Sentiment of the Week: Gluttony at the Ballpark

By: Clarabridge Team

April 16, 2015

Sentiment Analysis
Social Customer Care

For those of us who have been waiting with bated breath, the new baseball season has been a long time coming. Spring training, six weeks of games in Florida and Arizona that mean nothing, has given way to the nascent 2015 season, six months of games that mean a whole lot to a lot of people. For those who don’t religiously check box scores, there’s still a strong draw to the ballpark: the vast, beautiful, and existentially terrifying world of stadium food.

Forget your peanuts and Cracker Jacks, or the classic All-American hot dog; these staples are minor league compared to the meals you can carry back to your bleacher seat at any of the 30 ballparks across the country (and Canada! We heart you, Toronto). The rise of the modern downtown baseball stadium, with open-air concourses, in-stadium sit-down restaurants, and picnic table areas (not to mention the opportunity for a wide profit margin) encouraged baseball’s transition from America’s Pastime to a nine-inning moveable feast. Never has it been easier to ignore the action on the field; a generation ago, the thought that you could (or even would) spend three hours inside a ballpark – comfortably – without ever landing in the seat that you rented would seem far-fetched. Today, that strategy is commonplace.

So if you’re bringing your appetite to the ballgame instead of your glove, what can you expect to nosh on? That depends on three factors: your location, your budget, and your resting heart rate. Boston’s Fenway Park trades in local flavor, offering lobster rolls that will also set you back $13. Globe Life Park in Arlington, home of Texas’ Rangers, has a variety of Tex-Mex inspired favorites, including street corn and quesadillas. The Seattle Mariners serve the best coffee in the Majors (probably). And the aforementioned conventional restaurants inside any number of parks will make you forget that there’s a game going on outside (the cost of an upper deck ticket notwithstanding).

For the gastronomically reckless, it’s a whole ‘nother ballgame. (heh.) Lists, of both eating challenges and of dishes whose only prize is Lipitor, are numerous and exhaustive. What we’re interested in is this: Which ridiculous ballpark concession is the best? Using Clarabridge’s sentiment analytics, we can find the answer – without sacrificing our health.

We picked five of the most notable monstrosities:

2015-222_sotw_baseballfood_clarabridge1Chase Field’s Churro Dog and D-Bat Dog (Arizona Diamondbacks):  The former is a churro nestled inside a donut in a sugary imitation of a hot dog, topped with ice cream, caramel and chocolate sauce, and whipped cream; the latter is an 18-inch hot dog wrapped in bacon, dipped in molten cheese, covered in jalapenos, battered, and fried. The corn dog to end all corn dogs, served on a bed of fries.

Tropicana Field’s Fan vs. Food Burger (Tampa Bay Rays): A four-pound cheese burger topped with too much, sitting on a pound of fries. If you finish it within a pre-set time limit, you get two free tickets and a shirt. And, presumably, a ‘get well soon’ card.

Minute Maid Park’s Chicken and Waffle Cone (Houston Astros): There are good ideas, there are revisions that turn good ideas into great ones, and then there is the genius that is fried chicken bites and mashed potatoes served in a waffle cone. To paraphrase Brian Regan, it’s lunch with no cleanup, and life cannot get better.

Globe Life Park in Arlington’s Choomongous (Texas Rangers): Inspired by underachieving $100 million outfielder Shin-Soo Choo, this crime against temperance is a two-foot Korean barbecue sandwich that will set you back $26.

2015-222_sotw_baseballfood_clarabridge2Our findings were startling, in that this contest was no contest at all. Arizona’s Churro Dog would seem to be a bigger draw than any one player who actually takes the field for the struggling franchise. Not only did the dessert have the highest sentiment score (0.7, twice that of the Chicken and Waffle Cone), but it also dominated the conversation surrounding the five concessions, accounting for 94.3% of the total volume.

At the other end of the spectrum, Texas’ Choomongous Korean BBQ sandwich inspires feelings of regret and despair, as evidenced by a -0.4 sentiment score. Interestingly, Tampa Bay’s gigantic burger and fries contest is too intimidating — despite notable  exposure, there wasn’t enough data to measure any public sentiment at all. Note to all MLB concession directors: Press coverage is nice, but there’s more to be gained by creating an experience that your customers actually want.

Aside from that, what can we infer from this information? Of the five dishes analyzed, the two most successful were also the two most manageable, size-wise. Both the Churro Dog and the Chicken and Waffle Cone seem to be, if not reasonable foodstuffs, then at least conquerable. The D-Bat Dog seems to be the best combination of size and quality, in that people still buy, eat, and talk about it with at least neutral sentiment. Anything too big and foreboding just doesn’t get the same results. So if you’re looking to create a positive and memorable culinary experience at the ballpark (or have one), stick with an outrageously novel concoction that one can actually finish…safely.

Clarabridge’s blog, Sentiments, helps businesses incorporate customer sentiment and feedback into their business strategy. Published by Clarabridge, Sentiments speaks to customer experience professionals, marketers, customer care leaders and anyone who wants to make informed, strategic decisions that delight customers. Follow Sentiments on Twitter @Clarabridge.