Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Centerplate Concessions @ Nationals Park


Centerplate, The Concessionaire at Nationals Park, has kept in touch with Sohna and I this off-season. We are keeping the dialogue open concerning food choices, service and satisfaction with the many offerings at home games for Our Washington Nationals. This morning, Bob Pascal, The Vice-President of Marketing for Centerplate, called us to ask about our opinions.

What we liked in 2008? What we didn't like? What's in need of improvement? What more would we like to see? Mr. Pascal is on an information fact finding mission and Centerplate really wants to know how they can improve their services and facilities for fans on South Capitol Street. Currently, they are updating their menu choices for 2009 at Nationals Park.

Sohna and I gave Bob our laundry list of items--both good and bad, as well as, ideas on services that need to be tweaked. It was a good discussion. Yes, Centerplate is listening.

And they want to hear from you too!! This is your time to speak up and get your voice heard on concessions and services at Nationals Park for 2009.

All responses will be directly sent to Centerplate for review. They are serious and you should be too. Please make your points, be specific. Everyone involved is in this together. Centerplate is looking for more information to make our ballpark experience and your ballpark experience--an even better one.

Please, let's hear from you. Constructive criticism welcome.

55 comments:

An Briosca Mor said...

Actually, I'd be happy if they would just implement those things that they promised for 2008 but failed to deliver, such as sushi (although I gotta admit, I'd be skeptical about eating ballpark sushi unless they have a Japanese guy rolling it within eyeshot), Taste of the Majors (and yes, I understand it's a copyright issue - but they could still do the concept without calling it that), real garlic fries, etc. And in my experience, the food delivered directly by their partners (e.g. Ben's, Five Guys, Cantina Marina) was better than the strictly CenterPlate fare, so more options like that would be good. Also, it seemed that there were fewer service issues in the stands with a partner's name on top of them as well. I never experienced any real service problems myself, though, but probably because I always buy my food well before first pitch. But from what I've heard, there's always room for improvement in the service operations at Nationals Park. And finally: There needs to be a much better beer selection on offer. More microbrews. The beer choices were actually better at RFK.

Anonymous said...

SBF:

We denizens of the Gallery Level have a number of gripes/suggestions. Foremost among the gripes is that we don't have near the variety of items that are offered at the Field Level concession stands. Second is that the stands routinely close down well before the games end. (This is especially disconcerting when the Nats go into extra innings -- especially the 14 inning marathons.) We can understand the unavalibility of beer after the 7th inning, but there should be some stands where you can get something to eat and a soft drink until game's end. As far as beer sales go, it would be nice if the same stands sold the same brands (and didn't run out) every game, so that we wouldn't have to guess where, for example, to get a Heineken on any particular night. It would also be nice if the vendors in the stands sold something other than Budweiser and Miller products, as nine out of every ten seem to.

One good beer suggestion someone in our section had was to have "guest beers" to match the visiting team -- e.g., Old Style when the Cubs visit; Iron City when the Pirates are in town; etc.

Finally a plea -- not to Centerplate, but to fellow fans. Nationals Park has great concourses, which provide an excellent view of the field. When returning from concession stands, please watch from the concourse until an at bat is over, so you don't block the view of your fellow fans by scrambling for your seats during play.

Section 131 said...

Better customer service and more options. Sometimes, the employees behind the counters were rude and disorganized. I would much rather see more freshly prepared items than just the basic ballpark fare. Less fried foods, more things like salads, seafood and the idea of the foods from other ballparks that didn't seem to take last year. Many times I am heading to the game directly from work and the thought of having another hot dog or chicken tenders as my dinner does not seem too appealing. I like trying different things and it would be nice to see some not typical stadium choices. Thanks for this.

Anonymous said...

Gelato's Italian Ice Cream is my favorite concession at Nationals Park, and noticed that they were able to build their presence at the ballpark last season to three locations in the main concourse and mezzanine levels. As someone who sits in the upper deck, I would appreciate a location for Gelato in the gallery level for next season.

Anonymous said...

Is there any chance that Five Guys Burgers & Hard Times Cafe could be available elsewhere in the ballpark? With their lines because of their popularity and distance from my seats it makes for a before the game decision whether I purchase from either of my favorites. If I make this decision during the game you can bet I will miss an inning, possibly two.

Anonymous said...

Echoing Section 131, more healthy options would be good, even something as rudimentary as whole wheat buns for hot dogs, hamburgers, etc.

Section 131 was also quite right about the frequent disorganization and (I found occasional, as in exception to the rule) rudeness.

Anonymous said...

Can something be done about allergy needs? I have a nut allergy, for instance, and would appreciate signage or a handout that lists common allergens in the different vendors. Usually the people behind the counter don't know.

Brandon said...

More premium partners. I've had the premium food (Cantina Marina, Hard Times, etc.), generic food (can't really recall any names but you know), Stars & Stripes Club food, and catered food in the suites. Everything's good, but the generic outlets aren't up to the tastiness of the other outlets, and it's not like it's so much cheaper. If they don't increase the number of premium vendors, at least growing some of the ones already there would be good business. Putting a Five Guys and Hard Times up at the Gallery Level makes too much sense (and $$$) to not do. Replacing a generic Frozen Rope with a Gifford's also would be good.

Having more food that isn't deep-fried would also be good.

Most of my games were in the LF Mezzanine, and when I went to the outlet there, I have no complaints, their Half-Smokes were always good and I never had a bad person take my order.

I also think more advertising should be in the park for the vendors. Maybe have a featured vendor or something every homestand, to make sure the casual fans understand what choices there are. Cantina Marina's Cajun corndogs are amazing, but I think maybe 0.2% of the stadium-goers know that they exist.

I like the inclusion of Vitamin Water and Honest Tea, but the vendors need to keep them in stock. Sometimes they did, sometimes they didn't.

phil dunn said...

Last year, I made an appeal for some decent pizza. I was sick of the awful Papa John's Pizza, which tasted like ketchup on a stale cracker. As far a I can determine, nothing changed. If there was better pizza at the ball park, I never found it.

Anonymous said...

I do not know if this is a comment for the team or Centerplate. But anyway, the food options in the Stars and Stripes Club were not at all what was advertised last winter. We were supposed to have salad stations, pasta saute stations, Chinese food, etc. What we ended up with was pretty much the same food stands you could get outside the club doors. It's almost as if somebody realized how cheap it was to serve nachos and charge $12.50 for them that they decided to do it for EVERY game. Where's the unique stuff we were supposed to have?

Neal G. said...

SBF: Here is an email I received from one of the members of my season ticket group which I think is appropriate to send on to Centerplate. He's a fairly rational guy, and doesn't sound off without cause. Hope you and Sohna are doing well: "I’ve attended at least a dozen games at Nationals Park this year. Routinely, the service at the concessions has been unacceptably slow, apart from the food and drink being overpriced by 10-20%. This has been my regular experience with different concessions on the main concourse and at the Stars and Stripes Club level. (The exception of prompt service occurs if attendance is below 20,000.) Often times it appears that the attendants are inexperienced in taking and filling orders. They do not know how to process orders and keep the line moving. At other times, the concession is understaffed as the order taker has multiple responsibilities. Sometimes cooked food is not ready. At the cash register, commonly patrons charge their purchases. Why must they sign the charge receipt? It further slows down the process of getting food and getting back to your seat. I’ve been to other ballparks where that is not necessary. Finally, the food choices are not particularly inspiring. While you can argue that Ben’s is it, there really is no signature food item for the Park as there is at other stadiums. I brought my own sandwiches to the last two games I attended because I knew attendance would be around 30,000 and I did not want to risk standing in line for a meal."

Thanks for listening.

Anonymous said...

My three biggest complaints, also from the Gallery Level.

1. Food stands that routinely close early, sometimes as early as 5th inning.

2. No plastic lids for regular size soda cups. Young children need lids on their sodas so that they don't spill either on the person in the seat in front of us, or while walking back to the seats from the stand. It makes no sense to me, but everytime I went to buy a soda this year I was told they did not have lids for the cups.

3. Customer service remains terrible. Many of the concession workers don't want to be there or are only half-interested in serving your order quickly and/or with a smile. Twice last year I heard a beer vendor state, "Please buy my last beer so I can get out of here." Not quite the attitude you want to display to customers - let's get out of here.

Anonymous said...

The sausages at RFK were significantly better than those served at the new stadium. Any chance of returning to the old supplier? What about getting a local beer brewer like Dogfish Head (DE) involved? Also, what about a few more Five Guys stands. It always seemed to have a 50 person line.

Anonymous said...

Phil: There was an ok brick oven pizza in the club level, but it was overpriced at $7 or $8 per slice. I don't remember the exact amount.

Don said...

The easy criticism would be the pricing ($12 BBQ sandwich?). But what I really have a problem with is having to wait in several lines to get food. I have 3 kids -- they want chicken fingers, I want that pricey BBQ -- can't get that stuff at the same stand (though the stands are proximate to each other above center field). Can the center field food pavilion be changed to have lines that offer the fans ALL of the food sold by Boardwalk Fries, Red Hot and Blue, etc. from the same point of purchase? Each of the stands would do better if customers had the ability to select from them all, the lines for food and bev would move faster (and sales would increase) and I would miss less of the game. Thanks very much.

Section 213 Club Level said...

More selection of choices would be nice. Despite all the hoopla about Stars & Stripes Club, there were not many extra choices and always the same items, Nachos Grande, Beef Sandwich from portable stands and the pizza place, which was not of a deal as someone already mentioned earlier.

Also, it would be nice if more of the more popular choices were available at more stands. It seems to me that would help ease the line problems although some serious training of employees would go a long way in helping out too.

William said...

Overall, I found the concessions staff to be friendly, though not well trained. I have to agree with the comment that the Italian Sausage were significantly better at RFK, but I think this is due more to the cooking technique of just heating the sausage enough to cook it, then throwing them in warming trays. At RFK the grills were much larger and the sausages were left on the grills until you ordered them.
My only other comment is that the sausage stand on the 3rd base concourse routinely did not have sausage ready when the gates opened, nor did the concession stand behind section 304 have the chili ready for the Ben's half smokes when the gates opened. I thought this problem would resolve itself as the season went on, and the concessions staff got their timing down, but I still had to wait until the 2nd inning for chilli to be ready for my half smoke during the last homestand.

Anonymous said...

My biggest concern is the long lines. Just too long.

Anonymous said...

I would like to have more available in the kosher department they were very limited last year

Anonymous said...

Can you say customer service?

Many times I was 3rd in line for a simple order and waited well over 15 mins.....I walked away from buying food as often as I waited....that staff was the worst I had ever seen anywhere.

Not very honest either....I had more than one vender sell me food for $5 and never ring it up and just pocket the cash....I had one person even able to brake a $20 without ever ringing up the sale.....As I recall he had a supervisor title......Nice work Nats, your really improved on Armark!

Anonymous said...

I am glad that Centerplate Concessions asked at that the wonderful Nats320 blog passed on the question. I agree that the lines can be too long and that the staff is not always polite, though many staff members are. But here's a comment that hasn't been made so far, I think. There are plenty of chilly days in April and September--even May. (And one of these days in October!) It is very frustrating to try to find a cup of coffee or hot chocolate. Majorca is good but always has a dreadfully long line on cool days. Some of the stands that have hot chocolate or coffee on their list of offerings do not in fact have it. Thanks for the opportunity to give my opinion.

Steve said...

Here's my suggestions:

1. A better pizza option - get a local best in there that's a D.C. business

2. Not enough choices at the Kids $1 place. The food there was limited, the service surly, the quality poor. I realize you can't expect much for $1, but to have food hot, fresh and served with a smile (it IS a kids place after all) is reasonable.

3. Better line management - the movement of registers to a place AFTER people get food could help, especially at the Gifford's Ice Cream stand. I spent 2-3 innings every game trying to get ice cream or milk shakes there.

4. More friendly service. Too many times people were unresponsive, surly or just plain mean. I WANT to spend my money, at least treat me with courtesy or decency.

5. Don't close so early. Other than alcohol, why not stay open the whole game? I've often wanted to get my sons and I a treat to eat on our way to the Metro. Alas, no one was open.

6. Make clear that you CAN bring in bottled water and food. This seems weird in this forum, but, a lot of my friends didn't go to games because they couldn't afford the tickets, transportation AND food. If they could bring in food, they'd attend and buy ice cream or a pretzel, too.

dianne said...

Better beer options in the Club -- seems like while beer options were expanding outside the club, we were stuck with the same old ones inside. I would like to see Hook & Ladder more available throughout the park -- and it would be better on draft! And what about having microbrews actually served in the stands? As for keepers -- the nachos at hardtimes. It would also be nice if the vegetarian chili from Ben's was available in other places. And how about Grilled Cheeses? -- maybe it could be added to the Five Guys menu (they have it in their shops)

natbisquit said...

Long time listener, first time caller...(thanks for the opportunity): Upper deck beer choices were too limited and inconsistant last year. Some nights stands were closed. Upper deck food was also somewhat limited for example no BBQ or Chilli. No Senator's Sausage up there either. (This was complicated by the fact that escalators are only going up until 7th inning.)

Overall, loved Ben's Chilli, Noah's pretzels, 5 Guys, and Red Hot & Blue. Hand Scoop Ice Cream lines tended to be very long with poor flow control.

In stand food choices were very limited (at least in upper deck). I would love hot dogs could be delivered to my seat. The beer sold in stands was typically limted to Bud and Miller. Occasionally Heiniken. I would love more options.

Loved the mid season addition of the rightfield bar. I thought the Marina Cantina was a only OK and the big Nacho Bowl (foget the name) on the lower level was inconsistent quality. Note that cheese sauce and beans should always be hot.

Also on the upper level they ran out of napkins regularly.

My kids wanted fresh lemonade but I don't think we ever found any.

Everything was too expensive by at least a dollar. And if you have to charge $14 for a crab cake, should you really be serving it at the ball park? Hard Times was a little skimpy on the chilli served on their Nachos. I'm not a big Papa John's fan.

A few more healthy choices would be appreaciated. Unsweetened ice tea would be nice. Some sort of turkey sandwich, fresh fruits, and sandwich wraps.

Again, Thanks for asking.

Jim H said...

SBF...

I know Dominic's is likely not an option, but the sausages it served were far superior to anything at Nat's Park. I agree with those who would like to see their return.

I also agree that the beer selection should be much larger, and love the idea about featuring home brews and the brews from the city of the opponent.

I was disappointed that the Taste of the Majors didn't happen.

Loved Hard Times. Loved Noah's.

Would like to have seen wait service in the club seats. It's the first club section I've been in that hasn't had it.

I agree with the many comments about concession stands closing early. People are paying to attend the game...the refreshment options should stay open until the game is over.

Just some thoughts...good to see Centerplate listening...but they did that last year, too. In many ways, they didn't deliver. I agree with the sentiment that often the private vendor fair was much preferable to the Centerplate selections.

Loved Pat's Pizza, by the way!

Jim

davidson said...

LEDO PIZZA!

Anonymous said...

My comments are about the Stars and Stripes Club specifically. I’d like to see ice cream, popcorn, and coffee/hot chocolate added to offerings. I echo disappointment with the carving and pasta stations turning into beef sandwich and nacho stands. And I join in the call for microbrews. Thanks (to both Centerplate and Nats320) for taking our comments.

dcbatgirl said...

I agree with a lot of what has been said. My priorities?

1. I would love to see a good salad offering--something like a Cosi salad or a Panera salad, not just icky lettuce with tomatoes that don't taste like tomatoes.

2. The ice cream places should always have helmets for helmet sundaes. On one occasion, I wasted 2 1/2 innings in pursuit of a helmet sundae, and still was unable to obtain one for my small, disappointed guest. In addition to always having helmets, concession stands should always offer the option of a curly W helmet or the helmet of the visiting team.

3. Customer service matters. Sometimes I got pleasant service, but it was rarely efficient. Maybe they need to pay the help differently? With pay determined in part by sales, maybe the employees would have an incentive to keep moving and keep the concession stands open.

4. More hot chocolate/coffee please! (At least when it's chilly.) Both early in the season and at one of the marathons later in the season, I was freezing and would have happily paid $5 for 12 oz of warmth.

MP said...

This one is minor, but its one of those little things that really makes a difference. Every stand seems to have a PayPass Mastercard target as part of their partnership with MLB. I have a compatible card and love the PayPass service, because it is quick, doesn't require the card to leave my hand, and doesnt require me to sign a receipt.

I went to at least 20 games last year, and every time I tried to use PayPass at a Centerplate stand I was told that "those don't actually work." So either get them working or take them away.

I second the comments about the long lines and lack of diversity of food, but would be willing to trade one for the other. I understand that it might take longer to prep food if there are many different options, or that streamlining the menu would allow for quicker preparation. But last year it took longer to get in and out of a Nats Dogs stand that made nothing but Hot Dogs than it does to get through the line at the McDonalds drive through, which has 30 different products. Its not so much that the food is below par, as the service is not meeting expectations. And I don't think people have high expectations for ballpark food, so that says a lot.

FIX IT!

Aunt Lo said...

Regarding the food, I do think the choices are nice and I love that there are places to get coffee...especially when the weather is still cold.
However, there are several things that need to be improved. First, customer service. At many of the venues the lines are long but the staff are few and not exactly responsive. My niece reported that at the game on September 21st she had to wait over half an hour to get something from Ben's Chili Bowl. There was only one cashier...the other one was just standing watching the game and chatting. Needless to say, she was not impressed. Second is what I would call "oversight". It is absurd for the condiment carts to be totally out of ketchup, mustard and napkins by the 4th inning! This was happening more and more as the season went on. At one game I foolishly waited to get food until the 7th inning and was told by the vendor they had run out of the gray trays. It wasn't fun trying to carry my order back to my seat by myself. (Another time it was barbeque sauce.) I know that Aramark had a bad rep at RFK but I have to say I don't ever remember them running out of basics. Third, I really miss Cluck U Chicken. I got very spoiled sitting in section 415 and having the Terrace Food Court so close. The chicken tenders at Cluck U were the best and nothing at the new stadium compares. I did try them at Boardwalk Fries but they were very overdone...and its a long walk back to Sec 229.

Related to that long walk...it would be nice to have more picnic tables so that one could eat before going all the way back to one's seat...or just for the fun of people watching. I was never clear on whether the tables to the left of the Center Field Gate were for anyone if not otherwise indicated.
More of those "standing tables" would help too.

Sam said...

SBF,

Thanks for forwarding comments for us. My comments relate to the Club level, I agree that we need ice cream, popcorn, and coffee/hot chocolate added within the Stars& Stripes Club. They should look at traffic management at the two Grills because they clog up fast and that is frustrating not being able to make it through the line in an inning. I would like to see a Deli option you know where you tell them what how to build your sandwich with lots of various meats, cheeses, and fixins available. Lastly you should be able to get a souvenier Beer at the Bars not just the small cups.

Take Me Out To The Ball Game!

Sam

Doctor Joe said...

I also think the Pat's Pizza in the Stars and Stripes Club is pretty good. I don't usually order chain pizzas at home so I did not realize from the taste that it was just Papa John's. I took my pizza-expert nephew to a ballgame and he said, "You know, Uncle Joe, this is just Papa John's. Look, it's even on the sign. And they have the Papa John's dipping sauce." And I thought I was eating something unique and special. Oh well. It's still pretty good. But $6.75 is a pretty expensive slice!

My suggestion: As others have said, I wish the concession stands remain open until the end of the game.

Anonymous said...

My biggest comment, and it is an important one, is that there is no incentive for Centerplate workers to speed up when the lines are long, no reason for them to be friendly. Centerplate needs to have some kind of reward program for improveds sales, speedier service, friendlier sales people. Whether it be pay, pats on the back, something, waiting for the great bowl of nachos for three innings with only 7 people in front of you is unacceptable. Training and rewards.... Please!

Anonymous said...

Being of Italian descent, I must point out that Nick's Sausage (served at Nationals Park) is much better than Dominic's, and Nick's is a local product as well (Hyattsville/Clinton).

Anonymous said...

Here are some things I'd like them to consider:

How about adding vending machines around the stadium so that fans can buy sodas and bottled water without having to wait in the food lines.

How about making sure the credit card terminals work? There were many times that a stand was cash only because the terminal didn't work.

How about installing cameras at each of the food stations so that Centerplate can monitor the employees and coach them on how to work more efficiently. There were too many instances of long lines with workers just standing around behind the stands. They didn't seem to care that long lines were forming. I wondered who's managing this operation. I had higher expectations of Centerplate. To address this, how about a feedback loop from the fans? Display a phone number at each stand like they do at Burger King and McDonalds in the drive thru. Fans can call and leave a message if they get shoddy service. Each stand should have an ID so that when the fan calls they can identify the specific stand with the problem.

Please mention that the prices are too high! They are losing sales because of this. Towards the end of the season, we were buying food at Subway and bringing it to the stadium since it let us save $10. If they priced the food more reasonably they'd more than make up the difference.

How about turning the center field restaurant into a real restaurant? The service there was terrible the dozen or so times we visited. It was usually chaotic trying to get a seat. We sat down a few times and didn't get served for 10 minutes. This restaurant should be made into a real sit down restaurant with real waiters and with a menu that's more than a laminated piece of paper offering the same food that can be bought by walking up to one of the stands. It's so disappointing since it has so much potential!

Please ask them to offer some additional ethnic food choices like maybe Chinese, Thai, Salvadoran, or Cuban. Maybe they can invite some local food vendors for different homestands and see which ones are most popular.

Lastly, please have them install some picnic benches or seats in the area near the Hard Times Care and Noah's pretzel stand. It would be nice to have places to sit around there before the game after getting some food at those stands.

SBF, thanks for gathering our input!

YoungSenator said...

I might have an interesting perspective on this. I must have gone to 20 or 25 games last year, and I think I was in almost every section, including the Presidents Box seats about three times through my friend's company.

What was strange about the President's seats was how lousy the food and service were. I also went to a couple of games at RFK on this deal--it was called Diamond Club at RFK--and the food was way better at RFK. Plus, my hosts confirmed, the people working in the seats would take orders and never come back, or other waiters would come around asking us if we ordered stuff--they had no idea who ordered it! I'm sure this will sound elittest, but I'm a working class guy who got lucky to go to a couple of games in these VIP sections. Basically the price went UP at Nats Park and the quality & service went way DOWN.

I saw a lot of cases when people working concessions at National Park would take the money directly from the customer and put it in their pocket. Then the cashier would just let them go through. This happned at RFK alot too. Check the stands up near 312 section and you can see this theivery.

People working in food stands far away from Ben's main store by the 3B line (I mean places like Nats Dogs) had no idea how to make a Ben's Chili Dog properly. I had a cat almost want to fight me cause he said it had cheese on top. Train the people how to do things right.

Little things made me so mad. I buy the souvenir Coke for $5.50 for half the year, and it has the Nats info and schedule on it. And a lid. Suddenly all these cups go away. I get a smaller, uglier cup, no lid, no schedule, no logo, but still $5.50. This is stealing.

There is one and only ONE original pizza in the whole DC area, and that is Ledos. It is OUR own home grown pizza, like nobody else's in America. Why don't we have Ledos at Nats Park?

I promise I have no connection with Aramark at RFK. But the Centerplate thing has been lousy.

Wingeds said...

What concessions do they manage? I would love to provide some feedback. In all, I was not impressed with the concessions at the ballpark. There were so many speciality vendors at the ballpark, it was very confusing. With the exception of a few employees, the staff didn't even seem like they wanted to be at the ballpark. I was not impressed with them. Also, the food selection was not very interesting. And the prices, don't get me started about the prices. One item we missed from RFK was the lemonade.

Wingeds said...

Another point I forgot to mention in my earlier posting - At one game I did get the carving option at the Stars N Strips Club. After waiting for about fiften minutes for service, I tried to pay using my credit card, but the machine was down. I didn't have enough cash on hand. The server got a manager who sould fix the machine. His answer was to go and get cash from an ATM - I refused to pay the ATM feees. Five feet away another terminal was working, but the manager refused to process my transaction on that terminal. Finally, I walked away after more than 20 minutes invested. That was my 3rd of ten games. After that experience, I didn't make another purchase in the ballpark! Now, the manager should have let everyone else in line get served for free, then close the station. That's customer service. Or take me up on my offer: allow me to walk away with the food and enjoy the game, take my ticket stub and come to my seat once the terminal was working and process my card. Of course the manager made the wrong call and lost a customer for the entire season!

LetTeddyWin.com said...

Thanks Jeff. My list:

1. PROMINENT SIGNS AT BENS CHILI BOWL are needed saying that Ben's half smokes are available at every dog stand in the park. This would clear up the perpetual traffic jam around on the 3rd base line and probably shorten lines at a lot of other concessions around the park.

2. SOLD OUT SIGNS are needed so that workers can update the menu board when an item is sold out. I waited in line several times in 2008 only to find out when I got to the front that the particular item I wanted was sold out.

2. STOCK ENOUGH FOOD! Even better than the sold out signs would be some requirement for vendors to actually deliver what's on the menu. I remember one weeknight game against the Mets, maybe 28,000 fans in the stands, in the 5th inning I go to wait in line for food for my family. It was a joke. Dupont Deli had no turkey or pastrami or salads, Noah's Pretzels had no cinnamon pretzels, Taste of the Majors had no burgers or fries! I had missed 2 innings by the time I gave up and bought some hot dogs.

3. FRESH OPTIONS PLEASE. Dupont Deli is the only place with fresh sandwiches and salads, and the people running it deserve a sentence to foodservice jail. It takes them 10 minutes to sell you a sandwich and yet they somehow run out of food within a couple of innings every night.

4. REAL PIZZA seems unlikely but I have to agree with everybody else. Anything but those crappy little mini papa johns. Even my grade-schooler looks at the Papa Johns option and the price they charge and says it's not worth it.

WFY said...

I like that so many local/regional vendors are there, especially Ben's Chili Bowl. Centerplate gets high marks for bring them in.

Customer service is the biggest problem with Nationals Park concessions. The lines move too slowly. This is not a problem that is unique to Centerplate's tenure or Nationals Park -- Verizon Center is slow too. I suppose they are only as good as the labor pool. I think each stand tends to have one person too many though.

Interestingly, when I am up at Penn State for football games, the student volunteers in the concession stands are very efficient.

Oh and another thing, if I get a helmet sundae, I want to be assured that I'll get one with a curly W hat, not a curly P or interlocking LA, etc. Stock the place with Nationals helmets!

John R. said...

I saw a lot of efforts to improve over the course of the season. For example, at the first few games, I was told that "small" sodas did not have lids and straws. Only the "large" sodas had those. That changed within a month. Ben's Chili Bowl was expanded to take care of the demand.

Friendly and knowledgeable customer service was rare at the concession stands. I can't say that was any different than RFK, though. I thought the Italian Sausage at RFK (by Dominics?) was great! The one at Nats Park? Not as good.

The prices at ballparks are always high, but there was no need for the team to raise them above the RFK prices. Roll them back to 2007 levels.

Finally, I agree with Don that we need to have one place where you can get almost anything, instead of having to go from stand to stand to get the right drink, sandwich, and pretzel/chips.

WFY said...

Oh and a vote for going back to Pepsi products too.

DCSportsChick said...

I agree with the previous comments about helmet sundaes- there should always be helmets available, and preferably of the curly W persuasion. I wasn't able to actually get a sundae in a Nationals helmet for some time after the stadium opened. (On Opening Day, my husband and I got Arizona and Philly sundaes- not exactly what we wanted.) That being said, I'm thrilled that we finally HAVE helmet sundaes!

An Briosca Mor said...

The prices at ballparks are always high, but there was no need for the team to raise them above the RFK prices. Roll them back to 2007 levels.

Did the prices at RFK include the tax on tickets, concessions and other sales that's part of the funding scheme for Nationals Park? If not, that could be the reason for the 2008 concession stand price increases.

Carolyn said...

I don't expect much at a ballpark. I am not a fancy food person while at the game. I just want my ice cream and hotdog. That being said I have three issues...

1) The soft served ice cream that comes in the mini helmets was often inconsistent in quality. Whether from stand to stand or just hour by hour, I am not sure. Sometimes the ice cream would be smooth and delicious. Other times, very mealy as if it had not mixed. Especially the chocolate. And trust me, I ate a lot of this ice cream - it's not as if this happened to me once. I buy most of my food about an hour before the game, maybe that is the problem. But it still should not happen.

2) Speaking of soft served...I liked when there were both Curly W helmets AND other teams' helmets. I found it fun to collect the different teams. I think that they should serve ice cream in the helmets of both the Nationals and visiting team.

3) Kettle corn! Where is my kettle corn? Season 1 at RFK had good stuff. Lots of pepper mixed in with the salt and butter and sugary goodness. The rest of the seasons at RFK the kettle korn was OK at best, but at least it was there. If it exists at Nationals Park, I have no idea where. And I never saw a vendor bring any to the 400s if they serve it anywhere. Bring back Season 1 kettle corn!

Thanks for your time.

natsfan1a said...

Thanks much for the opportunity to weigh in. I've not run into problems with lines but I usually get my food well before the first pitch. I've also never run into rude employees, but perhaps that's the luck of the draw. I second (third?) the pleas for more tables, whether of the sit down or stand up variety.

I'd like to see more value meals - there were a couple of stands where one could get a grilled chicken sandwich and fries for (I think) $7. I'd also like to see salads or other healthy options. Generally speaking re. food, I love the gelato and the helmet sundaes (and I was lucky in that mine did come in a curly W helmet). Not that fond of the Dinger. Love the Ben's dogs. Liked the aforementioned grilled chicken sandwich.

Anonymous said...

I went to about 10 games last year, and tried to eat before coming, because to get an edible vegetarian meal (nachos don't count) was too expensive.

However, I love ice cream. Almost every time, I tried to get the soft serve in the helmets. Multiple times, they ran out of ice cream (by the 5th inning!), which I found out after I had waited in line for 15 minutes; I only got one Nat's helmet; and they NEVER had all of the components at the same time (i.e., ice cream, W helmet, hot fudge, and sprinkles).

Also, if you wait in the Ben's line for 2 innings only to be told rudely that they don't have any veggie chili, you don't try again.

paul said...

I am a skinflint, attending most games these past four years but didn't make my first food purchase till this past August. If I couldn't bring in snacks and water, I would not go to most of the games I do go to. Perhaps I'm the person Centerplate would like to win over--or perhaps they would just as soon forget about me.

My one food purchase was a large burrito for, I think, $8. It was really good--messy, but really good and filling. However, the line was really inefficient, and the nearby cashier was crowing the whole time I was in line about how the game was going in the Mets' favor. (Jason Bergmann walked approximately nineteen Mets while I was in line.)

Occasionally I let friends buy me stuff, and I really enjoyed the Dinger after Flop's grand slam last spring. The ice cream line was manageable, although I have routinely seen it be 25 people long.

If the prices were slashed, and it didn't take so long to buy food, I would definitely reconsider my habits.

Dave said...

1. More real vegetarian options. About the only thing I could eat (apart from French Fries and ice cream) was either Ben's veggie chili or Hard Times veggie chili.

2. Better pizza. I echo what several others have said. Papa John's really is quite crappy.

3. Lids for drinks after early August. It blew my mind the number of times there were just no lids available for soft drinks in late August and September. If you have cups, you should have lids. How would you serve the drinks without cups? Why would you serve them without lids?

4. Better beer selections. The selections were more satisfying at RFK with--dare I say it--Aramark in charge. Where is ANY kind of India Pale Ale in Nationals Park?

5. More respect for the Gallery Level. The upper deck was usually full when the lower bowl was sparsely populated. Treat us as if we have money and want something to eat.

JayB said...

Not sure how many more comments Center plate needs to get the message........Service is the thing that must change.........you can have all the Veggie Chile and Micro Beer in the world but if it takes 3 innings to get and served by people who clearly do not want to be there and do not care at all about the team and your level of satisfaction then what is the point.

SBF, can you comment on if you think Center plate and Stan have gotten this message? Also the comments about how bad the upper deck problems are real.....Stan never gets up their like he did in the old RFK days.

Shelley said...

Customer service was AWFUL. I had high hopes for Centerplate, but as far as customer service is concerned, there was little or no improvement over Aramark.

I'd love to see more food choices. I love hot dogs, burgers and pizza as much as anyone, but it would be nice to have some other options, particularly healthier options (e.g., salads and deli wraps, available in more locations). Someone mentioned ethnic foods...I would love to see that. Several years ago, I attended a few games at Progressive Field (when it was still Jacobs Field) while visiting a friend in Cleveland, and I had Chinese food one night and Mexican food another night. My friend had sushi one night. I would love to see choices like that at Nationals Park.

Speaking of Progressive Field, they have (or had) pocket schedule-like guides to all of the food locations throughout the ballpark. This is convenient when you're looking for the one location of a particular food stand (e.g. Five Guys, Red, Hot & Blue, etc.)

More picnic tables are A MUST for Nationals Park, particularly when you consider how often the the main picnic area was closed to the public for private parties. To their credit, Centerplate did add some picnic tables to the area in front of the playground, but tables are needed in more locations around the ballpark. The Scoreboard Pavilion is a good choice, as is the area near Hard Times Cafe/Red Hot & Blue/Noah's Pretzels/etc. Tables in shaded areas would be nice too.

As a chocoholic, I was disappointed that no candy bars were sold at Nats Park. (At least, I never found any.) A few basics would be nice -- Snickers, Milky Way, M&M's. Bags of potato chips should be available as snacks. They were only available if you purchased a hot dog and a soda; you couldn't get just a bag of chips.

I wish the food wasn't so expensive at Nats Park, but food prices are always expensive at ballparks and arenas.

CALSGR8 said...

NO NO NO NO NO PEPSI. COKE YES! PEPSI NO! ABSOLUTELY NOT!

Where are the Crab Pretzels and why can't I find it? I've heard about them but every vendor I asked didn't know what I was talking about!

Not sure if CenterPlate is responsible or not, but could there be more Picnic tables, maybe behind the last row of seats at the different levels. Its easier to eat at a table than at one's seat.

Agree with most of the other comments here (except the Pepsi one). Salads would be great. Maybe a fruit cup option. I know Sushi is at other ballparks but Sushi MUST be fresh and being that its an OUTSIDE arena and HOT summers, I would be difficult to keep it consistently cold and fresh.

JT said...

I've had just one issue with the concessions through the 2008 season at National's ballpark. I'm a vegetarian, and was pretty happy to see that there were several options on the menu, including the veggie chili from Ben's, as well as veggie dogs and burgers from some of the grill stations. However, every game I went to in 2008, I tried to order a veggie dog or three, and found that even though they were listed on the menu, they were never available. It was extremely annoying.

I tended to attend games on Sunday afternoon, and tried to order my veggie dogs before the 1st pitch, so I don't know if timing had anything to do with it. Often I would try multiple stands that had veggie dogs on the menu, coming up empty. I could understand once not having something on the menu, but every game was a bit much. I still haven't had a veggie dog at the new stadium.

Also, I'm not sure if this was a concessions issue, but the lack of vegetarian options at the season ticket holder picnic at the end of the season was disappointing.

Anonymous said...

Tj,

Consider yourself lucky to be a vegetarian. Waiting in line for an inning or two (2 or 3 people in a CenterPlate Line takes that long) and finding they do not have what is on the menu is a every game occurrence. Not sure why they are even asking us what the issues are because they must know how poor a job they did already, right, I mean Stan must have let them know that this is NOT what he had in mind when he spent 12 months evaluating vendors.

Anonymous said...

Amen! I just attended a game yesterday and was very disappointed in the lack of vegetarian options. I stood in line for 25 minutes at one vendor that had a "veggie burger" prominently displayed on the menu only to be told that they "don't have that" when I finally got to the front of the line. Would it really have been so difficult to put a line through that item on the menu so others wouldn't make the same mistake?