Problem Solver - August 2008
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Offering Healthier Concession Alternatives

There's no doubt that America has a problem with its waistline. Recent reports from

the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention noted that the overweight population of 45 U.S. states increased last year, with the national number of adults who reported being obese climbing to 25.6 percent, about 54 million people. This is a 1.7 percent increase from 2005.

In addition, obesity affects 25 million U.S. children, with one of every three children either obese or at risk of becoming obese.

We all know the consequences: increased risk of type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, increased risk of stroke, heart attack, certain types of cancer, depression and more.

In a recent hearing on childhood obesity, the Senate Subcommittee on Children and Families took a look at the external factors causing American children to become obese. Chairman Christopher Dodd (D-Conn.) said it's not too hard to find the reasons.

"Junk food is rampant and marketed to kids," he said. "Television has paved the way for kids to have a more sedentary lifestyle. We surround our public schools with soft drink machines and fast food restaurants, which local schools allow because they're so under funded; they turn to corporate sponsors for financial assistance."

Is your concession stand a culprit? If you want to put your recreation or sports facility at the forefront of the fight against obesity, you should take a look at the fare you're serving up to patrons.

Q: We want to offer healthier options for our patrons, but we also want to ensure they can select from a wide range of menu items. What should we consider?

A: By now we all know that eating healthy means getting in our daily requirements for specific vitamins and minerals while avoiding items that are high in fat and calories. Take a close look at your concession, and you may discover many unhealthy items lurking there. But it doesn't have to be this way.

You might consider becoming a franchisee or leasing space to an experienced franchisee of a healthier chain. For example, well-known chains like Subway restaurants are rated high by consumers for providing healthier options.

These types of vendors offer a full menu of choices, including more traditional fare like potato chips and snacks, balanced out with healthy choices like low-fat sandwiches and snacks like apples, raisins and yogurt.

Your patrons will find something to suit their taste. Those looking to indulge can satisfy their hunger with tasty sandwiches, potato chips and soda, while those who are looking for a healthier selection will be able to find items that are low in fat and cholesterol, but rich in nutrients like vitamin C, calcium, iron and fiber.

Q: We don't have a huge budget to spend on our concessions. Won't this require a lot of space and equipment?

A: You certainly don't want to give up much-needed space for recreation to expand your concession stand. But that needn't be a concern. Depending on which retailer you partner with, you can find a franchise concept that requires minimal equipment and space.

Subway, for example, requires very little equipment, and the space requirements for such a franchise are extremely flexible. This has allowed the chain to open restaurants in parks and recreation facilities, on college campuses, in health clubs, at entertainment and tourist destinations and more.

Q: Is it better to become a franchisee or to lease the space to a franchise?

A: The answer to this question will depend on the needs of your facility, as well as your ability to staff and run a franchise. If you want to do away with all of the management headaches of running a concession on your own, consider leasing a space. If you want more control, you should consider becoming a franchisee.

As a first step, you should talk to others who have taken this approach to find out what has worked best for them. Ask what they recommend, find out how they got started, and then speak with the representatives at the chain to determine the best option to suit your facility's needs.

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