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Making Succesful Concessions

Is it an impulse or a compulsion that makes you want to eat that soft pretzel? Or is it simply the tangy mustard pumped onto it? Displayed food must look its best when laid out for speed and convenience, even for captive audiences at arenas, stadiums and outdoor entertainment venues.

No matter whether concession fare is pretzels, hot dogs, popcorn or other fun foods, items must be held at the proper temperatures and the point of sale lighting should accentuate rather than detract from them. We’d rather look at the food than see the equipment that is holding it. People eat with their eyes first.

Menu board photos can only go so far to whet customers’ appetites and drive demand. An interesting exception to this exists in subway stations in South Korea. There, whole grocery stores are represented graphically and commuters can shop virtually via QR code readers on their cell phones. Here in the States, however, we prefer a less virtual experience during our grazing rituals.

Specialized equipment, such as roller grills, popcorn makers, cotton candy machines, hot food display cabinets and cup and condiment dispensers, along with its selection and layout, plays a key role in maximizing the limited space available in most concession environments.

Panini presses have made the leap “across the pond,” along with gyro machines, orange juice squeezers, cappuccino makers and gelato cases, adding an ethnic flair to even the tiniest of service points.

Hot fudge pumps can push out that tantalizing hot chocolaty goo through heated spouts; cup dispensers can speed service at busy stations. Heated merchandising cabinets, designed to keep foods warm, moist and appealing throughout service periods, help to cut down on waste and drive sales. Grills, fryers, equipment stands, soft serve machines and re-thermalizers all function to speed up the service of concession stands’ tasty treats to waiting (hopefully not too long) fans, concert goers and fair attendees. Napkin, straw and PC organizers function to keep counters neat and clean (able). Although the business opportunities are typically short and/or seasonal, concession stand snack bars can be a lucrative endeavor for owners and operators, and provide convenient pit stops for consumers.

With the possible exception of parkland venues, healthful and sustainable meal options have not been the norm at these grab ‘n go venues. However, salad bar selections, cup and/or frozen yogurt, soups and stews can often all be easily added to the offerings to please today’s more discriminating consumers. Savvy operators will also look to offer whole grain products to satisfy their more health-conscious customers.

Foodservice operators have come to expect big profits from small concession stands. Foodservice equipment and supplies professionals should work to create a seasonal bump in their sales when such stands open up each year.

Appeared in TSRMag

Joe Ferri

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