the hope of one day seeing them play at the Stadium.