Go to a Major League Baseball game and the unseen effects of analytics are everywhere – from the pitches thrown to the positioning of the defenders or the batting rotation plan.
And even the hot dog you might enjoy at the ballpark.
Two years of closed, fanless, or even partially open baseball diamonds had the potential to wreak predictive havoc on guests’ baseball experience. Add to that supply chain issues, runaway inflation and a perilous lockdown just before the start of the 2022 season, and the price and availability of your favorite snacks could have been significantly affected.
But feeding 10,000 to 50,000 fans over 81 home games and six months is a lot like running a football game: Know the problems and get ahead of them before you’re late.
The three mega-corporations that control the lion’s share of stadium food have seen their usual balance – satisfying ball clubs, finding acceptable prices for fans and making profits – greatly jeopardized since the start of the pandemic. . The two largest services — Delaware North and Aramark — said doubling down on preparation and predictive behavior has proven crucial in keeping the price of a hot dog hovering between about $3 and $7 per stadium this year.
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“Our job is to bring analytics to our customers as much as possible and make sure we have a value proposition for our customers,” says Kevin Miller, vice president of restoration for Delaware North, which provides dealership services. and catering at 11 MLB baseball diamonds. “Nothing is cheap anymore. Look at the gas. But what we want to do is once they’re there, all of a sudden, it’s having something to enjoy so you don’t have to spend a ton of money.
“We don’t want to hurt the greedy fans too much in their pockets. And everyone leaves full and happy.
So, with the pace of inflation picking up last fall, Miller and his team hedged their bets.
As raw material prices began to climb and media and industry reports pointed to higher costs along the way, preventative action was in order. Forget the CDC – Miller’s CHC (Culinary and Hospitality Consulting) proved vital in the near future.
In September, Miller’s team identified 11 staple menu items Delaware North needed to source the most — hot dogs and fries topped the list — and worked to secure contracts and s sourcing from multiple vendors. By October, the company had a better idea of the landscape ahead.
Even with, according to Miller, 65% of sponsor-supplied hot dogs present in ballparks, that still left a huge void to fill, especially given the range of hot dogs available, from the most basic to the most ornate, Instagram-crazed dudes. Meat.
“We had to be able to pivot, depending on the supply chains,” says Miller. “We have developed a secondary supplier as well as a tertiary supplier. We had the flexibility to switch to another product based on contracts that supply had drawn up for us. We were able to mitigate many issues.
It’s a similar story to Aramark, which holds contracts for nine major league parks and, combined with Delaware North, controls the franchises for two-thirds of all major league parks.
“The unprecedented nature of the pandemic has created supply chain issues that are unusual in their scale and scope across all categories,” Aramark said in a statement to USA TODAY Sports. “Our supply chain team is extremely focused on doing everything in their power to ensure sports fans have a great experience.
“We use detailed forecasts, have ongoing and constant communication with suppliers, use backup suppliers from our extensive network and ensure that our operators are flexible and have pre-planned menu options to ensure availability and reduce the costs.”
Sure, you can plan a nice picnic, but you can’t predict how many people might show up. The pandemic and inflation have already thrown many assumptions into the equation, and in 2021 only two teams — the Chicago White Sox and the San Diego Padres — have seen attendance gains. A large majority of clubs did not fully open their ballparks until mid-June or early July.
And then the lockout — a 99-day industry freeze that delayed the season and caused nervous heartbeats at Delaware North headquarters in Buffalo — landed at the most inopportune moment.
It’s been a mixed bag at the turnstile since ballparks opened on April 7 — overall attendance is down slightly, with persistent cold weather across the Midwest, Northeast and Mid-Atlantic. Still, many baseball fields are at or approaching 2019 levels, including the cold-weather Minnesota Twins, whose weekday crowds are between 11,000 and 19,000, as in April 2019.
Perhaps signing All-Star shortstop Carlos Correa helped stave off any losses, which Miller hopes will be replicated in other markets.
“A few teams this year, based on what customers have been doing, we’re super, super excited about what they’ll have coming up,” Miller said, citing the Texas Rangers’ commitment of more than half a year. billion in contracts for All-Stars such as Corey Seager and Marcus Semien.
Although revenue figures are incomplete, early data indicates that those who do show up have a particularly voracious appetite. They are being greeted with ostensibly more efficient ways to acquire their food, thanks to contactless payment and app-based ordering that have grown in importance as teams retreat from the pandemic.
Which makes it all the more important to have a Plan A, but also a Plan B and C, when you’re getting into hot dogs, fries, and popcorn.
“It’s just the volume that continuously surprises us on how much the customer wants to go out, spend and consume,” says Miller. “That’s the most promising point, if you look at it from a global economic perspective since it’s been bright again.
“Consumption has increased significantly. This is remarkable.