New menu: Stadium food gets upgrade

If the action being served up on the pitch leaves a bit to be desired, sports fans will at least be able to take comfort from a better standard of food at Westpac Stadium.

Pasta and meatballs, fried rice, and beef on Yorkshire puddings will be among new temptations competing with pies and hotdogs to satisfy the cravings of sports fans in a catering revamp being unveiled next month.

Other menu items will include chicken fillet burgers, burritos, pulled pork sandwiches and steak sandwiches.

Stadium chief executive Shane Harmon said all the new items could be eaten in stadium seats, and all would be priced below $10.

They will be available from mid-April, when the new mezzanine lounge opens, and some items - such as the pulled pork and steak sandwiches - would be cooked to order from new food carts placed around the concourse.

But the "standard footy food" of chips, pies, burgers and hotdogs would also be staying, he said. The aim was to offer more options. "There is a higher level of expectation in Wellington. We do have quite a foodie culture."

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The stadium came under fire last month for dishing up food the public labelled "poor quality" and "overpriced".

Mr Harmon said the decision to introduce new items had nothing to do with that feedback, and was part of a long-term strategy. "It's exclusively about improving the fan experience."

He had been taste-testing the dishes, and particularly recommended the fried rice and the chicken fillet burger.

Beef on Yorkshire pudding was sold at Beervana last year, and was the top-selling food item, with 81 kilograms of beef eaten.

The stadium would monitor the popularity and reaction to the various items and adjust the menu accordingly, Mr Harmon said. "It's food that we felt offered a wide variety, good value, but also was capable of being eaten in the hand . . . It's not going to be difficult to eat in a sporting environment."

All the food will be prepared by stadium caterers Spotless Services.

The new menu was welcomed by Guy Smith, of Phoenix supporters group Yellow Fever - "I can't go past a pulled pork roll." Less than $10 was the right price and a revamp of the offerings was overdue, he said. "Most of the fare that is currently on offer is pretty unpalatable, to be honest."

Success would depend on portion sizes and queue lengths when hungry crowds descended at half-time, particularly when the cooking was done to order, he said.

Phoenix co-owner Gareth Morgan said the changes looked great, but he was sceptical that footy fans would stray far from chips and hotdogs. "They've tried sort-of-healthy options and people haven't gone with that - they've stuck with the chips."

Price and quality were the main concerns for fans, and the best way to improve that was to allow different food providers to compete, he said. "That would be a better model."

Mr Harmon said the stadium was also rolling out "wet pour" beer taps to replace bottles, meaning a wider variety of beers could be sold.

The Dominion Post