Magazine article Parks & Recreation

Making CONCESSIONS

Magazine article Parks & Recreation

Making CONCESSIONS

Article excerpt

Creating a successful concessions business at your park means more than just selling hot dogs and soda.

Food and beverage (F/B) doesn't have to be a riddle or "necessary evil" at your park. There is a fine line that separates maximizing profits and affecting the customer/guest experience, and that line is always moving. It is up to the manager to watch it daily, react to trends and be willing to try out a few experiments of his or her own in order to find out what fails and what succeeds.

Money can be made ... lots of it. Why else would outside concessionaires cheerfully sign agreements that have them paying a big chunk off the top or bottom line? Obviously they are willing to deal with the inconveniences associated with an F/B operation. But you can too-all you need are the "secrets" of F/B to reach profit margins that make the efforts worthwhile.

Characteristics of Profitable Concessions

Profits from F/B operations are grounded in volume. The more business you can turn, the more money that falls to the bottom line. Fast service or line speed is dictated by several factors:

* A streamlined menu: Trying to be everything to everyone has rarely succeeded. A study of the sales mix report will tell what has been selling and what has been a bust. Deleting non-movers has other advantages, in that it frees up shelf space, reduces waste and no longer ties up money in excess inventory.

* A menu that is easy to read from a distance: This ensures that customers will be prepared to order when they reach the window. In situations where the menu may be extensive, having someone taking orders in line speeds up the process by answering questions, making suggestions or just alerting and comforting people to the fact that there is an effort underway to move people through.

* Prices that have been set in 25 cent increments with the tax included are sure-fire ways to speed up the transaction process. The more coins the cashier and customer have to count, the slower the line. Decreasing the transaction time by five to 10 seconds several hundreds or thousands of times daily will alone increase sales. Lines that look to be moving slowly will put off many people from getting in them.

* When large crowds converge, the hunger rhythm within usually dictates there will be a rush at peak meal times. In situations not designed or built to handle sudden demand efficiently, the strategies are limited; a little-used game plan is to take the "sense of urgency" approach to an impending meal rush. The goal here is to treat the early trickle coming in a half hour prior to the rush as if things are in full swing, thus staving off the eventual long lines. Many operations wait to kick it all into gear only after the lines are "long."

Besides volume, prices can be escalated, within reason, that is. Whether in a captive market venue (no food allowed from outside the gate) or one where bringing your own is acceptable, people accept the idea that prices are not likely to be comparable to the corner convenience store.

It used to be that people's expectations were fairly low in terms of value and quality for F/B in a concession scenario. This is changing, as operators are upping the ante in efforts to satisfy customers. One secret formula for success is this equation: You can charge a price pushing the upper limits if the product that you serve wows the customer. It creates short-memory syndrome. On the other hand, you can charge the lowest prices ever, but if the product is poor in presentation and quality, the customer will feel cheated and remember it forever. It also reduces the chances of a repeat visit that same day.

Working Against You

There are some things that simply work against turning a profit at a concession stand. The following are some of the most common offenders:

Vending machines: The only reason for having them should be for the dispensing of something that does not exist at the venues, or for capturing sales in remote areas that cannot be serviced by a kitchen facility. …

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