The life of a concession vendor

Samantha Guillet and Mara Zenger

Being a concession vendor is not an easy job. It is very physically demanding, and requires certain set of skills that are necessary to thrive and do well in the job. Eric Watkins, a concession vendor in the Bay Area, has come to adopt these skills, learning to make the most of his time so that he can excel in his job.

Watkins first started working as a vendor when he was in seventh grade, and his first job consisted of selling coffee for $0.50 a cup. Working as a vendor was just a means of earning money while in school, but the job gave him lots of field experience and time to gain many useful skills. He has worked at the majority of professional and collegiate venues in the San Francisco Bay Area, including: Stanford, the San Francisco Giants, and the San Jose Earthquakes.

“I am probably one of the few vendors with over 25 years in the business,” Watkins said.

In the beginning, being a vendor was not something he necessarily looked forward to, but the job grew on him, and his outlook soon changed.

“When I first started I didn’t care for the job,” Watkins said “and it has now turned into something that is very fun to do.”

Working as a concession vendor is not Watkins’ only job. He also works in the field of engineering and science, and used the money he earned from concession vending to pay for his college lab and text books while in school.

“Vending has always been a second job for me, and in some years it was a third job” Watkins said.

The work that concession vendors do is not easy, and it takes strength to go out and walk around selling and carrying food. Although working as a vendor is considered a sales job, it is not what one would traditionally picture.

“Vending can be very physically demanding,” Watkins explained. “And with that in mind it is probably the only sales job of its kind … the value of one’s services as a vendor depends on the individual’s experience and sales ability. This is evident when someone new applies for a vending job and can’t make a living … usually because of how physically demanding [the job] can be.”

The money comes only when you are working hard, and if you are not being proactive in trying to sell food then you won’t leave the game with a good amount of money.

“If I want to make money, I can’t and typically don’t watch any of the entertainment when I work,” Watkins said.

The work that concession vendors do is very important to the atmosphere of the game, the fans, and the team. The skills needed in order to do such a job are very crucial to their success, and having those skills helps bring about a better atmosphere at the games.

A concession vendor who works the Stanford Women’s Volleyball Games, and has chosen not to be named, has worked as a vendor for five years. Aside from working as a concession vendor, he works in taxing, and has also learned the skills necessary to be a concession vendor.

“You have to be a people person,” the anonymous vendor said.

According to an article by Serious Eats about ballpark hot dog vendors, the average concessioner will walk 6.5 miles during a game. They will climb about 66 flights of stairs within the first seven innings of the baseball game while carrying around 25 hot dogs in a 16 pound metal box filled with condiments. Vendors at a baseball game are required to show up one hour before the first pitch is thrown. The longer you have been a vendor, the more priority you get when picking which food you want to sell at the game. A little advantage such as picking the food you sell might not seem all that important, but if you were selling Dibs on a cold, rainy day, it would most likely end in you leaving the game with very little money. So, having advantages like those can prove to be very decisive in the amount of money a vendor will leave a game with.

Tim Dickert, the General Manager for Food Services and Hospitality for the San Jose Earthquakes, has seen and understands the critical role concession vendors play in the sports world.

“Concessionaires provide not only food service but guest service to the event, facility, and atmosphere,” Dickert said. “It is crucial that the concessionaire and their staff are welcoming to the guest as well as knowledgeable about the venue and the guests needs.”

Many people may not realize how much of an impact concession vendors have on a game’s atmosphere, but it is important to recognize the valuable service that they provide and understand the skills and work that go into such a job.

“The concessionaire provides valuable customer service, we are the front line of guest service once the guests enter the facility, whether it is through concessions, in-seat dining, suites service, or catering. It is the concessionaire’s job to make the guests feel at home in their facility while they cheer on their team,” Dickert explained.

Working as a vendor at a game takes up a lot of time, especially when they go to overtime.

The amount of time a vendor will have to work can vary. For instance, some volleyball games could go to five sets, while others may only last three, so it is important to take advantage of the limited time in the game.

“Serving the public is very demanding of your time … and job stability is not long term,” Watkins said.

The work concession vendors do is not widely regarded as important, but when one comes to fully understand everything the job entails it is very captivating. The success it can bring to a venue is very great, and the difference it makes to the fans is much bigger than you might realize.

“It is great to see interest in the Concessions side of the events and how it directly affects the guest and the venue,” Dickert said. “Think about any type of event you go to, whether a sporting event, concert … movie, or a party … the one common item is food and beverage. Dining together no matter how intimate or large of a gathering brings people together to celebrate life and enhances the event you are at. The event would not be the same without the opportunity to have food and beverages available to share and talk about during the event.”

It is important to observe and understand the many different jobs and professions there are in the world. Many people may not realize the importance they have right away, but looking and observing different professions more carefully can bring about a greater appreciation for the many different talents others have.