Fan Experience: Food

Hey there readers! First of all, I apologize for not posting the last few months. I’ve been busy, both at work as well as personally, but also working on this blog! As you can probably tell by now, I’ve got a new URL, BillsSportsBusinessBlog.com, which fits more with where I want to this thing to go. I’ve also got a new project in the works at WilliamTPeckII.com, so watch for that sometime in the next few months – I’m very excited about what’s ahead!

Moving on now! I’ll pick up this first post back in a while with the topic of food as a vital part of fan experience.

First – Choices and Selection

Second – Availability and Service

Food choices and selection at your venue must improve, period. It’s no longer good enough to just offer lukewarm hot dogs, stale chips with your nachos, greasy popcorn and soda with too much ice. It’s not. When you’re competing against the recliner chairs, big screens and refrigerators full of food at home you’ve got to make it enjoyable for your fans to get something to eat at your venue. With the increasing number of weeknight games, often times most people will end up eating dinner at your game – who wants the above mentioned items several times a month for dinner after a long day at work? No one. Wouldn’t you rather have a nice hot sandwich and a salad or a huge bowl of piping hot mac’n’cheese with an iced tea or cocktail to wash it all down? Of course you would!

Most of the major concessionaires out there today have the ability to make this happen for you, so during your next round of negotiations, choice of ¬†food options ought to be a part of that discussion. As a side note, make it local and get a few deals with local restaurants or caterers to do the heavy lifting on game day – your fans will thank you (and be happy to pay $15 for that mac’n’cheese as long as it’s good)!

Second – You must communicate to your fans that you’ve got these new options and want them to get there early and enjoy a nice meal while your team is warming up. Put it on your website, in your pre-season and pre-game emails and post signs in your concourses telling them about all the great new options you’ve got available for them. Once you’ve you done that, make sure your concession stands are ALL open, fully staffed with people who know what they are doing and fully stocked with plenty of food to cook and serve. If it’s going to take some extra time to make their orders, tell them that on a sign above as well as when they cash out. During game breaks and halftime, no one wants to wait around longer than they have to and no one wants to miss the game because their gourmet burger fell off the bun in the kitchen. Oops.

But seriously, develop a service mentality and incentivize your employees to make it easy for fans to get their food. Sport organizations are essentially entertainment entities whose business model is built on the discretionary income of its customers – make it easy for them to spend their money with you and they’ll thank you with more.

All that said, don’t get rid of the inexpensive “fan favorites” as they are often called – there will always be a market for pretzels and cheese sauce – just don’t make it the only option. I know for myself it’s a little bit of nostalgia to be eating a salted pretzel with mustard dripping off the wrapper and all over your shirt when jumping up to cheer for a home run or touchdown. Keep it fun and when you can, change the name to something relating to your brand – “Dawg Bites,” for example is what we call the students-only concession stand at the University of Washington. Just a thought.

Go Forth!