Longtime food, beverage and retail concessioner understands there’s no place like home
BUFFALO, N.Y. (March 30, 2011) – Delaware North Companies Sportservice will mark the beginning of its 81st season in Major League Baseball tomorrow by giving a home-field advantage to partakers in America’s greatest pastime.
Sportservice, the most senior of all sports concessioners, has been leading the evolution of stadium food from the beginning, when the likes of cheese sandwiches on white bread was a specialty offering. With the advent of premium seats, the stadium food experience exploded with a wide array of upscale cuisine, wine pairings, action stations and farm-to-table ingredients. But according to Rick Abramson, president of Sportservice, that level of quality and distinction has not been nearly as available to the average ticketholder. That is, until several years ago when he charged his team of chefs and other managers to raise the bar for concessions food by infusing ballparks with regional specialties.
It all starts with research. Abramson doesn’t excuse himself from the process. He and his team make it a point to get out into each community and visit local restaurants and suppliers by the dozen.
“Without realizing it, baseball fans are telling you what they want at the ballpark. You just have to watch, listen and taste,” Abramson said.
To wit: The Sportservice team readied for its 2011 debut at Oriole Park at Camden Yards with several road trips to well-known Baltimore eateries. On the must-taste list were Berger Cookies, Polock Johnny’s sausages and – needless to say – the ubiquitous crab cake.
“We look for the best of the best. Sometimes we partner with local restaurateurs to bring an item over lock, stock and barrel, or we take a favorite and give it a Sportservice twist. We also are adept at creating brand-new items that have a way of becoming signature items for ballparks. Regardless of the approach, our chefs are adamant about sourcing locally and making sure it’s fresh. When freshness, quality and familiarity find a common ground, everyone’s happy,” Abramson said.
With that in mind, O’s fans now have the Camden Yards Crab Cake, the result of market research in which Sportservice staff took to the streets to sample, analyze and discuss the nuances of more than 50 different varieties of the Baltimore staple.
The Sportservice twist, as Abramson put it, can be found in the Rolling Crab, a spiced-up crabmeat option that consists of a spring roll filled with crabmeat, peppers, pepper jack cheese and various secret spices. It’s flash-fried and then served from a traditional roller grill.
Meanwhile, in ballparks throughout the nation
Abramson’s approach to food is working for the 90-plus-year-old Sportservice. For starters, the company finished 2010 with historically high revenue and is now at home in 10 Major League Baseball venues: Busch Stadium (St. Louis Cardinals), Rangers Ballpark in Arlington (Texas Rangers), Comerica Park (Detroit Tigers), Great American Ball Park (Cincinnati Reds), Miller Park (Milwaukee Brewers), Oriole Park at Camden Yards (Baltimore Orioles), PETCO Park (San Diego Padres), Progressive Field (Cleveland Indians),Target Field (Minnesota Twins) and U.S. Cellular Field (Chicago White Sox).
Fans at all those ballparks have bragging rights when it comes to food. For example, Progressive Field will be introducing a half-pound grilled all-beef hot dog with peppers and onions, as well as a chicken sandwich on a waffle. And because it’s Cleveland, the condiment station will be stocked with Bertman Ball Park Mustard, a sacred cow to natives.
Cardinals spectators will again feast on smoked beef brisket. According to Jeramie Mitchell, Sportservice’s director of food and beverage at Busch Stadium, in-house chefs make more than 800 pounds of brisket per game to satisfy the demand.
Returning to Rangers Ballpark in Arlington is the Bacon-Wrapped Hot Dog that made its first appearance in the Texas ballpark last season. It has already become a fan favorite, according to Shawn Mattox, general manager of Sportservice’s operation there.
Padres fans love their take on baseball’s obvious food choice: the hot dog. The lavish Sonoran dog hails from the nearby Mexican region of Sonora. It starts with a three-to-one beef hot dog and never skimps along the way. Sportservice’s executive chef at PETCO Park, Ambarish Lulay, lays it in a customized potato bun, slightly hollowed so pinto beans and diced onions and tomatoes can be stuffed around the hot dog. It’s then topped with mustard, ketchup and mayonnaise, plus jalapeno sauce to give it the bite you would expect in San Diego. It’s also wrapped in bacon.
At Target Field, which will mark the beginning of its second season April 8, Delaware North Companies Sportservice will be beefing up last year’s lineup of the Murray’s steak sandwich, pork chop on a stick, Killebrew Root Beer float and dozens of other Minnesota goodies by adding a turkey sandwich from Minnesota State Fair and Nicollett Mall food truck purveyor Turkey to Go, the Walk A Taco™ from St. Paul’s El Burrito Mercado and the Minneapple Pie from the Cottage Grill just outside the Twin Cities. Minnesota turkey farmers and apple growers, as well as other local and regional purveyors, can rest assured their wares will play a role in the fan experience in Minneapolis.
“It’s all about Minnesota,” said Pete Spike, general manager for Sportservice at Target Field. “We’re committed to offering fans some of the state’s most dynamic and delicious options to enjoy at the ballpark.”
There will also be two additional Kramarczuk’s bratwurst dishes created specially for Target Field by Food Network, a Sportservice partner.
Delaware North and Food Network, one of the most popular lifestyle networks on television, began their partnership in March 2010. Last year, Food Network’s team of chefs created signature dishes for suite menus in the Major League ballparks at which Sportservice operates. This winter they turned their attention to creating concessions fare that all fans could enjoy.
Food Network and Delaware North Companies Sportservice are introducing a Food Network signature steak sandwich – plus additional steak sandwiches celebrating local flavors – in concessions at select Major League ballparks this season.