Don’t expect to dine on pedestrian stadium-style eats at San Francisco’s new $1.6 billion Chase Center, built on 10-plus acres in Mission Bay. Home court for the Golden State Warriors, the arena seats 18,500 and has 37 outlets to serve patrons freshly cooked and seasonal items along with craft brews, intricate cocktails and California wines. Hot dogs are gourmet choice all-beef from Chicago’s Eisenberg; popcorn is artisanal caramel from Berkeley’s CC Made; and beer selections include smaller local craft brewers — the East Bay’s Drake’s Brewing Co. and San Francisco’s own Triple Voodoo Brewery.
Chase Center is likely the only NBA arena with sake flights — made locally by Sequoia Brewery.
Management, including co-chairman Peter Guber, took a food-forward approach at the venue, financing nine production kitchen build-outs — instead of the typical one or two — despite the sports and entertainment venue’s captive audience.
“In the Bay Area and San Francisco, in particular, the bar is set pretty high for expectations for food and beverage,” says Rick Welts, the Warriors president and chief operating officer. “We decided to meet and exceed those standards.”
From day one of planning, the intent was to change the game experience of Warriors fans. At the NBA team’s former home at the Oakland Arena, “the 19,500 fans were served by one kitchen, which did not lend itself to the quality presentation we aspired to,” says Welts.
The concession stands at the Chase Center operate as independent restaurants. Cooking is done at the point-of-sale rather than transported from a central kitchen. There are real woks, grill flattops and ovens that are in
view and use.
“You can execute differently and serve a la minute, fresh cooking, where the quality is clearly seen,” says Mark Jeffers, culinary director of Bon Appetit at Chase Center, the catering and restaurant firm on board. Bon Appetit Management Co. also feeds Google and Los Angeles Getty Center patrons.
“San Francisco has the most food-educated customers in the country,” says Jeffers. Inside and out of the arena, the goal is to offer a true San Francisco dining experience. To that end, the firm reached out to local vendors to operate the Taste Maker eateries — smaller stands within the venue. Oakland’s Bakesale Betty has already averaged 700 fried chicken sandwiches per game; fans of Half Moon Bay’s Sam’s Chowder House opt for the clam chowder and lobster rolls. Tony G’s slice shops created special Sicilian focaccia dough for the location, powering through 1,200 pounds per game.
“Programming for food and beverage is a constant evolution,” says Jeffers, noting that menus will change with the season and fan requests. “Our volume, size, infrastructure and staffing allows us to be unique.”
Each concession stand has four to five specialty items curated specifically for that space and cooking equipment. Premium spaces, with private buffets and courtside dining, have changing selections from sushi, artisan-made salumi and Acme bread to cabernet-braised short ribs.
A substantial 600 to 800 staff work per event and game days, including 150 cooks. Surrounding the arena is the Kaiser Permanente-branded Thrive City, where a Michael Mina food hall, Tyler Florence steakhouse and popular hamburger outlet Gott’s Roadside will open in the coming months, along with the Mission Bay wine bar.
The odds are nil of finding Stephen Curry or Klay Thompson wandering Chase Center’s upper concourses in search of snacks: the Warriors’ players have their own dedicated kitchen and Bon Appetit catering chef within their deluxe players’ campus. Because the Warriors are now in the sports and entertainment business — on off-game nights Chase Center transforms into a concert venue where Elton John, Andrea Bocelli and Metallica have already performed. Welts notes, “With such diverse crowds, we have to appeal to a very wide range of tastes.”