I Was a Super Bowl Concession Worker

Last Sunday, Super Bowl 50 descended upon Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, California. At Slate, freelance journalist Gabriel Thompson describes game day from the perspective of a worker in one of the stadium’s upscale food courts, where he earned less than $13 an hour to serve $13 beers.

It doesn’t take long to realize that the Chrome Grill, which functioned perfectly well for sparsely attended 49ers games, is not quite ready for the Super Bowl and its crowd of 71,000. Our cooks, three temps who earn $10 an hour for typical Levi’s Stadium events, but $15 an hour for the Super Bowl, are cranking out food. Still the lines keep growing. It doesn’t help that the fancy new registers tend to freeze up, or that we sell out of the jumbo dogs an hour before kickoff, which means that we have to waste precious time absorbing complaints. “At the Super Bowl?” one lady asks. “No hot dogs? You have got to be kidding.” I apologize—as sincerely as possible, given the circumstances—but she just stands there, unconvinced. When I pull off the lid of the hot dog container to reveal greasy water, she stomps off.

“The system is not working,” says Khalid Subainati. A jack-of-all-trades at the Chrome Grill, Kal usually works as an expeditor, but today he’s spending much of his time serving as a buffer between angry customers and us, as well as trying to get the registers to work. I’m totally absorbed in slapping pizza slices onto plates while trying to keep five orders straight in my head. Relief finally comes in the form of the national anthem, performed by Lady Gaga. Ticket-holders rush to their seats, which gives us a moment to collect ourselves. “Shit,” says Joshua. I nod. For weeks, our Centerplate supervisors have reminded us about the importance of today, when we’ll put “Fans First!” to “create excitement and lifetime memories at America’s greatest event.” That’s not where this day seems to be headed.

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