There’s nothing quite like the scent of freshly popping popcorn to set people’s mouths to watering. They may go to a roller skating facility first and foremost to skate, yet when the right incentives are present skaters soon have more on their minds than simply spinning around the rink. Facility owners and managers know this and employ several clever methods to make sure patrons flock to the concession stand. Read on to learn some of their secrets to selling more food.
At B&J Skate Center in St. Joseph Mo., popcorn tops the list of best-selling food items at the concession stand. “We use coconut oil. It makes a difference. It’s as close to movie popcorn as you can get plus our prices are lower,” said Amy Sharp, manager of the 17,000-square-foot family-owned facility. It’s so good, in fact, that parents picking up their children after skating sessions or birthday parties will frequently come in and pick up a few bags to go. “People definitely talk about our popcorn a lot. The smell of it popping grabs them as they walk in the door. Between that and the smell of cotton candy – another of our good sellers – it’s all pretty irresistible!” she added.
In addition to counting on people’s noses to lead them to make food purchases, B&J Skate Center also promotes their top sellers by incorporating them into prize packages for winning on-site arcade games. Winners get a free drink, a popcorn or a cotton candy, for example, which prompts development of a taste for their product, if patrons haven’t developed one already. In addition to the usual birthday gatherings, B&J hosts events for companies whereupon party-goers receive tickets representing different food packages that the skating facility devises. It’s an efficient way to sell more food and keep it simple for the person in charge of paying the bill. Space constraints notwithstanding, the Missouri skating center has plans to add another small pizza oven in the future as that dish is another good seller for them. “We’re also thinking about doing some baked cookies and using our pizza oven to make them, so it’ll be helpful to have another one on hand,” Sharp said.
Variety is the name of the game at Super Wheels Skating Center in Miami, Fla., where the food offerings are plentiful compared to some skating rinks. The 30,000-square-foot Center has a full size snack bar where patrons can get pizza, burgers, fries, nachos, wings, chicken fingers, hotdogs, cheese sticks, garlic mushroom specialty platters and more. Pizza, chicken fingers and fries top their list of best-sellers according to Operations Manager Michelle Wellman. “I personally think our chicken fingers are really good and apparently kids feel the same way because they just flock to them.” Super Wheels puts together a lot of combo deals to sell more food – some examples are a cheeseburger with chili fries; chicken fingers and fries; ten wings and a large soda; a large pizza and a pitcher of soda; and a chicken sandwich with fries. “Other than these promotions, it’s all word of mouth for us…. and seeing the product. We regularly display a combo in the hot box. People eat with their eyes so if they see it, they want it,” Wellman said.
Super Wheels skated 94,315 people last year and contrary to most skating centers, a lot of their action takes place during the summer months. Miami’s hot, humid climate necessitates indoor activity during that period and those escalating numbers also prompt Wellman to bring in at least one new food item as a summertime special. “One year we did meatball subs and the next year we did specialty grilled cheese sandwiches. We try to do something different each summer season,” she said.
At Rock n Roller Rink, LLC in Farmington, N.M., sisters and Co-owners Linda Burgett and Shelly Rhames freely admit that the scent of popping popcorn is one of their food-selling strategies. “Between the popcorn and the scent of fresh baked cookies, the air is filled with yummy, home-baked smells that really attract people to the concession stand,” said Rhames. Popcorn and pizza top sales at the newly renovated, 30,654-square-foot skating center that the sisters just opened in April. The facility boasts an almost regulation size skate floor and a multi-media system featuring six 8-by-8-foot screens positioned in patrons’ view as they whiz around the rink. Music videos are projected onto the screens and they are interspersed with advertisements for concession stand items. “When we run meal specials, we make sure they’re promoted throughout the evening by our DJ,” added Rhames.
The sisters have an ambitious plan to incorporate healthy eating options into their menu in 2017. “Our goal is to promote a healthy lifestyle for children,” said Burgett. They have begun to slowly introduce veggies and dip, salads, organic fruit drink mixtures and other clean fare. “We spend a lot of time researching various vendors’ products and trying them ourselves. Some work and some fail. But I think that’s one thing our customers are really enjoying. They know when they come in week after week, we’re going to have something new for them to sample, something new for them to try. And we keep our prices affordable. We’ve taken the approach: let’s make it affordable for a family of four to come and enjoy the evening and be able to get their food from the concession stand.”
They make their own pizza at Angelo Skate and Fun Center in San Angelo, Texas, and as a result it occupies the top spot on their list of best-selling food items. Spicy fries and funnel cakes rank right up there too, according to Matt Trubenstein who, with his son Shawn, co-owns the two-acre facility which includes the 18,000-square-foot skating center. The center does a lot of birthday party business which generally entails pizzas. “If a party package comes with two or three pizzas and extra guests arrive, they’ll usually end up ordering more. And since we make our own pizzas here…. we do sell a lot of them, let’s put it that way!” Trubenstein said.
The father and son team likes to keep things simple and favors greaseless cooking, counting on their Quik n’ Crispy ovens to prepare most of their menu items. “We don’t really deep fry anything. We do our funnel cakes, our hot dogs in the Quik n’ Crispy. That way we don’t have to deal with overhead vented hoods or grease plus our health inspector visits are a breeze,” Trubenstein said. “Occasionally we’ll change things up a bit here and there, play with some of the food specials – like do an ice cream float or a hot dog and french fry combination, things like that. But mostly we’ve got it narrowed down to what works for us.”
The kid-centric crowd at Sk8ters Paradise in Somerset, Ky., accounts for why chili cheese fries, chicken tender baskets, pizza and cheese bread land squarely at the top of their list of best-selling food items. To mix things up, the 16,000-square-foot facility frequently runs promotional skates and they always feature some food item in the program. Offerings are sometimes quite inventive. “We did a Green Eggs and Ham Skate (a la Dr. Seuss) and had a breakfast bar where we put green food coloring in the scrambled eggs,” said Manager Casey Vanhook. “We’ve also done an 80s Night, an Ugly Christmas Sweater Skate and a carnival theme where the employees dressed up as clowns. We had booths and sold cotton candy and popcorn plus corn dogs – which we normally don’t sell – at discounted rates.”
On a typical Saturday during peak winter months, Sk8ters Paradise will skate 600 people. Their patrons are open to new ideas so recently the concession stand came up with a new product called pizza fries. Overall, this seems to be the secret. As the Kentucky facility and others have shown, it frequently pays to keep introducing new flavor sensations for eyes, nose and tastebuds to experience!