Baseball may be America’s oldest pastime, but today’s consumers are expecting exciting new food offerings when they attend a game. Executive chefs, roaming mixologists and pastry artisans now work at sports stadiums. They’re constructing state-of-the-art equipment to power kitchens and utilizing new technologies to cook creative, locally inspired cuisines on a scale that used to be reserved for year-round operations. This new ballpark experience is convenient, social and exciting—a far cry from peanuts and Cracker Jack.
The rise of upscale stadium food provides operators with a tremendous opportunity to increase profits. Here are a couple of ways operators are winning big at the game:
- The players are no longer the only stars at the game. In NFL stadiums, Aramark has partnered with multiple celebrity chefs—including several James Beard Award winners—to introduce their stadiums’ new offerings.
- Regional cuisines are a source of pride at stadiums. Baltimore’s Oriole Park at Camden Yards features crab dip-covered fries, while Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles offers poke bowls in a dish made to look like a baseball. Many southwestern ballparks offer Tex-Mex favorites, like these Turkey Chorizo Street Tacos. Toppings with local ingredients are an easy way to add a regional twist to your operation.
- Better-for-you food options have become an expectation among consumers, and operators have adapted by offering lighter fare with the same great taste. Dishes that feature turkey items, such as this Herbed Turkey Burger, are the perfect solution. It’s a familiar offering that’s full of flavor yet lower in calories and fat and often higher in protein than both pork and beef.
- With so many customers now following specialty diets, stadium operators are scrambling to ensure they have options for everyone to enjoy—so much so that some stadiums offer gluten-free wraps or buns in all their concession stands. These Grilled Sesame Turkey Kebabs are both gluten free and easy for consumers to eat with their hands.
- Indulgent, over-the-top items that push the boundaries beyond hot dogs and French fries are also rising on ballpark menus. For example, Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City has funnel cakes covered in pulled pork, fried onion, shredded cheese, bacon and a jalapeño popper skewer, and Globe Life Park’s famous The Boomstick is a 2-foot-long chili dog covered in cheese. This BLT Mega Turkey Burger is another satiating possibility.
- Breakfast and brunch at the game are other popular indulgences, as Aramark’s Sports & Entertainment division has even established an #AllDayBrunchin menu for the NFL season. This Country Fried Turkey Waffler can certainly fill up hungry fans looking to satisfy their breakfast-food cravings.
Remember that fans attend games to do much more than cheer on their favorite team; they’re looking for memorable experiences. At breaks in play, they get up to explore the sights, sounds and tastes of a city. Every stadium is different, and that’s what makes it so important that you understand what kind of story your stadium is telling.
Smith, Daniel P. How Sports Stadiums are Upping Their Foodservice Game, QSR, May 2018.
Castiglia, Barbara, and Freibott, Kevin. MRM News: The Evolution (and Elevation) of Stadium Food, Modern Restaurant Management, August 2017.
5 stealable ideas from the ballpark, FoodService Director, August 2017.