Here’s a fun fact you may or may not want to know (but we’re telling you anyway): waiting in line didn’t become a phenomenon, or an actual term in our vocabulary, until after the French Revolution in 1837!
But ever since, it’s become a common practice under the category of social etiquette, and the act of waiting in lines has been profoundly impacting us. An Oracle study about fan experience found that 45% of fans say that they have given up waiting in line for food and drink at a sports venue. That not only discounts the fan experience, but hurts sales as well. In addition to vendors losing revenue from the fans that leave, fans in general will start associating purchasing concessions with the negative experience of waiting, and avoid making a purchase altogether in the future. That’s more future sales lost that may not be easily perceptible today.
Of course, lines can be a good problem to have, since that means there's a big turnout at your event and that people are willing to spend on the goods and services offered. However, to make the experience better for your customers and boost your sales, here are 5 quick and easy tips to cut down your concession lines right away— you can start implementing them for your next game!
1. Changing the way your lines work
Take a closer look at your lines and think about what’s slowing down the progress. Is it at the cashiers? Is it with the pick-ups? If taking orders and payment is the slowest step, consider having two lines — one with cashiers, and one for pick-up.
You can further break down your concession lines into separate food and drink queues. That way, if a fan only wants a light and quick snack or a beer, they don’t have to wait behind big families of six trying to get all their clamoring kids under control.
The Miami Heat tried this strategy at American Airlines Arena and observed a 50% reduction in wait times. A simple move such as allowing customers to self-select into the proper lines takes the pressure off your concession stands drastically.
2. Revise your menu
It’s always good to have a balanced menu containing both grab-and-go snacks as well as food that takes some more prep. There are some items that may seem effortless to make, such as popcorn, but keep in mind you still need someone to operate the machine, scoop, and bag it. Compare that to selling KIT KAT bars and that’s literally zero preparation.
It’s probably a good idea to list out how much manpower / time is needed to prepare each item on your menu, and decide if there’s enough variety to not overwhelm the staff during peak hours.
3. Upgrade your concession machines
If you identify food preparation as the slowest step that's contributing to a long wait time, check if it’s the equipment that’s holding you back. Maybe the machines are too small to meet the demand, or maybe there aren’t enough of them. You can either consider upgrading to larger machines for bigger serving sizes, or purchase more smaller equipment at various fulfillment stands. Pick the option that fits in your budget and calculate how many more customers you can potentially serve with the upgrade— it’s an investment that may very well be worth it.
4. Use portable vendors and make sure they are visible
Again, it’s about breaking down the lines, but it’s also about providing greater convenience for the fans. If you can recruit extra help, these people can either set up makeshift stands in front of the seat sections, or carry some drinks and packaged snacks and peddle along the way. Get these vendors to wear a bright colored t-shirt or hold up eye-catching signs so customers can easily spot them in the crowd. Your thirsty fans would be grateful when they spot these vendors around.
5. Use technology to your advantage
This allows you to go above and beyond providing an A+ fan experience and making more revenue — it also makes you the talk of the town as a pioneer of modern tech solutions. Your fans would still be talking about the new tech you offered them even days after the game (and who knows, maybe even local newspapers too).
Mobile ordering apps like FanFood allow fans to browse all your concession stand menus and order straight from their phones so they can stay in their seat until their food is ready. Once it is, they can skip the line through the express pick-up lane, or even request in-seat delivery if the venue decides to provide it. Fans never have to miss another second of the game!
Statistics have shown that fans ordering on their phones tend to spend more on each order, more often — an added bonus to great convenience and speed. The Durham Bulls, which have implemented FanFood for over a year, have seen sales per person triple and more fans returning each season.