Operating a Stadium Concession Stand – No Longer a Crackerjack Operation

In an age where customers want it all no matter where they are, stadium concession stands are finally rising to meet the call. Whether it be a hand carved steak at Yankee Stadium or donut and fried chicken skewers at Wrigley Park, today people are lining up to dish out a whole lot of money for non-traditional stadium cuisine. The day of the $10.00 baseball ticket and $2.00 hot dog may be over, but before you let nostalgia set in, let’s consider the new (and lucrative!) opportunities that this upgraded stadium concession stand mentality provides, as well as the added requirements of vendors.

To be competitive in today’s stadiums, rollers and flat grills no longer fit the bill; concession owners practically need an entire kitchen at their disposal. While the demands of concession stands may have changed unfortunately the space hasn’t. Every inch of space in your booth counts now more than ever so you need to plan exactly how you will get the food there and have it ready to be eaten as efficiently as possible.


insulated hard shell food carrier
Most commonly, concession stand operators will prep as much food as possible off site before the event. Space is incredibly limited at the event and you can sometimes be dealing with hundreds of customers in the span of an hour.

In order to get your food safely to the event, insulated food carriers are a must. They come in both hard shelled and soft shelled varieties and can hold food hot or cold for hours at a time. It is vital to keep your spread at safe temperatures during transport and set up. Front loading carriers are very handy for storing multiple pans at a time, but top loading carriers can be great if you plan to dish right out of the carrier.


undercounter refrigerator
You can’t exactly keep your cold food sitting in a cooler all day, but your full sized reach-in won’t do either. Be sure to do as much prep as possible beforehand and keep your ingredients within easy reach during the event. Low, undercounter refrigerators are a great choice for easy access in tight spaces like a stadium concession stand.

If your goodies have some great display value, let them sell themselves! Refrigerated display cases are one of the best ways to advertise. Nothing grabs a potential customer’s eye quite like being able to see the yummy treats for themselves as they walk by.


prep table
Now let’s talk food prep. Don’t have the resources or the types of cuisine you can prepare before the main event? Then make it part of the show! After all, your customers are here to be entertained. Either visible counter space or a refrigerated prep table (which would include some bonus cold storage space inside!) can become your main attraction. Whip out the fancy knives, beautiful wooden cutting boards, and let your charming culinary skills do the rest.


countertop convection oven
You can also take full advantage of the "cook" portion of your operation; again, let your food advertise itself! Fire up that pizza oven and watch the hungry patrons follow their noses to your stadium concession stand. Even if you were able to do all of your cooking beforehand, bring along a cheesemelter to put the finishing touches on hot sandwiches or steak, and more importantly, unleash those enticing aromas!


holding cabinet
Once your prepped food has arrived, or after your food has been cooked on location, you will need a way to hold the hot food at temperature until it sells. At sporting events in particular, it is just not practical to make food as it is ordered due to the extreme rushes you will see between innings, at half-time, etc. With holding cabinets it is possible to keep your food fresh for hours at a time. Not only will it be kept at safe temperatures but it will still taste right out of the oven!


disposable tray
How are you going to serve your tasty new stadium dishes? Surely not on porcelain and china, but you don’t have to go full Styrofoam either. While there are a number of traditional concession disposables that will do the job wonderfully, food trays and eco-friendly disposables have been making a splash even outside of the concession world. Modern and on-trend serveware will do wonders for the new wave stadium food experience you are cultivating.


Finally, let’s seal the deal. This should be the easiest and quickest part of your customer’s experience and the most efficient for you. Make sure your POS is right for the job- do you need to keep track of inventory? Does it itemize? Or are you low maintenance enough that you want to let customers order and pay from a tablet or smart phone? There’s an app for that!

With Super Bowl Fans spending an average of $94 on food and drinks at the big game each year, the right strategy and planning could be your ticket to a very lucrative stadium concession stand business (source). The only thing left to consider is where to put the tip jar.


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