‘Buy Me Some Peanuts and Cracker Jack’

Tim Newcomb

Apr 18, 2019

Expansion of MLB FoodFest a testament to baseball’s ties to food

After the success of Major League Baseball’s inaugural FoodFest event in New York City in 2018, the league has not only brought back the event but also expanded it to Los Angeles and London for 2019. The event, which makes its first appearance in LA later this month, brings unique concession items from all 30 MLB stadiums under one roof and testifies to the prominence of concessions at the heart of the baseball stadium experience.

“Baseball games appear to be about the experience throughout the ballpark as much as it is about seeing the two teams play,” said Andrew Spencer, vice president of customer engagement and revenue at Delaware North.

Compared with in-game transactions at NFL, NHL and Major League Soccer venues, where purchases primarily happen during breaks in the action, MLB transactions take place evenly throughout the game.

“We have tracked transaction dollars and unit sales by time and see that baseball per caps rise about an hour before the first pitch and tend to be very stable throughout the game versus other leagues, when the game play will interrupt sales in a very dramatic fashion,” Spencer said. “Our findings indicate that the importance of food and food choice is more important to baseball fans than other sports fan.”

While Aramark spokesperson David Freireich said that food isn’t necessarily more valuable to the baseball experience, it is more integrated. “Perhaps more than any other sport, the food experience in baseball has become an essential part of shaping the overall gameday experience as well as a defining ballpark characteristic,” he said.

Various factors help contribute to this: the warmer months encouraging movement around the stadium, the length of the game and style of play with 18 half-inning changeovers, and the length of an 81-game home season attracting fans to the stadium multiple times. Especially for season-ticket holders, having a “wide variety of great food becomes very important,” Spencer said. Baseball also tends to attract more families.

“All of these factors create an environment that encourages socializing and is conducive to moving around,” Freireich said. “It’s important to remember that fans are foodies too, so we design our menus to appeal to a wide variety of tastes and flavors. Menus need to be fresh, innovative, on-trend and taste good.”

Mike Plutino, founder and CEO of the Food Service Matters consultancy, said the culture of baseball and food are more closely aligned than in other sports. He credits the history — the “buy me some peanuts and Cracker Jack” line from “Take Me Out to the Ball Game” comes as part of the tradition — of connecting fans to food and also teams creating a preseason “food story” every season. “It sets the stage for a season’s worth of taste-testing and it is a win-win for the fans, the teams and the team’s food and beverage sponsors,” he said.