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Red and Gold and Green: Niners Vegan Fare Makes a Dent 

Tuesday, Aug 19 2014

The debut of the Bay Area's newest football palace with a soccer game was no home run.

Incensed attendees of this month's inaugural Levi's Stadium matchup between the San Jose Earthquakes and Seattle Sounders of Major League Soccer took to the internet to decry the nascent ballpark's Cairo-like auto traffic, Tokyo-like train crowds, and Santa Clara-like location.

The transit nightmare was only marginally improved by Sunday's National Football League opener between the 49ers and Denver Broncos. Thousands of fans left early during a 34-0 drubbing of the home side, leaving logistical questions unanswered.

Consistent with the stadium's concatenation of infrastructure Snafus, fans have complained of interminable food lines for astonishingly priced fare — and diners blocking the flow by standing and eating in the new stadium's cavernous walkways. Also noted were the sparse queues for vegan fare in an arena that claimed to be the most vegan-friendly in all North America.

But, for the Niners, the performance of its vegan offerings has been the silver lining to Levi's Stadium's flawed rollout.

In that inaugural soccer match, only one food purchase out of every 20 — 5 percent — was of the vegan variety. But, says Diana Evans, the communications manager of catering giant Centerplate, the team was only anticipating one of every 50 food sales to go vegan (2 percent). So, she says, 5 percent is a success. And, befitting a vegetable, it figures to grow.

Food sales for Sunday's contest haven't yet been tabulated (and the team, unlike McDonald's, declines to quantify the exact number of items it sells). But proportional sales were, purportedly, similar. And football attendees may, counterintuitively, be more receptive to vegan fare than soccer attendees. MLS crowds, Evans says, tend to be more family-centric, leading to sales of stuff you'd share with your spouse and 2.5 children: ice cream, candies, and the like. Football crowds, she continues, tend to focus on the brats and the beer. After enough beers, the origin of the brat may not matter — especially if the vegan concession lines are shorter.

Finally, confirming a conservative talking point, at Levi's Stadium you can be rendered a vegan without even knowing it. The garlic fries are, technically, a vegan offering. But they're tasty enough that nobody thought to market them that way.


About The Author

Joe Eskenazi

Joe Eskenazi

Joe Eskenazi was born in San Francisco, raised in the Bay Area, and attended U.C. Berkeley. He never left. "Your humble narrator" was a staff writer and columnist for SF Weekly from 2007 to 2015. He resides in the Excelsior with his wife, 4.3 miles from his birthplace and 5,474 from hers.


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