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$20 banh mi: Australian Open snack prices spark debate

Many have defended the cost of food at the Australian Open.

Banh mi prices at the Australian Open
Some Australian Open attendees were shocked by the price of Vietnamese banh mi at the event. (Source: Reddit/RedOx103)

A spectator at the Australian Open has sparked debate after revealing the price of banh mi sold at the event.

Posting on Reddit's Melbourne community page, the diner shared an image of the courtside menu for Vietnamese food vendor Ca Com, which includes a selection of banh mi priced between $18 and $20.

The photo, captioned "more like the UnAustralian Open", kicked off a discussion about whether $20 for a baguette is a reasonable cost. While some baulked at the idea of spending so much, the majority of responders pointed out that the high price of snacks at sporting events shouldn't be blamed on vendors but rather on the venues themselves.

"Not going to pretend that price isn't egregious," commented one user, "but I'm sure AO is milking those vendors hard for the real estate too, and banh mi profit margins aren't exactly huge."

Others agreed that food vendors would have little choice but to mark up their prices to cover the venue commission and the cost of renting space at the event.

Others argued that the Ca Com pricing at the Australian Open wasn't far off what they charged at their store in Richmond.

"Ca Com do 'boutique' banh mi," one Redditor explained. "They're around $15-16 at their Richmond location. $18-20 at the AO isn't unreasonable considering every other food/drink is also jacked up there."

Another added: "The pork belly's $18 at their store. Less of a mark-up than I'd expect, honestly."

Criticism racially motivated?

One responder went so far as to suggest an undertone of racism in the post, asking, "Why shouldn't it be $20? If it's on par with how much a Reuben sandwich would cost at the same event, why is it such an outrage that Asian food costs this much?"

Famed for their banh mi, Ca Com's owners are behind the recently closed fine-dining Vietnamese restaurant Anchovy. Ca Com started as a pop-up store during the COVID-19 pandemic, before becoming a local favourite and joining the food line-up at the Australian Open for the first time in 2023.

Appearing on the SBS podcast Bad Taste last June to address misconceptions about the value of Vietnamese food, Ca Com co-owner Thi Le explained that their prices were higher than some customers expected in order to compete with other local sandwich businesses and because everything was made from scratch, including processing meat from whole animals.

It takes a labour-intensive 48 hours to produce all the ingredients for their popular Jungle Curry Pork Sausage banh mi, which is usually priced at $14.

Tennis Australia responds

While dining at the Australian Open can be expensive, the food at the event has become famously celebrated in recent times, with celebrity chefs such as Neil Perry and Nobu Matsuhisa changing the scope of stadium dining. This year's catering line-up has focused on cultural diversity, putting the spotlight on Melbourne's up-and-coming chefs and restaurants.

A spokesperson from Tennis Australia told Yahoo Finance there were food options to accommodate a range of budgets at Australian Open venues, much of which was available for the same price as last year.

"The AO is holding the price of some of the most popular mainstream food and drink items, including water, soft drinks, chips to 2022 levels. Additionally, family-friendly offerings - including $10 kids packs - will join the inaugural AO signature soft-serve, Peach Melbourne, priced at only $6. These value packs will be available in over seven outlets across Melbourne Park. Patrons are also welcome to bring in their own food and drink on site."

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