Setting up your food and beverage clubs or concessions operation to maximize both the guest experience and financial return takes more than ensuring you have a variety of menu items and plenty of selling locations.

To optimize, it requires not only volume, but programming it in such a way that capitalizes on the fan flow or overall traffic patterns. One of the ways to accomplish this is by creating a heat map, which is a graphical representation of data through colors and shades that will show you quickly where you need to maximize point-of-sale and location type. Often colors are represented with red being most dense decreasing to orange and yellow.

What constitutes a heat map in a concessions operation? By referencing your point-of-sale transaction amount and charting the number by location, WITH concept type, you can begin identify your busiest locations and whether you are maximizing your offerings. It is no surprise that it is often at mid-point of the arena whether it be mid-field or mid-court, and areas within the closest points of ingress will see the most volume.  This is the area that you will want to offer your core items such as burgers, hot dogs, chicken tenders, and pizza. These core offerings, traditionally industry top sellers, should make up 75-80% of your overall sales mix, while specialty items will make up the balance. Smaller percentage sellers like the poke bowl, sushi, or stir-fry concept, and other healthier alternatives will often garner some rave reviews and social media interest. However, if it isn’t an established brand, and there is still a need to maximize your core offerings, it is best to implement at a kiosk or portable.

Equally important is ensuring you are well balanced throughout the venue. If you are dealing with near-capacity crowds, having popular concepts accessible for all guests is important. If they are not attending many events, and lack familiarity, most guests will tend to frequent within their “quadrant” or an area that is no more than a one to two-minute walk from their seat. If you have a good balance and can mirror the options throughout the venue for quicker access, this will mitigate longer lines, providing a nice balance to the traffic flows, helping to create happier guests and subsequently boosting sales.

At the upper level areas, containing less pricey seats, you may find a more price conscious fan and this should be an area where you look to focus on family meals, combos,  and lower cost items. While you still want to offer some variety, these are sections where food sales as overall mix will be higher, coupled with less than ideal point-of-sale ratios, so it requires maximizing locations with streamlined menus largely consisting of these top sellers.

Every building is different of course, and depending on club locations, restaurants, points of ingress, viewing positioning, and number of levels, you will see variables in traffic flow patterns. If you begin to see areas that are deep red on the map for instance, these are your most intense areas and here you can do a number of things to capitalize on transactions:

  • Re-visit the ergonomics of the space and ensure the flow from back-of-house to front of house is maximized with minimal movement needed to deliver to the customer.
  • Review the menu and keep the options streamlined, offering only the core items (75-80% of your sales mix) with minimal specialty items. The more items that you inventory in your space requires labor to maintain, prep, and merchandise.
  • If there is available capital to invest, a review of expanding the physical space, adding additional point-of-sale, while focusing on interior service flow would be prudent.
  • Engineer the concourse to divert the traffic to other areas by adding a similar location, while improving signage and wayfinding ability.

Conversely, if you find underperforming areas due to location and traffic patterns, this is an ideal opportunity to rejuvenate your operation by establishing “destination” locations. Sponsored bars or clubs, popular national brands, or hot local chef concepts are great ways to revitalize and grow revenue.

By taking an elevated view of your operation and understanding your guests traffic patterns, you can better maximize your return!