Orioles end long relationship with Camden Yards food vendor

Team parts with Aramark, in talks with unnamed company

October 05, 2010|By Gus G. Sentementes, The Baltimore Sun

Aramark Corp. has been serving ballpark fare at Camden Yards since the stadium opened in 1992. But next year, the Baltimore Orioles will break their long-standing relationship with one of the country's largest food service operators and go with a new concessionaire.

Last month, Aramark warned state regulators that it could lay off more than 600 employees if its food and retail service contract with the Orioles was not renewed. On Tuesday, Greg Bader, an Orioles spokesman, confirmed that the team would not renew Aramark's contract for next year and that the team was in talks with another vendor.

"We're currently negotiating with a concessionaire of national significance," Bader said.

He declined to name the company because a contract has not been signed.

In recent years, Aramark worked with the Orioles to revamp the stadium menu. The ballpark started offering gluten-free food as well as local fare, such as cuisine from Attman's deli. Three years ago, Aramark said it would no longer use trans-fat cooking oils.

Aramark and the Orioles also introduced club-level seats with all-you-can-eat menus. Fans could stuff themselves with hot dogs, peanuts, popcorn, nachos, garden salads, ice cream and soda — starting at $40 per ticket. Aramark also operated the Orioles' souvenir store at the park.

"We are proud of our successful 19-year partnership with the Orioles and our strong record of enhancing the fan experience with outstanding food, beverage and retail merchandise programs, and we hope to have an opportunity to partner with the team once again in the future," said David Freireich, an Aramark spokesman.

Aramark, which is based in Philadelphia and employs 255,000 workers, had revenue of $12.3 billion and posted a loss of $6.9 million last year.

The company has more than 40 concession contracts with teams from Major League Baseball, the National Basketball Association, the National Hockey League and the National Football League, including a deal for food service for the Ravens at M&T Bank Stadium, according to its website.

For food service workers at Camden Yards, the change from Aramark to another vendor will not necessarily mean the loss of a job. The Orioles have said that current Aramark workers would likely be offered jobs by a new concessionaire.

The Maryland Stadium Authority, which owns Camden Yards, is involved in contract negotiations with the potential new food service vendor, according to Michael J. Frenz, the authority's executive director. He declined to name the company.

Frenz said the authority had the right of approval of any new contract, and also negotiates with the vendor for nongame catering at the stadium. Frenz said the authority saw declining revenue over the past three years for events catered by Aramark. In 2007, nongame catered events brought the state $300,000, while last year that number had dropped by half, Frenz said.

Frenz said the authority had been pleased with Aramark and that he did not know why the Orioles chose not to go with the company next year.

"We've been happy with them," Frenz said. "[The Orioles] have their process. I suspect they will tell you they were happy with Aramark, too."

gus.sentementes@baltsun.com

twitter.com/gussent

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