Take Me Out to The Ball Game
Signature food items are released every year on a national scale, and many of those big-ticket items or family-share creations are available in general concessions.
While traditional fare of hot dogs and peanuts remain the most popular at ballparks, the diversity in today’s menus that incorporate local brands and restaurants, partnerships with celebrity chiefs and multiple styles, such as sit-down restaurants and social areas, is a way to appeal to a diverse mix.
The connection to the region really helps, Plutino said. From partnerships with local chefs who already have a following or craft brewers known in the area, infusing flavors and experiences from the community into the ballpark —Lobel’s Steak Sandwich at Yankees Stadium and David Chang’s Fuku spicy chicken sandwiches at Citi Field, both in New York; garlic fries at Oracle Park in San Francisco; and the Chef Series at Wrigley Field in Chicago serve as examples in his mind — “we’ve found that today’s increasingly food-savvy fans want quality and convenience and have shown a willingness to engage in the local food story.”
Spencer said research shows that baseball fans will enter the building and roam throughout the venue to sample new items and find favorites, whereas in other leagues they see fans stay closer to their seats. This meandering lifestyle, Aramark said, leads to a different spending nature. Per caps run higher in the NFL, driven by suite catering, but sales volume and the number of transactions per game tend to be higher in baseball. Food and beverage sales also represent a higher percentage of team revenue in baseball, compared with football.
Freireich said the MLB FoodFest is a symbol of how popular food has become and how food served at ballparks offers an extension of the team brand. “At the start of every baseball, football and arena season we unveil new menus and, without question, our ballpark food offerings always attract the most attention and generate the most engagement,” he said.
MLB FoodFest runs April 26-28 at Magic Box at The Reef near downtown Los Angeles. Each $45 standard ticket gives visitors a chance to try eight different food items. A $75 ticket gets them up to 33 different food items. An additional $15 gives ticket-holders access to three beers.
Details have yet to be announced for the London and New York events, which will take place in the second half of the season.
Other leagues are taking notice too. Bob Chesterman, NHL senior vice president of events and entertainment, said the league has discussed adding a food event as a stand-alone or as part of an existing event.
NHL officials attended last year’s MLB FoodFest. “We were impressed with the overall concept and the ultimate execution,” Chesterman said.