Among things that make Felicia Thompson’s job as concessions manager for the Mississippi Braves more manageable: Habits of baseball fans are as predictable as a seventh-inning stretch.
That does not mean their habits stay the same year after year. If they did, the hotdog would still be the king of the concession stand.
Somewhere over the years, concession stands at Trustmark Park and elsewhere saw demand for the All American hotdog drop. Today’s best seller is the chicken tender .
No bones about it, says Thompson, a former Chili’s manager who is starting her seventh year overseeing food and beverage operations at the home of the Braves.
“Chicken tenders by far” are Trustmark Park’s top sellers, Thompson adds. She swears the park’s version easily surpasses the fast-food variety.
“I think we’re comparable to Cane’s,” she says, referring to the marinated chicken tenders the popular Mississippi restaurant chain sells.
Hamburgers and hotdogs are still on the Trustmark menu but the variety of food offerings has grown to the point some concession stands specialize their menus, Thompson says. It’s like operating a half dozen small restaurants, she adds, with some as destinations for burgers, hotdogs, chicken tenders and the like and others for pizza, sandwiches and ice cream.
“When I first took the job in 2008 I looked at the menu and everything was the same – hamburgers, hotdogs, nachos, chicken tenders,” Thompson says. Mississippi was known for its catfish and it belonged on the menu, she decided.
“I don’t want to get complacent and sell the same thing each year,” she says.
This year’s newcomer is an $8 bacon, cheddar, ranch french fry concoction offered up in a souvenir baseball helmet, according to Thompson.
“Four people can share it,” she says.
The reliability of the eating habits of baseball fans gives Thompson the luxury of knowing pretty much what to expect on game day. Of course, different promotions bring a different demographic to the park. Day games draw youngsters – and their appetite for cheese nachos and cheese fries. She can also rely on the kids hitting the concession stand even after eating the hotdog and chips they get with a “chow ticket.”
“We’ll have 3,000 kids who buy the chow ticket but still come to the concession stand” for the fries and nachos, Thompson says. That “changes my planning on what I’m putting forth.”
Thompson oversees about 115 workers who staff the seven concession stands and do sales in the stands.
A typical game day has her arriving at the park between 7:30 a.m. and 8 a.m. Her first task is to find the number of ticket presales for the game. Knowing that helps her determine how much food, soft drinks and beer to stock in the concession stands. Precision is key, she says. Otherwise, food crews have to maneuver food boxes and beer kegs around the game crowds, causing inconvenience all around.
This is especially important on Thirsty Thursdays, a promotion offering $2 sodas and beers.
Fans show up, well, thirsty, Thompson says.
Beer tap operators , however, will get somewhat of break this year with Thompson’s addition of canned beer to the beverage list and the $2 Thursday beverage offerings.
Concession stands normally see a “nice little rush” for the third and fourth innings. Business slows by the end of the seventh, when beer sales end, according to Thompson.
One outcome Thompson can expect regardless of whether it is a day or night game. “Most fans will hit the concession stand as soon as they walk through the door,” she says.