Focus on simplicity for everything including the concession stand. Consumers balk when presented too many choice. Variety maybe the spice of life, but it can also make for a difficult concession stand. Focus on one or two meal type items, no more than five beverage selections, one or two healthy items and three to five snack items.
“It’s really hard to design products by focus groups. A lot of times, people don’t know what they want until you show it to them” – Steve Jobs Business Week May 12, 1998
Now, I wouldn’t want to work for Steve Jobs or even spend time with him, but he did move a lot of product. So, I figure why make life complicated? Don’t spend your time making hot dogs, pizza, sloppy Joes, walking tacos, loaded baked potatoes and gyros just to have some of each left over. It’s too complicated.
Beverages – This used to the most profitable area. Back in the days of fountain soda, when the cup costed more than the liquid inside it. Many high school no longer have soda fountains and few youth programs are going to have access to them. Today it’s more common for people to donate cases of soda, water or sports drink and resell the individual containers for $1 to $2. I see events mark water and soda at $1 and sports drinks at $1.50. Great, now you have to make change and deal with quarters on half your transactions. Do this and make your like easier. The water is the healthiest item and if they want to pay extra for sugar-water, let them. If it’s donated items the margin is the same at $1 for all items.
Sports Drink $1 or $2, not $1.25, $1.50 or $1.75.
Meal Item – If someone is hungry and is captive, meaning they can’t run home or too a restaurant, you can sell them Pita bread and hot sauce for $2 and they will be happy. Their goal is to wrestle, watch wrestling or coach wrestling. If they were here for the food, they would be somewhere else. Pick one or two items and lean towards one.
Sloppy Joe $2 or $3 – Standard fare.
Pizza $2 – take and bake will have a higher margin than delivery
Pizza can be easy.
Hot dog $2 – Misc meat tubes floating in green water is proof spectators will eat anything.
Ham and Cheese on a Bun $1 or $2 – This was a staple when I was a kid. They would pop it in a microwave for ten seconds and I would get a delicious treat. I recommend saving labor and using larger bun to charge $2.
Bowl of Chilli $2 or $3 – Cheap, simple, and not common.
Loaded Baked Potato $2 or $3 – Cheap, simple and not common. I saw a lot of left overs on this. It takes 3 hours to bake 70 potatoes, so you can’t make more in a hurry.
Walking taco $2 or $3 – Cheap, but a little more complicated at the point of assembly
Healthy Snack – This is one area where I would do something more complicated. Why, because these are kids and nutrition is tightly tied to wrestling at all levels especially youth wrestling. I think every youth tournament should be offering a healthy option. This is not saying you need to offer a salad bar, a yogurt and a fruit option. Pick one or two of the items below.
Zip lock bag of grapes $1 – Buy in bulk from grocery store or warehouse like Costco or Sams, wash and bag the day before.
Grapes are a healthy snack for a wrestling tournament.
Individual bags of baby carrots $1 – Pre packaged. You are counting on Mom to help get these purchased they don’t go fast. Have a bottle of ranch dressing with condiment cups to help get these sold.
Bananas $1 – Self wrapped, healthy and no labor. What more could you ask for.
Apples $1 – Wash them and put a sign saying so.
Oranges $1 – I have trouble buying oranges for home. It seems like a crap shoot on getting the sweet juicy ones or the dry yucky ones. Also pealing an orange with a hand that has just been wrestling can be yuckiery still.
Just Plain Snacks – Chips, cookies, candy bars, hot liquid cheese, gummy stuff, donuts, licorice, or you name it. Unless you are getting people to donate these items as well, these are your lowest margin items. Don’t put too much time into them. Get a chocolate item, a sugar item and bag of chips. If someone is dying for a Snickers and all you have is an almond Hershey bar, do you think he is walking away without spending money? No, he is getting a bowl of chili with a diet soda and thinking he is healthy for not buying the Hershey bar. You come out $1 ahead on the Chili versus the Snickers bar. Pick three to five of these items. Remember keep it simple.
Chocolate Based Candy Bar $1 – Staple snack food.
Sugar Based Candy $1 – Skittles, Starburst, Smarties…
Cookie $1 – This is a snack, don’t get oatmeal raisin, unless you want a lot of oatmeal raisin cookies at your house.
Doughnut $1 – It’s usually morning so these can sell well. They look like work to me and picking up the day seems complicated.
Chips $1 – Go simple, just chips. I often buy nachos with the hot liquid cheese, but I know it’s bad for me. From the sales side it looks like a hassle.
Have a cash box ready for the day. Remember everything you include that is not an even dollar amount slows down the process, forces people to do mental math and increases the chance you run out of nickles. Also think about the clean up process in the gym when considering pop corn.