07 March 2008

Where's The Beef ?

McDonalds, the most popular and reasonably priced concessionaire in Bank Two Ballpark history, has been replaced by Gordon Biersch and Fatburger - pretentious niche vendors offering more expensive fare.

Team President Derrick Hall:

"It should be great and will give us some new options."

New options. Yes. Like paying more for a hamburger or imagining what a value priced McFlurry used to taste like on a hot summer evening, instead of actually enjoying one.

We get that Gordon Biersch sells microbrews, supplying casual imbibers and MLB's demanding core of alcoholics with desperately needed product differentiation. But why jettison McDonalds, instead of one of the ubiquitous beer stands already impeding concourse foot traffic? Do we really need more total beer to quench this half empty stadium's thirst - at the expense of, like, ya know, food?

I've been to Fatburger. Menu items are called fat something. Fat fries. Fat meal. Fat burger. Get it? Whether the caloric chow is more or less engaging than this one dimensional marketing gimmick, everyone agrees Fatburger is considerably more expensive than McDonalds.

To summarize, the Diamondbacks have increased the supply of beer and overpriced hamburgers at the ballpark, while abandoning what a decade's worth of loyal fans consider the ballpark's best value food option. This, as surveys record unprecedented dissatisfaction with rising concession prices, and with Arizona licking it's wounds after a nationally televised bottle throwing incident.

(Photo courtesy of terragalleria.com)


Glynnjamin said...

I think it has become obvious to the Dbacks brass that there are two types of fans. Those that are going to come once in a while and spend a lot and those that come to every game and spend little. As someone who goes to every game, I may buy food or drink once a week, if that. We are not beer drinkers, but at the same time, we are not McDonald's eater either. I loathed having McDonald's in the park. To me, they might as well let WalMart run the team shop. Value or not, that McDonald's food is made with non-american beef and the money they make goes into making our society fatter with marketing schemes devised to lure in young children and get them hooked. They are worse than Phillip-Morris.

All that being said, you want McDonald's? Bring it in. It is cheaper out side the park anyways. There is one on 7th Ave & Van Buren. We tend to stop off at one of the many downtown eateries and bring our food in with us. It is cheaper and better.

When it comes to food, Chase is lacking in many ways. The corporate dining options only mimic the corporate strip malls that dot Phoenix. Walgreens, Starbucks, Applebees are all coming soon, I'm sure. What gives Seattle, San Francisco, and Baltimore so much more character and class in their stadiums is the food selection. I want my Ivar's chowder bowl, an Ichi-roll, some stirfry from the "Intentional Wok", stop by the farmers market and grab some fruit, and maybe get some crab cakes.

See, Phoenix has a culinary identity crisis that it has trouble with. We are southwestern which typically means we should be known for our Mexican food. Unfortunately, Garcia's doesn't really make good Mexican food. They could drop a Romero's/Beto's in Chase and the quality of the Mexican food would go up. But then what? We have a Fridays, a Panda, a McDonalds, a Gordons, a Fatburger...what else? Shouldn't the concourse of Chase look different than the Deer Valley 30 parking lot?

I know these corporate sponsors bring in a lot of money and that Chase does have its share of local/smaller restaurants. They, for the most part, provide the quality in the stadium (Hungry Hill in particular). All I'm getting at is this; why is it that when March is over, I can no longer get good food at a baseball game in Arizona? Where do my soba noodles, taco-in-a-bag, fried oreos, etc go? Local entrepreneurs are driven away because of these corporations. It's a shame.

Finally, with regard to "value meals", I do believe that the Dbacks are going to be doing Family Value food this season. Some menu item is underpriced each week. But really, kids eat free every wednesday, corn dogs are $1, and a small beer is $4. That sounds like a good value to me. Selection, on the other hand, is a different story.

LL Beanball said...

I saw "Supersize Me" and actually share some of your concerns about the corporatization of the American diet, but I'd have more sympathy for your screed against McDonalds @ Chase if they were the only ballpark option or genuinely crowding out "local entrepeneurs". Judging by Mac's concourse neighbors & replacements, neither seems to be the case.

Whether it suits your personal politics or not, for years Mac's provided a budget option many fans valued - the Diamondbacks removed that choice. Offering other low cost items for kids helps mitigate that loss, provided the food is comparable and the deals clearly advertised - neither of which I'm convinced is the case.

I do agree that whatever culinary identity crisis Phoenix has is magnified inside the hangar. Your point about Garcia's "representing" our Mexican food is an excellent example of a lost opportunity to captitalize on a local signature dish. Every ballpark (you mention several) benefits from that unique sense of place and aside from Karla's Krazy Corn, Hungry Hill, there's no hallmark item that really separates Chase fare from the pack, signaling a unique destination. Personally, I think that's too bad.

To that end, I wonder if Chase might benefit from a signature food that's a little edgy (ie spicy, not for everyone) that creates a bit of a buzz? I'm not familiar with Roberto's/Betos, but you seem to know alot about food and I'd be curious if you had any other suggestions? I'm meeting with a club executive next week, and if we discuss food, I'll make every effort to pass along your suggestion(s).


Glynnjamin said...

You know, "Betos" ... there's one on every corner. Robertos, Losbetos, Umbertos, Filibertos, Eribertos, etc. Maybe they don't have them in your part of town.

They aren't the best mexican but they are authentic. I would actually suggest Chino Bandito. There's one on 19th ave and Greenway and another on Chandler. They offer a very diverse selection of food that is unique to their operation, they are local, and they are different because they offer a mexican-asian fusion menu for very cheap.

This is not a plug for them, but I agree that the ballpark needs a better selection of food, whether that selection be from a diverse price, culture, or quality standpoint. We need more healthy options at the park and we need more local options at the park. Of course, the problem exists because the Dbacks ask so much for a retail space. No local place can afford to move into those spaces when faced with competition from corporate giants like Peter Piper Pizza and Panda Express.

I wonder if the solution isn't to offer vendor space outside the park before the game for a nominal fee. Take the idea of the downtown farmers market or (before the crackdown) First Fridays. Charge a vendor $100 for a space on the Gila River Plaza for the whole season. You create an environment that allows for the Spring Training vendors to have access to outdoor cooking and the fans and you also create the new modern tailgate party. An environment where a band plays on the Sliders stage and people mill about eating local fresh food before going into the park. It seems like that is the kind of thing, if you really wanted to differentiate Chase from every hangar at Sky Harbor, that one would set up on Saturdays before the game.

LL Beanball said...

I fear the home office will nix each of these proposals, but they're still interesting ideas. Thanks.

'Betos! OK. Now, I get it!

I like the Chino-Bandito suggestion, but in light of MacDonalds' cancellation, I wonder if ANY low cost vendor is just too much of a threat to the other vendors nowadays to get a space rental. Dont you get a feeling walking around the concourse that there's price collusion and a common interest in keeping the fare "safe", not too interesting and suspiciously pricey? That any truly independent vendor could slash prices and have half the stadium eating out of their hand?

Years ago, I think Bill James proposed the idea that ballpark vendors openly compete on price and be selected by the public ( I forget exactly how ) rather than by the club - since most venues are financed via taxes.

IOW, your ideas sound competitive, but MLB isnt about competition. It's about profit. Even on the concourse :-)

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