5 stealable ideas from the ballpark

ballpark stadium food trends

From Bush’s Best®.

Whether it’s at a college or university, a minor league game or a major league game, sports stadiums offer an array of delicious foods that sports fans love. A look at what’s happening in stadiums’ food offerings spotlights a few trends that foodservice directors should keep an eye on and adapt for their own menus.

1. More pork options

According to Technomic’s MenuMonitor, powered by Ignite, instances of pork on stadium menus have increased 33% year-over-year. Going ultra-indulgent with pork is trending, too—Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City, Mo., serves up funnel cakes topped with pulled pork, fried onion, shredded cheese, bacon and a jalapeno popper skewer.

To adapt this to foodservice facilities, consider offering new iterations of pork sandwiches or experimenting with new toppings and condiments.

2. Globally inspired meals

While many people enjoy classic fare such as burgers and hot dogs, other consumers want something a little more unusual when they dine out during a game. For those diners, ethnic foods are the perfect fit. At Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles, attendees can nosh on a poke bowl served in a baseball-shaped dish, and at Chicago’s Soldier Field, diners can enjoy a housemade gyro topped with seasoned tomato salad and tzatziki sauce.

In a noncommercial setting, it’s important to have an ear to the ground when it comes to global food trends so customers are satisfied with the variety. Serve items such as Korean bibimbap and other globally inspired bowl meals.

3. Better-for-you options

For health-conscious consumers, stadium food might seem to be an obstacle course, but thankfully, many stadiums are heeding the call for lighter fare without sacrificing taste. At Minute Maid Park, where the Houston Astros play, fans can eat full-flavored grilled beef and veggie kebabs and chicken fajitas with vegetables. Northeast Delta Dental Stadium in New Hampshire, where the New Hampshire Fisher Cats play, also offers lighter options.

“We have an entire concession stand dedicated to healthy options,” says Jim Flavin, general manager of the New Hampshire Fisher Cats, including several different kinds of wraps as well as salads and smoothies.

Off the field, operators can menu cookout-inspired foods such as grilled barbecue chicken or turkey burgers with low-carb buns.

4. Special diet accommodations

With more consumers adhering to special diets like vegetarian, vegan or gluten-free, sports stadiums are making moves to ensure those consumers have a great selection of foods to dig into. “Hot dogs, burgers and chicken tenders are still king, but we have definitely noticed more and more guests with allergy concerns,” Flavin says. “We do our best to make allergy-friendly options available. We have gluten-free wraps as well as gluten-free buns for our hot dogs and hamburgers in every concession stand.”

Many stadiums also offer a vegan hot dog option and veggie burgers, and beyond those staples, Tex-Mex options are popular, often in the form of bean-based burritos and tacos. These items can be made gluten-free as well, simply by transforming the meal into a bowl-meal rather than serving it in a tortilla. Adapting this trend to your facility couldn’t be simpler—operators can just add vegetarian and vegan versions of popular dishes to the menu.

5. Unique dessert choices

Instances of desserts in the recreation segment have gone up about 13% over the past year, according to MenuMonitor, and those desserts are working hard to satisfy diners with a sweet tooth. Unique treats, like Citi Field’s edible cookie dough cones, are great for appealing to consumers who want something super sweet. Consider adding new and unexpected flavors to familiar desserts, or experiment with different formats, like slices of pie or cake reimagined as jarred treats—great for a grab-and-go indulgence.

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