If there’s one thing we’re certain about this year, it’s that there will be a plethora of uncertainties once live events and sports return. How big will the crowds be? Will customers feel safe enough to make purchases? How should I project my revenue this year?
When it comes to foodservice within venues, these uncertainties affect all sorts of decisions operators have to make. Do we open the on-premise restaurants and concession stands at all, or do we only open a few of them? Do we try to sustain a full menu or only strip it down to the bare essentials?
The pandemic has forced businesses in the foodservice industry to reduce their menus down to the best-sellers, or the easy-to-prepare, low-overhead dishes. While this can keep the bottom line low, the reduced variety might lead to customer frustration.
It’s actually pretty easy to find a healthy balance between keep operational costs low, while still giving customers culinary variety and excitement. The trick lies in how you optimize your menus for the unique challenges this year.
Keep the crowd favorites
While it’s hard to know what people might favor this year, you certainly have historical data around which items were the top-sellers. It’s very likely that people not only miss visiting your venue, they also miss the concessions experience. Your returning customers especially might even be looking forward to getting their favorite hot dog for the game, or that specialty item that only your venue concession stands offer. Having the same best sellers will create a sense of familiarity for your returning customers, and they are almost guaranteed to sell.
For example, among FanFood venue partners, we’ve observed that each venue has their consistent top-sellers — and they’re all different for different venues. For some it’s the team-branded chicken tenders, for others it’s a bowl of nachos with chili. You can even give a new name to existing top-sellers just to make the menu more exciting (keep reading for more tips on that).
Add a few COVID-friendly options
For your customers who are particularly cautious of COVID-19, having even safer options such as pre-packaged food would give them great peace of mind. This also goes to show the new measures you implemented to take care of your customers, which will greatly increase people’s trust and affinity towards your venue.
In addition, having pre-packaged food helps your operations too. First of all, they’re convenient — for both the staff and customers. There’s no prep work involved, and even staff with minimal skills can serve the customers. As with most packaged snacks, you can also stock them up in large quantities without worrying about expiration. You don’t need specialized equipment for cooking before serving them, either. That means your speed of service is likely faster, too. All you have to do is bagging the food and they’ll be ready to go in no time. That reduces lines and allows customers to get back to their seats quickly. Shorter lines also means more customers served — therefore more profits for you.
For more ideas on concession food to offer this year, check out our recent blog here.
Design new combo options
If you’re limited to the number of items you can offer at your concession stand, especially due to COVID-19 restrictions, or limited inventory due to smaller turnouts, there’s another creative way of increasing menus variety while letting customers feel that they’re getting a great deal — offer combo items. This is a quick and easy way to refresh the look of your menu and inject excitement into your usual line of product offerings without shaking up your entire operation and supplies.
One important thing to note with introducing combos is to make it fun and relatable. FanFood recently conducted a test with Mars Wrigley confectionery to understand how much combos affect people’s concessions purchase behaviors, and the findings were absolutely astounding. Combos with fun and friendly names such as “The Fam Bam”, “The Dynamic Duo” or “Sweets to Share” drastically outperformed the more conventional combo names like “Combo 1”, “Popcorn Combo” etc. In addition, having fun combo descriptions instead of standard descriptors such as “Choose your snacks and drinks”. Menu images also made a huge difference. If you can upload accurate product images with a call-out banner such as “NEW” or “PROMO”, that can led to an increase in product sales of 76%!
If that’s not enough reason for you to introduce combos in your menus, consider this: within one week of introducing new combo items, we saw 180.25% increase in the sales of products included in the combos; 12.75% increase in average order value; and 33.16% of all customers purchased a new product they had never purchased before — simply because it was included in the combo.
Moreover, customers were really surprised and pleased with the creative new combo offerings. The raving reviews encouraged our partners to continue making combos part of their standard concession menu.
Give your menu items new names and descriptions
Another way to easily and quickly refresh the look of your menu — without completely overhauling it — is giving each product new names, descriptions and even product images.
To better understand how much a refreshed look of the menu can lift product sales, we did a pilot project with Mars Wrigley among 4 drive-in theater partners. We learned that by introducing new names and images to the same products, we were able to increase the frequency of purchase by 30.76% within one week, increase the number of first-time buyers by 12%, and increase product sales by 76%. These are astounding results, and really quantified the impact of creative marketing on a menu level.
It’s not that difficult to give the most common concession food items some refreshing branding. For example, you can name your top-seller after your mascot or venue name. If you’re a ballpark, name your top-selling burger “The Home Run Burger”; if you’re a drive-in theater, name your popcorn “Snackers’ Choice”. The possibilities are limitless.
If your creative juices are running dry, you can even start a social media campaign to crowdsource names from your followers! Ask them to submit creative product names and award the winner with a free item — this is a great way to engage your customer base while showcase the personality of your brand!
Let customers browse menus, or even order, on their phones
Contactless mobile menus allow guests to view your menu online as easily as they could a physical version. In fact, they’re probably more accessible than a physical menu: people can scan a QR code, enter a short URL, search for your venue name in the FanFood app (if your venue is using FanFood), or even text a number to receive a menu link.
If you want to go one step further, people can place an order right there on the menu and pay on their phone, so you don’t have to worry about taking orders and collecting payment. This reduces the number of touch between your staff and the customer, and greatly expedites your services.
Here’s a quick video to show how it works:
More importantly, it’s easy and affordable for any operation to get started. There’s no hardware cost necessarily, since you can access the Manager Portal from any laptop or tablet that’s connected to the Internet. Venues can also basically use the platform for free, since we charge a 12.5% convenience fee to the app user only. Other flexible pricing options are also available if you get in touch with our team to learn more.
In conclusion, we highly recommend that you refresh your menu for re-opening this year — whether it being an overhaul where you introduce new items, or simply give it a facelift with existing products, or move it to a completely different medium such as a contactless mobile menu — your customers will appreciate the new measures you implement so they can have a safe and convenient event experience.