As mobile ordering becomes the new status quote, concession menus are changing, too.
Delivery and pickup have not only changed how people pay for and get their food, but also changed customer expectations. As people get increasingly comfortable with digital ordering, payment and all the other features that come with mobile ordering, safety and convenience have become the new “must-haves”.
That means concession menus also need to follow the new safety and convenience standards. New practices such as heather food options, grab-and-go packages, customizable combos and pre-ordering are just some of the signs showing how innovative and resilient the foodservice industry can be.
In this blog, we want to highlight some key recommendations that have proven to work their magic despite social distancing, so that foodservice operations at stadiums, arenas, event centers and schools can continue providing a great customer experience during these unprecedented times.
1. Pre-packaged snacks are the new favorites.
Pre-packaged concession items are not only easy crowd pleasers but also high profit margin options. As awareness around physical interactions and people touching food becomes heightened these days, packaged snacks could be the solution you’re looking for.
First of all, they’re convenient — for both the staff and customers. There’s no prep work involved, and even staff with minimal skills can serve the customers. As with most packaged snacks, you can also stock them up in large quantities without worrying about expiration. You don’t need specialized equipment for cooking before serving them, either. That means your speed of service is likely faster, too. All you have to do is bagging the food and they’ll be ready to go in no time. That reduces lines and allows customers to get back to their seats quickly. Shorter lines also means more customers served — therefore more profits for you.
Of course, they’re more hygienic and safe for the customers. Since these snacks are ready to be consumed right away, no staff or servers would be touching the food. With fewer people touching the food, customers will likely have greater peace of mind when eating in public, too.
You can also save more costs selling packaged snacks. For freshly prepared food, leftovers at the end of the day means wasted money. With prepackaged snacks, you can store them for the next event since they tend to have longer shelf life. That’s going to put less strain on your bottom line.
What are so many popular crowd pleasers that happen to be pre-packaged snacks. The best-seller on the FanFood platform is actually pretzel with a side of cheese, which you can easily offer with Meister Bake® pretzels. Simply warm the pretzels and serve with chess or mustard, or right from the package.
Other popular options include Nachos and Cheese — but without the need for a messy slow cooker. Use portion Pak cups and single serve cheeses to avoid the mess and effort. You can also offer pre-bagged bulk chips. Cotton candy is another obvious choice. You can purchase packaged cotton candy to sell, or make your own in advance. As long as you store it in airtight bags and in low humidity, cotton candy can last for several days.
Another easy option is popcorn. You can either order bulk packaged popcorn, or pop them ahead of time, and split them into smaller bags in advance. Candies are actually another great option. We’ve seen candy sales at drive-in theaters nearly double in 2020, especially among popular brands like M&M’s, Skittles and Milky Way. Another sweet option is fudge. With a longer shelf life than other baked goods, fudge makes for great concession dessert items if you prepare a batch ahead of time, and package it in plastic containers.
2. Offer customizable combo items to increase menu variety.
If you’re limited to the number of items you can offer at your concession stand, especially due to COVID-19 restrictions, or limited inventory due to smaller turnouts, there’s another creative way of increasing menus variety while letting customers feel that they’re getting a great deal — offer combo items. This is a quick and easy way to refresh the look of your menu and inject excitement into your usual line of product offerings without shaking up your entire operation and supplies.
One important thing to note with introducing combos is to make it fun and relatable. FanFood recently conducted a test with Mars Wrigley confectionery to understand how much combos affect people’s concessions purchase behaviors, and the findings were absolutely astounding. Combos with fun and friendly names such as “The Fam Bam”, “The Dynamic Duo” or “Sweets to Share” drastically outperformed the more conventional combo names like “Combo 1”, “Popcorn Combo” etc. In addition, having fun combo descriptions instead of standard descriptors such as “Choose your snacks and drinks”. Menu images also made a huge difference. If you can upload accurate product images with a call-out banner such as “NEW” or “PROMO”, that can led to an increase in product sales of 76%!
If that’s not enough reason for you to introduce combos in your menus, consider this: within one week of introducing new combo items, we saw 180.25% increase in the sales of products included in the combos; 12.75% increase in average order value; and 33.16% of all customers purchased a new product they had never purchased before — simply because it was included in the combo.
Moreover, customers were really surprised and pleased with the creative new combo offerings. The raving reviews encouraged our partners to continue making combos part of their standard concession menu.
3. Hot meals to go, but in containers.
Snacks are great, but sometimes you also might want to cater hot meals and main courses for a better guest experience, perhaps especially for your VIP guests, premium seating customers and suite guests. The usual practice of laying out a full on buffet might raise more concerns in a post pandemic world. As a result, pre-packaged meals would be the way to go.
Particularly for premium suite meal ordering, we’ve built an easy online ordering platform for venues to take pre-ordering for suites and events. Guests can easily select events, view all menu options, enter quantities and check out all by themselves. To learn more about our premium suite ordering solution, you can visit the page here.
Be it for general concession stands or catering for suites and events, hot meals menus are also evolving to include healthier ingredients, vegetarian options, better allergen labeling and more local culture representation. Below are some examples we’ve found to serve as inspirations:
Missouri University of Science and Technology (Vegetarian Chili Mac and Hoison Salmon):
University of Texas at Dallas (Grilled Vege Bowl; Shrimp n’ Grits Bowl):
Nova Southeastern University (Gluten-Free Bowls):
Convenient, grab-n-go hot meals in foil containers:
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