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TOPIC: Concession Stand Menu Options

Concession Stand Menu Options 22 Apr 2004 00:53 #26562

  • Dave31PA
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I have read the archived concession posts regarding who sells how much of what and for how much. My question veers off in a slightly different direction.
I have been planning the concession menu for my new drive-in which is scheduled to open in 2005. Actually, it is the reopening of a long closed drive-in, and given the agonizing nature thus far of financing, zoning, and the dozens of other things which can and have gone awry, 2005 is a goal but far from a done deal.
Anyway, I have spent countless hours cataloging the menus of 40 drive-ins throughout the country. As there are roughly 400 drive-ins , I thought 10% would give me a representative sampling. Interestingly enough, the 40 drive-ins yielded some 110 different menu items. They ranged from things as common as popcorn and soda to frito pies and chihuahua sandwiches.
Of course, my menu will include all the staples of profits: soda, popcorn, nachos, pizza, and candy. What confuses me is where the line gets drawn between variety and overkill. I was shocked to see some drive-ins offering 10 different kinds of fried foods alone. These included not just french fries, mozzarella sticks and onion rings but fried twinkies and fried oreos.
I have seen posts which say that anything which gets customers to spend money at your snack bar which they weren't going to spend is a good item.
Is it worth it for me to have items on the menu like meatball sandwiches or cheesesteaks if I only sell 5 or 10 on my busiest night? Is the bump in sales and per cap worth the customer's wait, the extra staff needed to prepare that vast a menu, and the potential waste of leftover items? Or should the menu provide far less variety, which will in turn lead to much faster service and much shorter lines which may in itself drive up the sales and per cap?


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Re: Concession Stand Menu Options 22 Apr 2004 03:01 #26563

  • outaframe
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I usually butt out of something I know NOTHING about, and drive-in menus are something I know ZIP about, but it seems that you're getting the cart before the horse!... Your efforts should be concentrated on all the problems you're having getting the place open... You already answered your own question because you already know what the basic stuff is that you'll be selling... Why not get it open and offer a basic menu, then add to it, one or two items at a time until you find what works there... Some will be hot and others dead, and there is no formula to predict what will sell in your particular location (the same thing applies to indoors), it's more a matter of trial and error... You can drop the slow movers and concentrate on the volume sellers... And if you offer TOO MUCH it will slow the lines to a crawl, and drive away business... Just a bit of common sense...
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Re: Concession Stand Menu Options 22 Apr 2004 11:59 #26564

  • Large
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If I were a customer at a drive in I would be looking for a fast food meal. So I would look for Hot Dogs and Hamburgers in their infinite variety.

I think the large variety of fried food goes with the notion that most fried food comes frozen and it all cooks the same so you don't have a lot to lose by trying lots of different stuff.

Popcorn
Soda
Candy
Hot Dogs Lots of toppings
Hamburgers Lots of toppings
Nachos
Pizza maybe Note: my local pizza shack manager tells me that a large cheese pizza that he charges $17 for cost the company $1.50 to make.
Fries Tough call, needs an additional piece of equipment, the fryer.

Then I might try a healthy menu although I suspect that I would be a successful as McDonalds will be with their Salads and More menu. As in, not at all, my cahier last night couldn't even find salad on the register. He kept asking "what meal number?"


[This message has been edited by Large (edited April 22, 2004).]
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Re: Concession Stand Menu Options 22 Apr 2004 13:09 #26565

  • Dave31PA
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I am afraid you misinterpreted some of what I meant, as well as misunderstood the process. The problems I am battling are problems which take months to sort themselves out with a whole lot of doing nothing but waiting in between.
The owners don't want to sell and, given the high value of the land, I really can't afford to buy. So instead we have been negotiating a long term lease, which needs to be structured in such a way to both protect my investment, and protect the owners right to sell if the right price comes along. Until such time as I have a signed lease or an executable option to buy or lease the site, I have no legal standing to appear before the zoning board to apply for a change. April's hearing has already passed and I have now officially missed the 30 day notice requirement to have any change heard at the May hearing. So now, my next shot is Mid-June.
Also, the concession build is currently just an empty shell, for which I am currently formulating a floorplan. The food I will decide to sell will have a drastic impact on how the interior of that building is designed. If I am going to sell a lot of cooked to order sandwiches and such, there needs to be adequate room set aside for the long lines and cattle chute style barriers. Not to mention completely changing the layout of the cooking area and equipment which would have far reaching effects on everything from ventilation and fire protection to staffing and insurance. Self serve soda or not? Selling burgers, dogs, and cheesteaks also would require a completely different condiment station setup.
An indoor theater is in the business of showing movies. A drive-in theater is in the restaurant business with a film or two shown to lure customers. My local indoor has 24 screens running from 10 AM to Midnight 7 days a week. I will have 3 nights a week with one audience per night. My success or failure will be determined by my snack bar.
I have done all the legwork I can to this point. I have enough of my own money put aside to do the project,and will use a home-equity loan if I can't secure further financing to cover cost overruns. I have quotes from insurance companies, though I haven't settled on one. I have spoken with bookers and have made arrangements to get the necessary studio paperwork underway as soon as I have a signed deal and zoning OK.
I have read a lot of posts here, and most are informative, some are not, but I appreciate the fact that the aim is always to help and advise so we are all more successful. I welcome any advice, suggestions, or even criticisms, which will make me a better owner.
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Re: Concession Stand Menu Options 22 Apr 2004 13:14 #26566

  • Dave31PA
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My second post was meant to address the initial comments posted by Outaframe, but Large also replied while I was typing my response, so the order of the posts may be confusing to readers. I appreciate both responses. Thanks.
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Re: Concession Stand Menu Options 22 Apr 2004 14:17 #26567

  • outaframe
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Dave <> Didn't intend to belittle or put down all the problems involved in getting your ship afloat!... I think burgers, dogs, and fries should be considered as part of the basic menu (just as Large does) but to try to guess about EVERYTHING you'll be selling BEFORE you're open is an exercise is futility... I would think a grill and fryer to be as essential as a popper (and maybe even a pizza oven) for a drive-in... I would think that having a condiment bar for the customers to trim up their own burgers and dogs would be a lot more efficient and less labor intensive, especially in a high volume setup... But, as to the hundreds of things you may POSSIBLY end up selling, I still believe you will need to get started with the basics, then buy small quantities of the other stuff to try, and only keep the ones which sell in quantity... AND if your menu becomes a "Sears Catalog" the lines are going to move like molasses, which will discourage the customers from buying... While they're standing in line, they're missing part of the movie they came to see!... Make it FAST and EASY, and keep things moving... THAT works best in ALL situations...
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Re: Concession Stand Menu Options 22 Apr 2004 22:26 #26568

  • outaframe
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Been thinking about this for a while, and I have a couple of additions for the basics list... Warm summer nights and a "fun atmosphere" suggest it's an ideal spot to be selling a couple of old fashioned junk foods: cotton candy and snow cones... A flosser and an ice shaver are not all that expensive, and the materials cost is practically nil... You would likely have an exclusive product as well, and IF you have the traffic exposure, these are traditional high volume sellers... You could even use the shaved ice in some sort of spinoff with your soda items to make a psuedo-slurpie... Like popcorn, the cotton candy will sell best if they see it being made, but most operators also have it bagged ahead and that sells even when the machine is off... IF I had a situation like you describe, these would be a must have...
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Re: Concession Stand Menu Options 23 Apr 2004 01:38 #26569

  • MovieGuy
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Be careful with "labor intense" food items. Stick with easy to make (and store) items.
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Re: Concession Stand Menu Options 23 Apr 2004 09:57 #26570

  • trackfood
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Good Luck on your venture. Yes, your food sales are very important...
Here's my take on it. Go with the staples: Popcorn,Soda,Nachos,Super Pretzels,Candy,slush puppie, Cotton Candy,Sno-Cones,Pizza,Hot Dogs.
Now, you can go a step further by getting a grill and fryer... Burgers and Fries would be the next step. As you stated, some places had 10 different fried items. Since you have the fryer you'll just have to try and see what sells, maybe cheese curds will sell great but onion rings won't... who knows. Doesn't hurt to try though. Also remember to consider food cost. Customers don't want to pay $4.00 for cheese curds but you may have to charge that because they are an expensive cost item. But onion rings aren't expensive so you can sell them cheaper etc... Do specials with your great items so your place becomes known for them. Wouldn't it be great to hear "lets get a foot long hot dog at the drive-in, they're awesome"...
You can also add menu items by just doing little things. You can have hot dog on your menu, which leads to a cheese dog (using your cheese for nachos) Chili-cheese dog, onion dog, jalapeno-pepper dog, chicago dog, etc. Be creative.
Another thing you could do is this. Rather than have all these items on you menu, you could have a "sandwich of the week" or something. That way you could have your "meatball sub" or whatever . Your cusomers would get used to looking for your "Sandwich of the week" and may try different items. That way if something does do really well, you could decide if you wanted to carry it all the time. You could also check with your foodservice provider, as they have monthly sales a lot. You could get shaved ham on special from them then make one of your sandwiches of the week with it, and make extra profit because it was on sale.
Don't forget the NON-FOOD items you can sell. Bug spray, Glow in the dark necklaces,rings,bracelets etc...
Check out www.gotglo.com they have good prices
Good Luck
Jeff
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