A Healthy Hockey Concession: How We Sold REAL Food & Scored!
|January 28, 2015||Posted by Stacy under Healthy concession|
It started with a simple question: Why can’t we offer healthier food at our youth hockey concessions? I asked it silently before finally saying it out loud to another hockey mom who shares my passion for real food. Together, we envisioned a concession featuring a wholesome soup, egg burritos, fresh fruit, blueberry muffins and other nourishing options. Yes, it would be a big departure from the typical fare of store-bought donuts and brownies. But we thought, why not try?!?
We approached our team manager with our idea and immediately met resistance. “You can’t ask parents to bring healthy food,” we were told. “And people won’t buy it!” Instead of backing down, we volunteered to organize a concession for an upcoming tournament. Reluctantly, our team manager agreed.
#1: Rally the troops We contacted the team moms who we thought might be open to swapping glazed donuts for fruit cups. We are lucky to live in a resort where fitness enthusiasts abound, so finding a few allies wasn’t hard. They gladly signed up to bring healthier items.
#2: Get donations We reached out to local businesses for donations to help drive down our costs. Thinking designer coffee might sell better a supermarket brand, we approached Starbucks and they gave us 3 pounds of ground beans for free. A local market donated a fresh and hearty handmade vegetable beef stew along with fresh fruit (apples and bananas). Our local organic bakery provided bagels and small “bird seed” oatmeal cookies. And a favorite local cafe agreed to providfe muffins filled with raspberries and blueberries. Score!
#3: Don’t offend With a lot of great food already lined up, we asked other team parents for specific items including healthy muffins or breakfast breads, cream and/or milk for coffee, and supplies such as paper cups, napkins, utensils. Though we mentioned the word “healthy” (just once!), we didn’t stress it. We worried it might upset or incite those who had contributed donuts and other sugary treats in the past. Our plan was to put together a healthier spread without making a big fuss.
#4: Plan a balanced menu We tried to offer a range of options, all of which would be easy to eat on the go. We included some sweet treats but made them a little more wholesome. The lemon yogurt loaf that we served, for example, was made with whole-wheat pastry flour and slightly reduced sugar. We wanted to sell popcorn but were told that we couldn’t (rink rules). Bummer since popcorn is always a kid fave and has a great mark-up. In a controversial move, we decided to NOT offer hot chocolate. We knew it was a top seller but we couldn’t find a brand that we liked within our price range.
#5: Focus on presentation From the concession stand to the food itself, we knew an appealing presentation could be key. So we used tablecloths, placed food on plates and platters, and kept it covered with plastic wrap to prevent contamination. We also made a point of keeping the concession tables tidy and clean, wiping up spills and re-filling platters quickly.
#6: Marketing We hung signs promoting the concession around the rink, especially on the ice rink doors. We emphasized Starbucks coffee, fresh bagels, locally made soup, and homemade goodies.
#7: Make it tasty If it tasted delicious and was priced appropriately, we were confident that people would buy it!
#8: Add donation jar This had never been done before. But we figured people might just throw in their spare change or even a buck. We created a sign with a cute photo of the kids.
Starbucks coffee $1
Chai or Raspberry Hibiscus Tea $1
Homemade fresh-squeezed lemonade $1
Fresh locally made soup $3
Egg & cheese burritos (with or without salsa) $2
Bagels with cream cheese or butter $1
Fruit cups $1
Muffins & cookies $1
Lemon yogurt loaf $1
Cheese sticks 2 for $1
Yogurt tubes 2 for $1
Fruit leathers 2 for $1
Apples & bananas $1
Vitamin water $1
What Worked & What Didn’t
Not long after we arrived at the arena to set up, parents started arriving with food. Despite our request for healthy muffins and breads, one parent showed up with donuts, another with brownies and still another with cookies–all from our local supermarket. So much for avoiding the sugar bombs! But it was our mistake for not communicating our plan. Live and learn!
We wanted to give the healthy homemade food a chance to sell first, so we stashed the store-bought treats temporarily. Until, that is, a man walked up and semi-jokingly said, “This stuff is WAY too healthy for me! Where are the donuts?!?” SIGH.
It felt like we were off to a rocky start. Sales of our healthy homemade muffins and treats were slow at first, but then picked up. Before we knew it, the banana muffins and lemon yogurt loaf were gone. About two hours into the concession, we put out fruit cups, which sold out within an hour (we’d priced them low so they probably didn’t make much money, but they could have be profitable if the fruit had been donated).
Coffee was popular. We sold a lot of it at a great return, since it had been donated. I do think serving a name brand helped. People said it was delicious.
On the second day of the concession, a couple moms signed up to bring breakfast burritos (some of which were made with eggs from backyard chickens–so cool!). Tasty and satisfying, they sold quickly.
Some people asked for hot chocolate and were disappointed that we didn’t have any. Other team parents thought we needed to offer a warm drink for kids. Next time, we may try pre-making real hot chocolate with good cocoa and milk. I don’t think we lost a lot of money by not serving it since kids bought food instead. And unlike past concessions, we offered tea–and did sell some.
The items that didn’t sell so well? Surprisingly, the bagels, especially since they normally would cost $2.50 at the store. Since they’d been donated, it wasn’t a big deal. Cheese sticks, apples and bananas weren’t hot items, either. We sold a little soup (also donated) but had a lot leftover. Next time, we may try chili. While yummy, zucchini muffins also did not sell, but a few chocolate chips on top (or perhaps chocolate zucchini muffins?) might solve that.
Our donation jar, however, reaped more than $25. So glad that we decided to put one out!
So Was It Successful?
Between the concession and a raffle, we brought in more than $800 over 2 days. That’s several hundreds of dollars MORE than our hockey concessions normally make (and this was a small tournament with only four teams). All in all, a big success! Parents truly seemed to appreciate the healthier options. One even said, “Best. Concession. Ever.” (Don’t know about that, but we’ll take it!). The team manager’s reaction? She admitted that it went much better than she’d expected and commented on the amazing food. A huge relief, as we really wanted to show that a healthier concession could work–and it really did!
Have you ever wished that more concession menus had healthy options? What kinds of snacks would YOU like to see more of? Share your thoughts in the comments below!