Event Concessions - Food Truck vs. Venue Kitchen
Food and drink event concessions are an important part of an event - but which is a better value for the venue owner? A food truck or a kitchen staff? Below is a quick look at the choices, the rationale and some examples from venues like the Staples Center in Los Angeles.
Coarsely referred to as the “captive audience” business model, food and drink sales are often considered a more reliable source of revenue than ticket sales. Some venues have even begun to tailor the food and drink types to be specific for an event’s demographic in the on-going effort to increase profits. But such bespoke efforts can also increase overhead costs, sometimes to detrimental effects on the bottom line.
Having event concessions produced "in-house" (venue staff purchasing at wholesale, preparing, etc.) can be profitable when the extra time and resources are available. Alternatively, the busy venue owner may just concede control and outsource event concessions to a third party, like a professional caterer or a food truck. Letting go of the food concession can be a test of mettle, but in certain cases, the result is a lowering or eliminating of overhead costs.
How Soon Is Chow?
In downtown Los Angeles, the Staples Center is considered one of the premiere venues for sports and entertainment and the food concessions are thought of as "high-end" market verticals. The standard fare is available, yes, but so is fine dinning and specialized cuisine.
The Staple Center may raise the bar even higher at an upcoming concert by English pop-star Morrissey by offering vegetarian food only. The singer's fans have spoken and claim they are a vegetarian majority. That self-description matches Morrisey's well-known advocacy of animal rights. In a recent issue of L.A. Weekly, Andrew Simmons explains the event concessions tailored just for Morrisey fans.
In an unprecedented move, out of deference to the former Smiths frontman's convictions, the Staples Center will make Morrissey's March 1 concert an entirely vegetarian one. This means that, if you like to chase a healthy portion of morose pomp with a fat sandwich, you're going to have to go with the tempeh.
On March 1, the meatiest restaurants in and around the venue, including McDonald's, will go dark. A portion of the show's proceeds will benefit PETA. Cows in their crowded pastures along I-5 will huff a sigh of relief.
The Staple Center's owner, AEG Entertainment, is in a position to be able to afford such a custom experience solely for a single event. The average venue may not be able to turn established vendor's "dark" but the concept of matching food concessions with audience demographics has merit.
A overly simplistic example would be to serve "home-style cooking" or "BBQ" when booking a country music act. Caution must be taken with such a simplistic approach though, as to not accidentally offend patrons.
Also of concern when tailoring event concessions are the costs of staffing and wholesale purchases of specialized food, which can quickly add up negate whatever boost in attendance it may have generated.
If a venue is of the type that routinely books acts that draw the same demographic, catering to taste will be much easier, and quiet likely profitable. Venue's with eclectic bookings, country music one day, stand-up comedy the next, may wish to keep their standard fare offering, and not try to emulate the Staples Center.
As an alternative to the overhead costs, a venue may consider scheduling one of the wildly popular food trucks serving their area. The now trendy food trucks are no longer just for construction workers and serve cuisine from every walk of life.
Scheduling a food truck to sit outside the venue can be as easy as making a phone call. In major metropolitan areas, like Boston, food trucks are so popular there are websites dedicated to keeping track of where they are and what type of food is served.
The same tailoring per event in use by the Staples Center is possible given the wide variety of food trucks, but without any concerns of costs. After booking the country music act, just call the BBQ food truck. The resources made available by not having a kitchen staff and the cash outlay for specialized food can be put to better use.
Coupons, tickets and event concessions
How ever you decide to tailor your event concessions, remember that you can make food and drink purchases part of the ticketing process. The ThunderTix plan for live music venues has coupons and custom ticket packages as well as the ability for you to place advertisements on the Print-at-home PDF tickets. You can combine all of these features in a way that makes the most sense for your business, whether you use the venue's kitchen or have a food truck parked outside.