December 9, 2022
Concessions are a major revenue source for sports complexes. From funding facility enhancements to covering referee fees, the impact of strong concession sales cannot be understated.
Running a profitable sports complex concession stand requires both 1) having a strong grasp on your cash flows, and 2) identifying the external factors which affect your operation. With one in three Americans no longer using cash, it's no secret that customer expectations have shifted dramatically in the past two years.
Going into this sports season, you may be wondering, how should we be serving our customers? What role should contactless initiatives play for our concessions in 2023? These are excellent (and likely imperative) considerations for your sports complex.
To help you maximize concession sales and protect your operation, we’ve prepared this handy guide to sports complex concessions in 2023. From menu items to payments and staffing, cover all of your bases with this full guide below.
Your concessions variety should be determined by your current capabilities and the items’ associated costs. As a starting point, identify the budget you have for concessions, and how much can be spent on your concession stand inventory.
A few popular menu items include pizza, hot dogs, chicken tenders, and burgers. These food items drive frequent purchases as entrees. They might require specialized equipment, like a grill, heater or cooler, but these investments can be recouped in multiples through a season of regular operations.
Pre-packaged items, like bottled drinks, candy and chips make great sides for any of the above, so you’ll want to stock up on an assortment of these for your events. Add-ons present concession stands with major upsell opportunities, which can drive larger order sizes and increase your sport complex’s daily revenue.
To upsell successfully, you can either have staff suggest items to the customer at the window, or present upsells digitally with a mobile ordering platform for pickup:
High margin items aren’t exclusive to sweets, either; fruit cups and fruit snacks can be healthy delights for attendees of all ages, too. Responding to COVID restrictions, pre-packaged snacks and even to-go meals have skyrocketed in popularity among concession stands recently.
For any sports complex concession stand, the major competition is what fans may want to bring from home. This speaks to the need of having hot or freshly-prepared items for sale, on-site, that just aren’t as practical for your attendees to purchase off-site.
Above all, if this season is your first go at running or offering concessions, a focused and manageable menu is the best thing. Starting small allows you to achieve profitability sooner, and positions you well to branch out your concession offerings in the future.
According to Forbes, in 2021 less than 19% of transactions in the US involved cash. Furthermore, research by Square, a point of sale company, shows that cash purchases went down from 37% in February 2020 to 33% just two months later at the start of the pandemic.
Sports complexes simply cannot afford to be cash-only at their concession stands. As a start, facilities can consider investing in card readers and point-of-sale systems for walk-up orders. This is a step in the right direction, but still doesn’t minimize long lines and congestion that crowds create at the concession window.
A budget-friendly approach to accepting digital payments would be a mobile ordering system. Not only is there no requirement of handling physical cash, but mobile ordering also speeds up services compared to a point-of-sale system: as a spectator, imagine being able to place an order while field side, watching the game, and getting a text that your order is ready for pickup. The model is fast, convenient and 100% contactless.
Cash-handling has always faced challenges surrounding theft prevention. By accepting digital payments for concessions, sports complexes don’t have to worry about this issue at all.
You will need W2 employees: at least one to be designated as your location’s concession stand manager. Others focus on food prep, order-taking, and inventory replenishment. Your day-of staff can include high schoolers, college students, and other summer job-seekers. For managers, the appeal is having greater ease and flexibility with scheduling for concession stand shifts.
If you are facing challenges with staffing, consider what tools can alleviate the need for as many staff as required previously. For instance, you can take in more orders and get them to customers faster if they inflow from a tablet, versus a walk-up window.
Sports complex concessions have navigated some difficult recent years. Facility operators should be enthusiastic about the opportunities ahead for 2023. To fully capitalize on what’s changed, some new considerations have to be made.
The number one difference has to be customer behavior – more consumers than ever before prefer digital payments over physical cash. For your operation, consider what payment methods you currently accept, and if there are any gaps which can be closed to maximize your location’s profitability.