Food is such a big part of the gameday experience when you go to the ballpark to watch a baseball game that the song ‘Take Me Out to the Ballgame’ even mentions peanuts and Cracker Jack in its lyrics. Teams make it easy for you to order your favorite concessions by having food and drink vendors wander around the stands, allowing you to buy concessions right from the comfort of your seat. Did you ever wonder if it’s like to be a food vendor at a baseball game? Here are some details about what baseball vendors do and how much money they can make during a game.
The business of MLB food vendors
The system that vendors use to determine what they sell at a particular game is a draft. Each vendor chooses their desired item, with the most senior vendors getting first dibs.
The vendors are motivated to sell as much as they can because they make their money through commissions and tips. As anyone who works on commissions can tell you, such a payment system leads the vendors to want to work as hard as they can to sell as much as they can because the more they sell, the more they get in commissions.
Similarly, they want to sell the more expensive items if they can because that also leads to higher commissions. Higher volume also means more tips — at least if the fans are generous to the vendors
The strategy of MLB food vendors
There’s more strategy involved for food vendors than you’ve probably ever thought about. Let’s explore the concession draft a bit. As you’d expect, beer is always chosen first in the draft because baseball fans like drinking beer during games.
After beer is chosen, the remaining vendors usually take the weather into consideration when making their choices. While lemonade might be a big seller on a hot day in August, it might not sell as much on a cool September evening.
Also, a factor in what the vendors choose to sell is where in the stadium they’re working. Vendors like to size up the fans based on how much they likely paid for their tickets. People sitting behind home plate have some of the most expensive seats in the stadium, so they’re more likely to be willing to buy higher-priced concessions.
In the cheap seats and bleachers, however, they’re probably a little more thrifty when it comes to spending on concessions so vendors want to take lower-cost items into those seating sections. The vendors consider these factors — and more — when choosing what items to sell during a particular game.
How much can baseball vendors make?
It always comes down to money, so the question is how much can a vendor make in a night? There are many factors that come into play when determining that. A vendor working a weeknight game in Miami in September when there might be just a few thousand people in the stands probably isn’t going to make a lot of money.
On the flip-side, a vendor at a sold-out playoff game at Fenway Park or Wrigley Field can make a lot of money with all the fans there, especially since playoff tickets aren’t cheap and, going back to the strategy discussion, that means the fans may be more willing to spend money on concessions.
So just how much can MLB food vendors make? Commissions are a variable rate, but can go as high as 15-20% of the item’s cost, and obviously tips are highly dependent on the fans. At typical rates, a commission on a single $10 beer could be as high as $1.50 or $2. Longtime Fenway Park vendor Jose Magrass says he can earn more than $500 in a single night. But that is an extreme example, with typical earnings closer to the $100 range, with as much as $200 on a good night — which is still a good payout for just a few hours of work.