Going Beyond Concession Basics

Going Beyond Concession Basics Time was when all that anyone expected – or seemingly wanted – from a concession stand was a hot dog or burger, maybe a cardboard boat full of crinkle-cut fries or onion rings and a sugary soft drink to wash it all down.

Those basic expectations haven’t entirely gone away for some people – as is apparent when surveying the bill of fare at many sports arena concession stands – but today’s most successful operations, says Recreation Management, have more involved menus, an array of specialty condiments and ever-evolving marketing plans.

Chris Bigelow, a concession consultant with Kansas City, MO-based The Bigelow Companies, says, "It used to be everyone was price conscious and because of that they bought the cheapest hot dogs and coffee they could find, and they served them as cheap as possible. Forget that. Serve the best hot dog and best cup of coffee—and price it accordingly."

In fact, some of the latest trends in concession fare include gourmet bratwursts and many varieties of coffee – the hipper the better, in some cases. "People now pay $3.50 for a cup of coffee without blinking," says Bigelow.

However, as people have grown more willing to shell out more money for food on the go, they have also come to expect an increase in quality. Hot dogs, as previously noted, are still a desired item. But do you have the ability to make chili dogs, or Chicago dogs (which aren’t complete without pickles and hot peppers...and you’ll get a debate about the exact kind of pickle)? And what’s in your condiment bar besides mustard, ketchup, relish and maybe onions? Does salsa have a place? Specialty hot sauces? Multiple vegetable toppings?

One other change in concession fare: Many stands are changing their focus to offer foods with more local appeal. This is especially appealing for visitors from other cities who want to sample local cuisine while watching a baseball or hockey game. Which is why you can find concession stands at Pittsburgh-area sports venues that will offer sandwiches piled high with...French Fries! Want a salad instead? Pittsburghers sometimes take fries on those too, and many concession stands are only too happy to oblige that taste.

In short, things are changing under the Concession Stand Hood.