I’ve been hearing all about how the famously atrocious (though some beg to differ) box lunches served at WWDC for the past several years probably cost about $40 each. The discussion on the Accidental Tech Podcast is based on a 2010 article, cited by David Carlton on Twitter, in which the Game Developer Conference organizer Meggan Scavio explains that she would offer a $200 cheaper ticket for folks who wanted to opt out of lunch.
Conventional wisdom suggests that in venues like Moscone West, companies like Apple are forced to use the in-house caterers, and thus required to put up not only with the quality of the food that is offered, but with the price as well. I decided to do some shallow digging, and confirmed that Moscone West does in fact forbid exhibitors from bringing in their own food and drink. In fact the Catering FAQ for the exclusive caterer, Savor SMG, consists of just one question:
May we bring in our own food and beverage booth give-aways? i.e., espresso, candy bars, bottled water?
Savor SMG is the exclusive provider of all food and beverage for the Moscone Center and is pleased to be able to work with all requests. Please contact your Catering Exhibitor Sales Manager for all requests.
As for the price, is it really $40? Savor SMG’s 2017 menu confirms that the price is in the right ballpark. The “Executive Box Lunch” is $39.25 and sounds about like what I remember from WWDC:
Four compartment. Includes compostable service. 25 guest minimum.
Sandwich, wrap or entrée salad includes a choice of side salad, dessert and fruit.
To accompany your box lunches, we suggest adding assorted soft drinks and bottled water.
Soft drinks and water are not included. A 22% service fee, as well as sales tax (almost 10%), are also added to the price. So that $39.25 box lunch comes to around $52 before beverages. On Accidental Tech Podcast they suggested it was probably more than $40 by now, and it sounds like they are right.
Want to really lose your lunch? Each bottled water is $5.25, coming to $7.00 after service and taxes. And Marco’s long lost Strawberry C Monster Odwalla (“Assorted Juices”) would set Apple back around $8 a bottle. Add it all up and it’s not hard to imagine meals and snacks coming to $100 a day, or $500 for the week, per person. Nearly a third of the $1600 WWDC admission fee likely pays for food.
In San Jose, Apple will be free from the rigorous Moscone West catering restrictions, but will have to contend with another exclusive caterer in TeamSanJose. They also add a flat 22% service fee, as well as sales tax (8.75%). I don’t know how their box lunches compare, but the good news is the “Gourmet Box Lunch” comes in at only $22.00. “Mineral Waters, Soft Drinks, Juices and Bottled Water” are all a mere $4.50 each. These savings multiplied over 5000 or more staff and attendees should work out to a substantial savings for Apple.