There is definitely beer here.
On a big night at RFK Stadium there are about 750 gallons on tap and 1,500 cases of long-neck returnable bottles.
And if the Redskins are playing Sunday afternoon, there are hot dogs here -- an average of 2 1/2 tons pass from vendor to fan in one game at RFK.
"In a good night we'll take in $125,000 for three hours of sales," said Dick Stalder, general manager of B&B Caterers, who took over the RFK vendor and concession stand contract seven years ago.
After Macke, Sports Service and Canteen caterers had failed to squeeze substantial profits out of RFK, "Nobody would touch that contract until B&B came along," said Steve Murphy, RFK concession manager. The old food hawkers "were a pretty sleazy bunch," Murphy added. Murphy likes Stalder very much. He likes B&B. They make money, and the Starplex gets a cut. Murphy won't say how much, but he smiles a lot.
Stalder said that "$125,000 might sound good, but you have to consider 37 1/2 percent of our gross goes to rent, 8 percent goes for sales tax, 20 percent goes to labor, 20 percent goes to food and 10 percent goes for overhead." But $5,625 net per game isn't exactly peanuts. And he sells about 5,000 packs of them per game.
Stalder is responsible for 40 concession stands and 400 to 500 vendors who can take in anywhere from $350 to $1,000 a week. (Stalder's wife , Margaret, wraps all the hot dogs in aluminum paper herself. It takes her 3 1/2 days, and she has been doing it for seven years). The take falls from $2.50 a head to about $1.35 when the soccer team plays. The Diplomats don't draw the crowds the Redskins do.
When the Dips play, spectators complain that they can't find a vendor, and the vendors complain they can't get any money out of the fans.
"Families come in from the suburbs with coolers filled with sandwiches and beer. They never spend any money here," one vendor groused. There are two signs in front of each entrance that say no coolers allowed.
"We'd spend more money here if the prices weren't so outrageous," a couple from Reston said.A "stacked hot" pastrami roast beef or Virginia ham sandwich (which is neither stacked nor hot) sells for $2.50 at the deli counter. The sandwiches are about as good as anything you'll get from a commercial airline.
Knockwurst -- also called beerwurst, but it's the same thing -- with sauerkraut ($1.50) is much better than the Esskay hot dogs (90 cents) which are soft, sweet and wrapped in a crumbly, dry bun. Dry hot dog buns are un-American. They should be steamed soft and spongy like Wonderbread. The mustard isn't bad, but it's runny.
You also can buy a cardboard fried chicken bucket full of french fries for $3.50. One five-pound bag of frozen fries is dumped into the fryer about every 45 seconds, so they are hot, fresh and have no suspicious fast-food chemical aftertaste. The couple from Reston like the fries best.
The popcorn should be avoided. It tastes like Styrofoam packing nuggets. But then nobody goes to a football game for the food. When you are turning out food for 55,000 people, culinary standards are compromised. Service, however, is not. "Hey Coke adds life . . . Cold beer here, ice cold beer." h
The food at Baltimore's Memorial Stadium is vended through Volume Services, a subsidiary of Interstate United. According to John Pawlak, vending manager, vendors "get the first load fronted to them. From then on they pay for each load. At the end of the night, they pay for first load."
Vendors, or in this case a lot of college students from Johns Hopkins, get paid an hourly wage plus commission.
"Our really motivated vendors like Kenny Bland and Greg Schwalenberg made $230 or $240 a night during the last Yankees series," said Rob Forbes, assistant manager.
Volume Services, unlike B&B caterers, gears its vendor force in ration to the crowd. Five vendors are hired to cover every 1,000 people, in addition to the 30 concession stands, each employing 10 people. Although Forbes says there is no prime selling location, "nonprofit church groups and Boy Scouts are given priority stands."
Sales are higher at Memorial than they are at RFK. However, "Per capita is not keeping pace with inflation," Forbes said. During the Yankees series, vendors and concessionaires averaged $3 per fan. A good take at a Redskins game is about $2.50.
The food at Memorial stadium is a little better than at RFK. Volume Services sells the same brand of hot dog, but with a softer bun, and the mustard is thicker. It's also 15 cents cheaper.
The super or colossal dog ($1.75) has more flavor and is plumper than the regular Esskay dog. Stay away from the thick-skinned Polish dog ($1.50); it is extremely tough and hard to chew.
The notorious noxious cheese natchos -- the fear of every fan -- have improved somewhat. The corn chips are crispier, but they still are coated in a soupy hot pepper cheese sauce that runs to the bottom of the plate. The batch we tried was all stuck together in a big clump.
The shoe string french fries from the fish and chips ($2.10), hold the fish, are fantastic -- crisp, hot, golden brown and evenly salted. See top seller Sophie Hays at stand 112 on the third-base side for the fries. Officer M. J. Bauler, who patrols the area, likes the fish and chips best.
Don't try the crab cakes ($1.05 per cake). They taste like fried corn-flakes. Same for the fried chicken cake, except there is a faint reminder of chicken.
The pizza can take an intentional walk. One taster described the crust as being made out of wet saltine crackers. But the cold roast beef sandwich is good. The meat is quite rare, thinly sliced and this one is stacked.
Oh well, "take me out to the ball game, take me out with the crowd. Buy me some peanuts and Cracker Jacks. I don't care if I ever come back." Especially if you feed me a Polish dog.