Metro-East News

Gioia's Deli pulls out of Busch Stadium deal after service, quality concerns at opener

St. Louis Cardinals players enter Busch Stadium on their annual home opener parade Thursday.
St. Louis Cardinals players enter Busch Stadium on their annual home opener parade Thursday. teschman@bnd.com

Fans of Gioia's Deli will be disappointed to hear that the longstanding St. Louis deli has decided to end its concessions deal with Busch Stadium after problems with quality and service at the Cardinals' home opener Thursday.

Gioia's Deli is a 100-year staple in St. Louis, and it had previously announced that it would sell its hot salami to the operator of a kiosk at Busch Stadium this year. According to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, the operator purchased the salami at wholesale from Gioia's and ran the kiosk without any deli employees. Deli owner Alex Donley said he spent four weeks training the kiosk employees, but "it all went out the window" on Opening Day.

The deli announced in a Facebook post on Friday afternoon that it would be pulling out of the deal due to concerns with both quality and service.

"It was brought to our attention that the service and product quality standards that we adhere to were not met at the home opener," read the statement on the Gioia's Deli Facebook page. "This is something we can't and won't stand for. Sadly, we cannot have 100 percent assurance that our quality standards will be met at the ballpark; therefore, we are not going to allow our brand or products to be sold through that channel."

The specific concerns were not listed in the statement.

"Gioia's is my life - it's my family's life," Donley told St. Louis Magazine. "It's been that way for years. We've worked too hard to compromise the high standards that our customers expect from us."

Rory Schroeder, general manager for St. Louis Sportservice, which operates Busch Stadium concessions, told St. Louis Magazine they were "ill-prepared" and "overwhelmed" by the popularity of the sandwich, which sold out before the first pitch.

"We apologize to the Gioia family and to Cardinals fans," Schroeder told St. Louis Magazine in a statement. "While we are disappointed and would love to have the opportunity to make it right, we understand and respect the Gioia family's decision to pull out of Busch Stadium."

The three-location deli is offering $2 off a sandwich to anyone who brings in a ticket stub from the home opener as compensation.

Elizabeth Donald: 618-239-2507, @BNDedonald
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