This impressive list of the various and sundry nastiness inspectors found at various stadium food vendors -- coffin flies in your cognac, "53 mouse excreta" at a Knicks game -- has rightly prompted a round of promises to keep things cleaner.
But what strikes me about it is that if these were actual restaurants (as opposed to corporate food service organizations with exclusive contracts) with these kinds of unhealthy practices -- some stadiums with critical violations at 100 percent of the vendors -- some of them would go out of business.
If you open a mom-and-pop restaurant out there in the real world, and you treat your customers so shoddily, you'll lose money and eventually go out of business. It's almost guaranteed. With that idea simmering around the clock, day in and day out, as the owner you'd hire very carefully, obsess about things like hand washing procedures and pitch a fit if you found employees blending insects into the frozen drinks (as allegedly happened at the football stadium in Miami). If you get those things wrong, a good portion of your customers will choose to eat down the street, which will cost you.
In a stadium, however, there's no such competitive pressure. If the food stand at the top of aisle 22 is all nasty, your choices are to go hungry, or to head over to the stand at the top of aisle 27, which might or might not have the exact same stuff, but almost certainly has the exact same corporate daddies. If you eat, your dollars are essentially telling the world "I'm fine with this food" even if in fact you're not.
What's certain is that no other upstart restaurant is going to swoop in and steal that business next week, because this is a closed business environment, without free-market pressures.
If I found a mouse turd in my tater tots, I'd sure be missing those free-market pressures!
But instead of that kind of thing leading to a stand being replaced by one with different, more hygienic owners, instead the same ol' vendors get to keep trying again and again.
That's because they paid a pretty penny to the stadium owners for the exclusive right to sell bad food at crazy prices to captive rich people. (More or less.)
All that makes the stadium owners -- sometimes also the team owners -- poor candidates to really crack the whip. The people who are leaving the sushi out at room temperature (that one was in L.A.) are the exact ones who are cutting the fat checks from now until the end of the contract. It's hard to get too mad at people who flood you with cash.
I know this is crazy talk, asking a stadium to forego the revenue they get from auctioning the exclusive right to profit from selling you hot dogs, but my thought would be that it would be a tremendous service to fans to charge food vendors rent, but without any stadium-wide exclusivity. If there were real competition in the arena, there would be real market pressure for every vendor to have better food, better prices and less excrata. Would it cost the stadium owners? Maybe. But on the other hand, wouldn't you pay a little more for a ticket to go to a stadium with an ever-evolving set of good, clean, reasonably priced options?