Foodservice & Concessions

Make Dollars and Sense Out of Concessions

By Bethe Ferguson

Every business is looking for the "magic bullet" to entice customers to spend more money, especially in current economic times. Concession foods still remain one of the best ways to make a big impact for the recreation industry. They can boost revenue, encourage families to stay longer and return more often, and set you apart from other local entertainment options.

So, what do you do after you've chosen the right concession products for your market? Next, and equally important, is to market them to get noticed. Marketing ahead of time, onsite and after the purchase will increase your sales and let your employees work more efficiently. Here are some ideas for your concession stand, but many will also translate into marketing the recreation facility in general.

Direct Mail

The biggest challenge of direct mail is starting with a quality, targeted list. More than 40 million Americans change their address annually, and those are just the ones who register the moves. Persuade guests to provide up-to-date information with contests or surveys at the site, through e-mail and through Facebook or other social media sites. Use prizes that bring them back for another visit (e.g., discounts on concession items, memberships or recognition in newsletters). Plus, don't forget outside options like mail list companies and the USPS's National Change of Address programs to save money on postage, printing and returned mail.

Once you have quality lists, be sure to keep your guests interested and paying attention to their mail. Send coupons, event notices and deals. Try to segment your list and send tailored mail pieces. Guests will pay more attention and respond better when they feel a connection to a deal or item.

In the News

A positive story or customer testimonial is one of the best, free ways to get in front of customers. Local newspapers are often hungry for topics, but be sure to stay on the side of news and not just a blatant advertisement for your company. Examples of "press worthy" stories are:

  • Promotions and awards
  • Story with fun facts or interesting historical points
  • Anniversaries or milestones
  • New programs
  • Anything that is free
  • New-to-your-community events

Your next step is to ensure there is a catchy headline and your first few sentences entice the reporter. Also, try to have a contact rather than a general e-mail to ensure it is read and gets to the right person. Lastly, many reporters now prefer press releases through e-mail, so be sure the subject line piques interest and doesn't wind up in a spam filter.

Create a Photo Sharing Page

Your current customers are your best, free advertisements. Ask families to upload photographs on your Web site or Facebook page. Create categories like "Your Favorite Snack Time Treat" that feature guests enjoying your concession products. Everyone loves to share their fun, family experiences, and it will introduce their friends to your facility.

Then, you can take a page from other big-name companies and hold a competition for a new poster child/family to display at your snack bar and in promotions. Just look at Gerber's recent Facebook campaign: The ongoing competition has more than 156,000 entries. Now, think about all the countless impressions Gerber will get on top of that as families post it to their friends, and family/friends are encouraged to vote once a day.

Bring Customers to the Stands

Once your guests are at the facility, marketing becomes more about encouraging them to buy more through attractive advertisements and offers. Try sampling during peak hours. It's a small investment, thanks to the low food costs of most fun foods, yet it has a big payoff.

Create flashy advertisements that also appeal to children and teens. Mascots, bright colors and guest photos ease people into the sale and emphasize the fun in fun foods. And remember, people often spend with their eyes, so be sure to include yummy photos of your food.

You can also add fresh twists on concession classics. For example, top ice cream sundaes with caramel corn, try new chocolate caramel apple dip that has zero trans fats, add ice cream to create slush floats, or kick up the heat by adding a hot flavor additive to popcorn or frosted nuts.

Lastly, encourage repeat business by giving away coupons for the next purchase. This can be a discount or a buy-one-get-one-free deal.

Get Social to Sell

Social media is an unexplored frontier in many ways. It holds countless possibilities for marketing your concessions and facility, and the potential is only limited by the time and soft costs you want to devote to it.

The first step is knowing your audience and giving them what they want in a format they like. Some of the top, free ways to "listen in" on how people perceive your facility are listed below. These services are also valuable tools for tracking marketing campaign effectiveness.

  • Google Alerts: Set up search queries for keywords to track any mentions of your stadium name, services or Web site.
  • RSS Reader: This Really Simple Syndication reader is a group of Web feeds used to track items like blogs, headlines, and audio and video files.
  • Polls and Surveys: Real-time feedback translates into better, targeted sales. Post these on your Web site, Facebook and Twitter pages, and send out through e-mails and e-newsletters.
  • It's similar to Google Alerts, but specifically for social media.
  • Monitor Twitter: or are great ways to search Twitter keywords or phrases.
  • Google Analytics: Track your Web site campaigns with advertising ROI (return on investment), cross channel and multimedia tracking, and sharing of real-time data.
Social Media Marketing Suggestions
  • Freebies are fabulous: You'll encourage likes, re-Tweets and forwards.
  • Blog to be heard: Blogs are a social medium and shouldn't have any overt selling in them. They will engage your community, link back to your Web site, and improve your SEO (search engine optimization).
  • Offer "carrots" for bigger payoffs: People are willing to let you into their lives and buying habits, but you need to reward them and slowly ease into it. Plus, the bigger the prize, the more you will get from them.
  • Special, limited-time-only codes: Build hype, give rewards and increase your reach with codes that enter customers into a raffle.
  • QR Codes on Signage: QR or quick reference codes are simple squares, similar to barcodes, people scan with their smart devices to lead them to a Web page or document. They're perfect for mailings, coupons near concession stands, and facts near displays or trails. Plus, they'll make people pause at the advertisements. Create them for free at, or

Again, concessions are the way to increase profits and create a destination feel for your guests. Having the right products in place is only half the battle. You can make dollars and sense out of concessions with well thought out marketing tactics. Not only will you see your concession stand sales soar, your guests will be tuned into your facility and think of it first for an entertainment option.


Bethe Ferguson is marketing communications coordinator for Gold Medal Products, based in Cincinnati, Ohio. To learn more, visit

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