Ballpark meals is getting costlier

Sodexo Live, a food and hospitality company, says food inflation is reaching the ballpark too

Courtesy: Seattle Mariners

Those peanuts and cracker jacks could soon cost you more at the ballpark, thanks in part to food inflation, the CEO of a leading hospitality company told CNBC.

“It doesn’t matter what industry you’re in, everyone notices that prices are rising and shortages are a problem in certain product lines,” said Belinda Oakley, CEO of Sodexo Live. “Of course we were no exception.”

Sodexo Live operates food, beverage and hospitality services at Seattle’s T-Mobile Park, as well as more than 200 sporting, cultural and entertainment venues across the US, helping to alleviate some of the inflationary pressures.

Still, higher costs have forced Sodexo Live to get creative with its menus and food choices.

Sodexo Live is changing some ingredients, mixing up its suppliers and sourcing more items locally to reduce costs and avoid passing 100% of price increases on to the consumer, Oakley said.

“It will still be a phenomenal experience for fans, but potentially more cost-effective to ensure we don’t put them out of the market,” she said.

At T-Mobile Park, the company is expanding the number of inexpensive menu items it offers, priced between $2 and $4, to a dozen items, up from seven last year.

One big item that might get sticker shock: Ballpark Franks, which also happen to be a best-selling concession item for Sodexo Live. Oakley cited higher supply chain costs, including packaging and labor, to drive up meat prices.

Sodexo Live say they’re trying to be more creative with their offerings to prevent customers from having to pay more.

Courtesy: Seattle Mariners

However, location does matter, according to Oakley, and prices vary by region. The distance between a stadium and a provider can make a big difference, as can market prices. For example, if you look at last year’s prices for the average price of a hot dog – it was most expensive on the West Coast with the San Francisco Giants charging $7.50.

“You’re going to see a higher cost impact in California than in Indiana,” Oakley said.

According to Oakley, another area that is subject to strong price pressure is plastics and disposables: materials for the preparation of transportable food.

“The war between Russia and Ukraine has enormous implications,” she said. For example, the price of resin, a key ingredient in the manufacture of disposable items, has been hit particularly hard.

But when it comes to pricing, the company keeps an eye on the long game.

“We need consumers who want to continue having these experiences outside of their everyday lives and use their discretionary spending to actually go and enjoy hospitality,” she said.

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