vending carts

Concession Trailer, Vending Cart, Lunch Truck Business Information Center



Food Vendor Articles

Trends In Stadium Food Service

Translate This Page


Fans aren’t looking for an ordinary experience when they go to see their favorite team play and that experience isn’t only about how the home team plays. Ho-hum food isn’t an option. "Experiencing" the food is just as important as experiencing the game.

So how do you turn one of America’s favorite stadium foods, the hot dog, into an experience? You don’t. For many, the hot dog is the experience, it’s just not the only food option. While the hot dog may still be the choice of many at sports stadiums across the country, selection is growing. From brick oven pizzas, to hand-carved roast beef, patrons are being offered and expecting more food options. For years, traditional stadium fare consisted of pre-wrapped hot dogs held in drawer warmers and doled out to paying fans with no questions asked. While the hot dog is undoubtedly still the king of ballpark foodservices, more and more operations are now serving their hot dogs fresh off the grill. At the venerable Yankee Stadium, freshly grilled hot dogs are the norm in the vast majority of the concession stands, while at SBC Park in San Francisco, hot dogs and specialty sausages are cooked in full view of patrons and are served open in a boat that facilitates the addition of a vast array of condiments.

And let ’s not forget Wrigley Field where thousands of famous Chicago Dogs are served fresh off the grill with all the classic condiments: emerald relish, fresh tomatoes, a pickle spear, hot peppers and celery salt. Fans in different cities like their hot dogs served in different ways. Several years ago, there was quite an uprising at Dodger Stadium when the foodservice operator switched from the classic grilled "Dodger dog " to a steamed version. It did not take too long before the outcry brought back the grilled classic.

The Challenges of Serving It Up Fresh & Fast

Many stadiums are beginning to anchor their main concession areas with QSR or fast casual concession alternatives. Bringing the food to the front, in an open-kitchen design, assures fans that their food is freshly prepared. This approach, while an improvement for concession operators, places increased demands on space and as a result, square footage requirements are always an issue. The idea is to get as many people through the lines in a limited amount of time and that normally translates into more points of sale, but the question is how to balance sales positions with display cooking and just in time product assembly. Concession sales generate more revenue in a ballpark than anything except ticket sales, but even so, these new approaches still place pressure on stadium designers and architects to have both a high number of points of sales while at the same time, bringing the food to the front and out of the confines of the concession "back room".

This rise of quick casual dining and high concept foodservice operations has trickled down to large public accommodation facilities like stadiums, both minor league and major league as well as convention enters. This accelerating trend is an extension of the improved large-scale foodservices that began with the new generation of stadiums and ballparks over the last decade. Of course there are many other food offerings besides hot dogs that have benefited from the new emphasis on quality and freshness. The Gordon Biersch stands at SBC Park serves tons of their famous garlic fries every year. Millions of fans have lined up for the piping hot French fries that are tossed with fresh garlic, olive oil, kosher salt and freshly chopped parsley to create the unchallenged king of the stadium French fry.

This emphasis on quality is making its presence known in minor league ballparks as well. In the new ballpark being planned for Lancaster, PA, all French fries served will be fresh-cut boardwalk style fries. The smaller size and lower sales volume of minor league facilities will allow this unprecedented initiative to blaze new territory for minor league ballparks. Also in Lancaster, the main concourse concessions have been reconfigured into two "concession courts". These large foodservice areas are recessed off the concourse with a circulation area in front of the foodservice counters instead of being placed parallel and flush to the concourse. In addition to fresh off the grill hot dogs and fresh French fries, these new concession courts will use the new-style hot food holding bins that are frequently seen in McDonald ’s and Burger Kings. Proteins like burgers, chicken breasts and sausages are cooked using traditional methods such as griddles and char broilers.

The cooked meat items are then held in the holding bins that are designed for fast access, long-term holding without any loss of moisture, heat, flavor and texture. Attendants then work out of these holding bins assembling small batches of sandwiches as demand warrants. An added feature is the incorporation of high-speed vertical contact toasters that heat and caramelize the surface of sandwich buns improving the taste, texture and temperature of the prepared sandwiches. This just-in-time food production system guarantees patrons commercial quality food that meets or exceeds the quality one expects from QSRs and fast casual operations.

In addition to the standard concession items, each of the two concession courts at Lancaster is anchored by two premium outlets. On the first base side, hand rolled pretzels and grilled premium sausages flank the main, central food counters while the third base side features hand carved roast beef and brick oven pizza. The open design, branded identities, and strong interior design elements of these anchors all add to the retail impact of the concession operations. These new concession courts mimic what is seen in fast casual operations across the country.

Concession is the #1 generator of sales

At the Washington Convention Center, Executive Orders takes the fast casual model to convention centers. A series of seven fast casual concepts, each self-contained and each with a specific and focused menu serves the thousands of Convention Center attendees each year. The concepts are: sandwich and salad, coffee and pastry, Mexican, pasta, brick oven pizza, seafood, Pan-Asian, all-American grill.

The way food is displayed in such concepts lends a positive air to the customer experience. Rather that pre-wrap food items and hold them in nondescript holding cabinets, items are prepared and served in open baskets. These baskets are held on heated granite slabs accented by hanging pendant-style heating lamps. This type of visual display enhances the customer ’s perception of quality and helps to stimulate sales. Hot food holding technologies are integral to the fast casual model in large public accommodation facilities. Prepared food is frequently held in the new generation of holding cabinets for items that are assembled to order. At FedEx Field, home of the Washington Redskins, the in-seat service menu for the Club Level (the largest in-seat services in the country), meats are cooked with traditional cooking equipment and Combi Ovens and are held in humidified holding cabinets. As food is ordered from in-seat service attendants, the order is beamed wirelessly using a high-speed data network to one of four service kitchens located in each corner of the stadium and the sandwich is assembled to order and given to a runner to deliver to the seat-holder. The result is a freshly prepared sandwich that is not cold, soggy or otherwise "tired " and is of the quality one would expect in a retail foodservice operation.

By John DePaola of Foodservice Resources and reprinted with permission from the Manufacturers' Agents Association for the Foodservice Industry (MAFSI) OutFront Magazine

If you have questions or comments write to: Comments & Questions

food cart concession trailer events

Manufacturers, Retailers, Dealers - Advertise on this page!

copyright 2006/15 - all rights reserved

Privacy Policy