Petco Park: Food for Thought

By Ron Donoho
|  Monday, Apr 13, 2009  |  Updated 9:01 AM PDT
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Petco Park: Food for Thought

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The Padres are winning games, so perhaps the news focus will shift to the field for awhile and away from the food bargains available at Petco Park.

But hang on. I take issue with the much ballyhooed 5-for-$5 deal. Let’s dissect it, starting with the unacceptable lines at just two overwhelmed concession stands that offer the mini-smorgasbord.

The deal offers fans a hot dog, soda, cookie, small bag of peanuts and 11 pieces of popcorn (hyperbolic estimate) for just $5. You can sub a beer for the soda, and get the handful of grub for $10. In and of itself, 5-for $5 is a welcome idea. Somebody in your group will eat the cookie, somebody else will claim the peanuts, and the popcorn will disappear in five seconds.

Unfortunately, you can spend more than two innings standing in line for 5-for-$5. On Saturday when the Padres downed the San Francisco Giants 6-3, I left choice field-level seats behind home plate, passed the carts that sold various noshes and premium beer for $8.50, and joined the third-base-side concession line for 5-for-$5. There were six lines about 20 people deep. I looked at my watch. Exactly 28 minutes later, I reached the counter. Given that the game lasted less than two-and-a-half hours, I spent roughly 20 percent of my ballpark experience standing in that line.

What can I say? The concessionaire at the counter was polite and helpful. The staff was trying to be efficient -- not always the case at ballparks. I suspect many in line didn’t know what the new 5-for-$5 entailed, but if the Padres are going to heavily promote this food deal, it needs to be user-friendly. Open more booths, for starters.

The Padres may or may not sustain this early season on-field surge. But the brass figured the team might tank, so they pushed the grub. Business is business. If you want brand loyalty, though, don't waste our time with an untenable food promotion, one that forfeits the allegiance of a hungry baseball fan who comes to the park primarily to sit in his seat and watch the game.

Ron Donoho, formerly executive editor of "San Diego Magazine," is a regular contributor to NBCSandiego.com who covers local news, sports, culture and happy hours.

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