Guest Column - September 2010
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Now Serving Profit-Packed Ideas

By Bethe Ferguson

How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time. The same is true with increasing concession stand profits and beating budgets. One yummy bite at a time can turn budget woes into extra zeroes at the end of your bottom line.

Plus, it's easy to amp up the wow factor without increasing the serving time. Below are a few suggestions to help you get the most from your concession stands.

Take It to the Bleachers

Follow the motto of big ballparks and sell pre-packaged items in the bleachers. Top money-makers are nuts, caramel corn, cotton candy and nachos. Or, get even greater profits by making your own. The freshly made items will create tempting, mouth-watering smells at your main location and help to increase sales.

You can also set up a small satellite location on another level, on the visitors' side of the field/ court, or at another location like an indoor pool. There are numerous battery or gas-operated products on the market from popcorn machines to manual ice shavers for making snow cones.

Frequent Buyer or Discount Programs

Guests are more likely to buy if they think they are getting a special deal. Offer punch cards or alumni discounts (mostly for college-centered facilities). Drive traffic during slow times or to selected booths by taking a tip from stores and host your own "power hours." You can also pack in sports fans early with tailgaters' specials, and play music or a game over your sound system.

Also, if your facility charges for parking and tickets, give your guests a coupon for the concession stands. They'll feel like they are getting their money back, and chances are they will spend much more at the concession stand.

Offer Alternatives

More people are looking for options with their snacking choices and watching their calories. Appeal to a wider range with selections like wraps, smoothies, sugar-free snow cone syrups and more. For example, you can make inventive smoothies that offer a refreshing beverage with natural fruits blended with the health benefits of Rooibos red tea—offering 50 percent more antioxidants than green tea. It's caffeine-free and made with an all-natural sugar. Plus, they're shelf-stable and easy to store.

Be a Trendsetter

Creative twists are easy with concession classics and your current machines. For example, use savory popcorn shakers to spice up traditional fries. Staff, volunteers or the customers can easily add a kick to hot fries with sour cream and chives, garlic parmesan, honey mustard, bacon and cheese, salt and vinegar, or other flavors. Or deliver on taste by adding simple toppings to pre-made cheese pizzas. First, see what you can buy in bulk. Then, consider options like multiple cheeses, artichokes, chicken and broccoli, BBQ sauce and bacon crumbles, etc.

And don't forget the coffee drinks. Everyone from fast food restaurants to convenience stores is jumping on the gourmet coffee bandwagon. Offer both hot and cold options to appeal to the masses. You can easily turn black coffee into a much more expensive flavored frappe with a blender, ice, milk and syrup. Or mix frozen yogurt and iced coffee for a low-fat treat. (For example, an 8-ounce black coffee has only 2 calories and you can find vanilla frozen yogurt with just 75 calories per 3.5-ounce serving.)