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Chris Inouye Promoted to Vice President of Retail and Food & Beverage Operations

Vice President of Retail and Food & Beverage Operations Chris Inouye
Vice President of Retail and Food & Beverage Operations Chris Inouye

When Chris Inouye came back from working in Australia as the assistant general manager of a winter league team called the Melbourne Reds, he took a job in finance.

Selling T-shirts at concerts around the D.C. area just to pick up some extra money, he thought his dream of working in sports was dead.

Inouye, 53, bounced all over the place before getting to the Ravens. He was, and still is, a hustler.

Now 16 years into working with the Ravens (12 as a team employee), Inouye has been promoted to vice president of retail and food & beverage operations and is loving this second stage of his career – adding bigger and bolder projects with a focus on both of his passions.

"I was a concessions general manager for 10 years and thought that was always what I was going to do," Inouye said. "The dream was that maybe I would run concessions at M&T Bank Stadium."

Inouye does a lot more than that now. He's currently overseeing two massive projects at M&T Bank Stadium.

One is in the retail half of his title. The Ravens will build two new retail stores at M&T Bank Stadium over the next two to three years. They will be the team's first retail stores that are open year-round.

Inouye and his team, consisting of Sr. Manager of Retail & Purchasing Options Megan Grondzki, are working on the store designs. They will basically be handed over a big white box, and Inouye will play a major role in determining the look, feel, and aesthetic of the stores.

Here's a look at what M&T Bank Stadium will look like after the major improvements coming over the next two years.

The other major project is in food and beverage. The Ravens announced in March that they have partnered with Levy to become the team's new official food, beverage and hospitality partner at M&T Bank Stadium beginning this upcoming season.

Inouye is building kitchens, buying equipment, renovating concessions, deciding what food will be sold, determining pricing, mapping the location of concessions, and much more. He's also helping to determine the high-end service and menus in the team's new premium suites, including The Blackwing, which will be the finest in the NFL.

"We're spending almost half a billion dollars renovating the stadium and a lot of it is tied to food and beverage," Inouye said. "So just being able to be involved in the design of the spaces, the programming of the spaces, that is super interesting."

Inouye once considered going to the Culinary Institute of America in New York, the premier cooking school in the country. He ultimately decided not to go that route, and instead stayed home and went to the University of Houston.

When he graduated, he wanted to work in professional baseball, so he started with an internship with the Frederick Keys. Then to Australia, then to back to a food company started by the Frederick Keys' ownership group. He bounced to Eagle Bank Arena (George Mason's basketball arena), then the Aberdeen Arsenal (now IronBirds), Bowie Baysox, then back to the Frederick Keys. That was all doing food and beverage.

But it was his side hustle selling T-shirts at concerts that led to finally breaking into M&T Bank Stadium. WWE used to come to some of the venues he worked at and he got to know their merch crew. When the Ravens and their third-party vendor FMI were struggling to find a general manager of retail, they reached out to WWE to ask if they knew anybody.

"Two weeks later, I was here and had no idea what I was doing," Inouye said with a laugh.

Inouye has been selling merch in the NFL for nearly two decades. Now he's also getting back into his original passion – food.

"Always been a food snob. Always been a restaurant snob," he said. "When we're in these design meetings and we're talking about kitchen equipment, I get excited about a $20,000 prosciutto cutter from Italy. That's not normal, but that stuff is cool to me. It's in the blood."

During college, Inouye also worked at a Westin hotel, which gave him some experience in the hospitality world. That, combined with his love of food, has made these new challenges in his career particularly appetizing after spending so long in retail.

"Now that I'm in this world again, I learned that I missed it," Inouye said. "It's a lot of fun, it's super interesting, it's challenging, it's a ton of work. It's a nice new challenge in the second stage of my career."

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