Problem Solver - August 2008
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Offering Something for Everyone at Your Concession

Most concessions offer a nice variety of treats and snacks for visitors, but if you're looking to boost your patronage—and your profits—there may be room for improvement. With patrons' changing dietary needs and with changing trends, your concession business may need an upgrade.

Q: What kind of snacks should I provide at my concession?

A: Top sellers will always be traditional items like hot dogs, popcorn, funnel cakes, caramel corn, pretzels, nachos and cotton candy. If you want to expand your sales, you should consider how to reach those who are concerned about their waistline. Shaved ice and snow cones are excellent fat-free alternatives to more traditional concession items. For vegetarians, promote popcorn, nachos, pretzels and caramel apples.

Another great option is to add a sour flavoring to your snow cone, shaved ice, lemonade or other beverages. Sour flavorings continue to be popular with children and teenagers, and can create a surprising treat when layered with some of the sweeter syrups.

Q: How can I attract more attention to my concession stand?

A: Draw customers to your stand by placing popcorn poppers, hot dog cookers/cradles and a display case up front. It's visually appealing, and the aroma of delicious, fresh food is enticing. Large decals on the popper, neon signs and a silk-screened plastic dome will also add visual appeal to your concession area.

If your stand is located at a sports arena or baseball field, adding the team's colors and logo is a great way to support the home team. Also, see if there is any way to take advantage of scoreboard space to further advertise your offerings.

Q: What is the best way to increase business and build my profits?

A: There are simple steps you can take to expand your profits. Adding different sizes to your menu or providing more flavor options is an easy way to offer more variety, without creating problems for staff and storage.

Instead of just popping regular popcorn, consider adding cheese or savory and caramel flavors. This is a great way to diversify your menu.

Before you add these options, ask yourself: Will the new items affect the sales of other items on the menu? What are the inventory requirements? Is the maintenance requirement on my equipment low? What are the inventory requirements? Popcorn machines and ice shavers have a low operating cost and generate big profits.

Q: What type of equipment is available and what should I be looking for?

A: Snow cone and shaved ice machines are easy to maintain and usually come with stainless steel blades that will shave tons of ice and stay sharp. Shavers will be cost-effective for concession stands whether used for schools, park districts or sporting venues.

Popcorn machines come in a wide variety, and most range in size from a 4-ounce to a 52-ounce kettle. These machines can come with glass etching, neon signs, strip heaters or forced air crispers, and are made in a fixed position or cart design. Double drink dispensers can be an attractive option, as well as an enclosed chip merchandiser/nacho cheese machine.

Q: What are some newer items or trends in the concession business?

A: Many concession stands are now offering sandwiches and pizzas, creating an option for those who opt out of more traditional items like hamburgers and hot dogs. The simple addition of a toaster oven will allow you to serve such snacks, too.

Smoothies are also a healthy and popular option that is easy to make without expensive equipment.

Gold Medal Products Co.: