There's been no escape from news reports about the recession lately, but just because the news is filled with economic doom and gloom, that doesn't mean you need to give in and give up on profit potential for your recreation business or facility. Opening a concession—or boosting the profits at your existing one—is fairly simple, with a relatively low up-front cost. And with more people having fun at home on "staycations" instead of spending on extravagant travel, you'll be able to offer them more value for their local entertainment dollar when you provide fun foods at a reasonable cost.
Q: We'd like to add a concession to our facility to offer kids and their parents fun refreshments during games and practices. How can we get started?
A: First, keep these two rules in mind: Keep it simple, and make it quick. You don't need a menu with 100 items to please your patrons. Start with a small number of items. It will be easier for your staff to handle, and your customers won't be overwhelmed with too many choices. You can add items or flavors as you build your success.
You also want to make sure you offer fun foods that are quick and easy to prepare. You don't want your customers waiting around for their order to be filled. Start out small with simple-to-prepare items like popcorn, then add items like pre-packaged caramel corn and more.
The items that are most likely to sell (and are least likely to produce any competition from the burger joint down the road) include popcorn, cotton candy, shave ice, corn dogs, shelf-stable pretzels and so on. For a relatively small investment, you can have a popcorn popper and shave ice machine, then add to your lineup over time.
Q: We run a concession stand at the park, but aren't attracting a lot of attention. How can we draw more people to our concession?
A: Fun foods like popcorn, pretzels, cotton candy and so forth will draw people and help you stand out. They stir attention and create great word-of-mouth advertising. Often the containers you serve your items in will serve as advertisements for other patrons at the site, letting them know that there are tasty treats nearby.
In addition, you should ensure you have a good location that is easy for patrons to see and simple for them to get to. Put up eye-catching posters, use supplies that create excitement, and set up displays that make a statement about the fun foods you offer.
You can create even more buzz by popping fresh corn during busy times or offering specials at certain times of the day to draw patrons in.
Q: We currently sell popcorn and soda at our concession, but would like to expand to other options. What are some ideas?
A: For less than $1,000, you could add a cotton candy machine or a snow-cone ice shaver. One weekend of highly attended games or events could be all you need to pay off the machine. If you want to keep your sales rolling during cooler seasons, consider offering items like cinnamon pretzels and hot chocolate. If your sports facility hosts early morning practices for the local little league and other teams, you could add coffee and donuts, which will be sure to attract parents as they arrive with their kids.
Q: How can we boost our profits on what we already offer without adding more machines?
A: Add flavors to your existing products, and you automatically expand your menu without expanding your need for storage or counter space for more machines. You can add flavorings to popcorn such as caramel corn or cheese. Or you can add sour mixes to your snow cones to increase the different flavor options available.
Also, don't underestimate the power of words. "Snow cones" typically sell for about a buck, but if you market "Shave Ice," you can boost your profit potential, as people place a higher value on the product.