Feature Article - April 2003
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True Concessions

The real-life story behind how recreational facilities can improve food services, cut costs and increase profits, from snack bars to full-fledged restaurants

By Stacy St. Clair


Food to go

Another option is a concession trailer. Mobile facilities allow park managers to provide concessions—and make money—during big events such as festivals and tournaments. At the same time, they do not burden officials with the expense and upkeep of a permanent facility.

PHOTO COURTESY OF JOHN UHL, CENTURY INDUSTRIES
Portable concession buildings are not necessarily
boring boxes. They can be interesting, fun and
inviting.

The trailers easily are cleaned with a hose and locked up. They also deter vandalism because they're used seasonally, then removed.

"The structures most vulnerable to vandalism are the ones that are abandoned and look like they're falling apart," Bob Uhl, an engineer with a national trailer manufacturer. "That's the real beauty of the trailer. You don't leave it out there in off-season."

Some trailers also have windows near the cash register to show would-be thieves there's nothing to steal. Uhl suggests leaving the empty cash drawer open each night to further enforce the point.

So, now as you turn your attention back toward the grill, let's review what we've learned: With a little creativity—thinking outside both the bun and the box—your concession stand can be a profitable venture.

And, of course, you'll be providing an important service to patrons.

"Because let's face it," Uhl says, "a game always tastes better with a hot dog."


Faster Food

When it comes to concession stands, size truly does matter.

PHOTO COURTESY OF GERALYN NOVOTNY
Nothing beats a good old-fashioned
hot dog at a ball game.

For years, consumers accepted the long lines at ball parks and ice rinks. Missing three innings to buy a polish sausage was the price fans begrudgingly accepted.

Those days, however, are over. Today's customers expect prompt, courteous service—just as if they were in a fast-food restaurant.

"The biggest mistake people make is undersizing their concession stand," says Chris Bigelow, president The Bigelow Companies, a food service consulting firm in Kansas City, Mo.

The optimum number of concession stands varies from facility to facility. In a minor-league stadium, experts recommend one stand for every 175 seats. A major-league ballpark, meanwhile, needs a concession for every to 125 to 155 seats.

Skating arenas sometimes have as many as one for every 100 spectators.

Regardless of the ratio, the key is to ensure your lines are moving swiftly and customers get back to their seats as soon as possible.

"Nobody should have to wait three innings for a hot dog," Bigelow says. "They'll leave the line before they wait that long."