30 Tips for Running a Successful Concession Stand

Good concession stands do not just happen. They take work and a coordinated effort by many people. Here are 30 ideas to help make things run more smoothly.

1. Appoint a Leader. The person in charge should organize and oversee all concession activities.
2. Build a team. Delegate duties to spread the work around: stocking, shopping, cash management, selling, as well as set up and tear down.
3. Visit other concession stands. It is always good to see how others are doing it and what sells.
4. Get proper paperwork. Some counties or cities require permits for selling and preparing food. Check with your city and local health department for details.
5. Communicate with volunteers clearly and consistently. Be sure they know where and when to report. Keep track of each volunteer’s contact information and the volunteer work schedule. SignUpGenius could be used for volunteer sign-ups, streamlining your recruiting, shift coordination, and email communication.
6. Send reminders to workers. SignUpGenius sends out the text/email reminders so no one forgets their responsibilities!
7. Provide emergency contact information. Do the volunteers know who to call in an emergency or in case they can't make their work shift?
8. Develop a budget and determine costs. Carefully plan out the money you will need to spend on equipment, food and other supplies; this will help you figure how much profit you must make on food items.

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9. Create a menu. Decide at the onset what food you want to sell. As you make the list, consider how much work you want to put into preparation.
10. Keep the menu simple and the pricing clear. Pricing tips: price items 2X what you paid for them and display items with prices.
11. Create menu combinations. Value priced options with multiple items typically sell well.
12. Shop smart. Shop at a big-box warehouse or ask league management if there is a relationship in place with wholesale snack suppliers to take advantage of larger discounts.
13. Provide healthy food options. This might mean more work, but families who are stuck at a sporting event for hours will thank you for a healthier meal alternative. Think about providing light mayo, granola bars, string cheese, yogurt, orange juice, dried fruit, nuts, trail mix, veggie pizza, and even fresh fruit. Snack bar food doesn't all have to be junk food.
14. Keep a log. Maintain a weekly log of what you purchased, sold, and the left over inventory. This will help in future buying decisions.
15. Choose a Cashbox Supervisor. He or she will be sure you have enough small bills and coins for early transactions, remove excess cash from the cashbox, reconcile cash and inventory, and make money deposits at the bank.

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16. Display volunteer “rules” for workers. Don't keep your volunteers guessing: tell them how much “free stuff” they can have, who gets free food (refs, umpires, visiting coaches, etc), and any other things they need to know about running a smooth snack bar.
17. Wear a uniform. When serving food, it is important to look professional and neat. Consider ordering t-shirts for volunteers to wear so everyone matches.
18. Build a reputation. Identify a specialty item that people look forward to and can only get at your concession stand, like breaded soup bowls, specialty cupcakes, or ice cream sundaes.
19. Choose foods that can be served quickly. Snack bar lines can get long, but if your foods are ready to go, individuals can get back to their seats quickly.
20. Look for ways to make extra cash. Be creative. Sell raffle tickets during the game for league T-shirts and hats or for cash prizes to earn extra money.
21. Keep a first aid kit and plenty of ice. Snack bars are often the first place coaches turn to for instant first aid.
22. Keep concession stand clean and make it look appealing. Even if it is only just a folding table, take a few minutes to spruce it up with a tablecloth and decorate with team colors and logo.
23. Take frequent stock. Take frequent inventory to ensure that you do not run out of any items, and reorder before you are sold out.
24. Make it easy for volunteers to swap shifts. Using SignUpGenius will provide an opportunity for your workers to swap shifts without bugging the person in charge.

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25. Have volunteers arrive 15 minutes before their shift. Always give yourself some breathing room for instructions.
26. Look out for your volunteers. If workers will be expected to be on their feet a good portion of their shift, suggest comfortable shoes. If they will have periods of downtime or especially long shifts, supply chairs as needed.

Concession stand volunteer sign up schedule

27. Ask kids for advice. If you're thinking about offering something new, ask your kids what they think. After all, they're the people who are coming to your concession stand.
28. Plan ahead for team sales. Check with team coaches to see if their teams plan to buy food and drinks after their games. If so, have extra supplies on hand and prepared for the appropriate time.
29. Express appreciation to volunteers, before, during and after they work. They are your greatest assets.
30. Show appreciation to your volunteers. Go the extra mile to let your team know how much you appreciate their help. Have an end-of-season volunteer party or organize a volunteer appreciation event! Using Signup Genius will make that a breeze! 
Snack bars provide more than food and refreshment for spectators, they give parents an opportunity to model team work for their kids and for the good of the sport. Play on!

Janis Meredith writes Jbmthinks, a blog on sports parenting and youth sports. After being a coach's wife for 29 years and a sports parent for 21, she sees issues from both sides of the bench.