Concession Tip November 2017
How New Equipment and Specialty Items Drive Future Success
By: John Gibson, University of North Texas
At its basic level, the top selling food items will always be the staples: Hot Dogs, Nachos and Popcorn. No matter how large and expansive your menu is, these Concessions’ favorites will always lead the charge. However, by offering a limited menu selection, are you losing potential Customers and sales by Customers choosing to purchase from outside vendors or eating elsewhere before or after the game? Through evidence over the past two seasons, I firmly believe that you can increase your operations’ revenue through investing in new equipment and strategically expanding the options available to Customers at the game.
As I transitioned back into Concessions at North Texas during the 2015 football season, I felt that the simpler menu mix offered at the time did not meet the demand and needs of our Customer base. The limited menu did not capitalize on the captive audience available at home football games. Our revenue was capped because fans were choosing to purchase more items from outside vendors, or eating before/after each game. Therefore, I revamped the menu and launched a new Concessions lineup starting with the 2016 Football season. Instead of selling only Hot Dogs, Nachos, Frito Pies, and Cheeseburgers, we were able to offer Brisket Sliders, Brisket Nachos, local Hickory Smoked Sausages, Bratwurst, Jalapeno Cheese Tortilla Wraps, Philly Cheesesteak Sandwiches, Grilled Chicken Sandwiches and Personal Pizzas.
The results spoke for themselves. The average per cap during the 2016 season was $3.63 for our Concessions operation (not including Beer or Vendor sales). The previous per cap high for North Texas Concessions came in 2014 at $3.09, yielding a 17.5% increase when compared with the 2016 season. With the positive Customer feedback, increased revenue and observed sales trends, the North Texas Athletics administration wanted to see further menu growth.
To that end, they invested a significant amount of capital into our Concessions Operation for the 2017 Football season. In addition to the new items sold during the 2016 season, we were able to add fryers to six of our ten Concession Stands, as well as new Condiment Carts throughout the concourse. The fryers now allow us to add Waffle Fries to our menu lineup. We also are able to offer Chicken Tenders to the fans, which I knew would be a huge upgrade.
While the Condiment carts do not translate to direct sales growth, they greatly enhanced the food experience for our fans. Instead of only having Ketchup, Mustard, Relish, and Jalapenos available, fans can now dress up their Burgers, Chicken Strips, and Hickory Smoked Sausages with Diced Onions, Salsa, Ranch, Honey Mustard and Sriracha Sauce.
The feedback from fans and sales growth has been exceptional. Our Concessions Operation per cap for the 2017 Season is over $4.00, and Chicken Strips w/ Waffle Fries has moved into the #2 selling Entree at UNT football games, right behind Hot Dogs. However, the mix of sales between our Specialty Items (Cheeseburgers, variety of Sausages, Philly Cheesesteaks, Grilled Chicken Sandwiches, Brisket Sliders and our new “The Wrecker” Sandwich) has been interesting to analyze. We have sold 63% MORE Specialty Items than actual Hot Dogs this year. In 2016, we sold 47% more Specialty items than actual Hot Dogs. In 2015, Specialty Items sold were actually less than the total number of Hot Dogs sold.
To summarize, the investment in new equipment and menu expansion has significantly enhanced our food service capabilities, revenue and the Customer Experience. Fan feedback has been overwhelmingly positive and our per caps have never been higher. While Concessions will always be about the staple items, strategically adding variety and options to your menu lineup can grow your business.