College and University

Pre- and Post-Game Snacks for College Sports Fans

Oct 31, 2023

Pre- and Post-Game Snacks for College Sports Fans

Football season is an exhilarating time on campuses across the nation. From the rustling leaves signaling the onset of fall to the roaring crowds, it’s an exciting time.

But games are often scheduled at times when traditional meal hours are either winding down or yet to begin.

The result? Hungry students.

The good news is sports seasons like football offer golden opportunities to increase your students’ meal plan satisfaction by offering pre- and post-game specials, as well as easy grab-n-go items.

If you don’t think food is important on game day, think again:

  • The #2 reason consumers visit sports/concert stadiums is to indulge/treat themselves. Ranks behind leisure, which is the #1 reason for visiting1

  • 78% of consumers who visited a sports/concert stadium ordered food, particularly handhelds (49%), apps/sides (22%), and burgers (22%)1

In this article, you’ll learn what fans are looking for, how to satisfy their cravings, and how to prepare game-day food without busting your labor budget.

Why foodservice should be a part of the college fan experience

From tailgating parties to halftime shows, every element of college games contributes to the overall enjoyment of the event. By adding a culinary dimension, universities can elevate the overall fan experience.

Every institution has its traditions, and food has always been a powerful cultural marker. By introducing signature pre- and post-game snacks, colleges can create new traditions that fans look forward to year after year. Over time, these culinary offerings could become as iconic as a mascot or a fight song, further enriching the tapestry of campus culture.

Furthermore, with a captive audience of thousands of non-student fans, the potential for additional revenue is significant. Even modestly priced snacks could generate substantial sums when sold in volume. This income can be reinvested into the institution, further improving the foodservice facilities and offerings.

The snacks sports fans are looking for

1. Fries are the #1 food recreation consumers like/love.1

No surprise here: fried potatoes are America’s favorite side dish overall. They pair well with signature dips, sauces and topical seasonings. And you can load them with protein and vegetables to create entrées and shareable apps.

But for game day, not just any fry will do. A fry with extended hold time will stay crisp and delicious longer, which is especially important if you’re serving them outside or loading them.

RECOMMENDATIONS: Simplot Conquest® Delivery+® Fries offer the industry’s longest hold time—40+ minutes—so you can cook and hold them before rushes to serve fans faster. For a savory/battered option, try Simplot SeasonedCRISP® Delivery+® Fries. They stay crisp and hold up to 30+ minutes.

Rounding out the top 10 of recreational-consumer favorites are:2

2. Elote is among the top foods recreation consumers like/love and are aware of.1

Also known as Mexican street corn, this dish of grilled corn smothered in a creamy mayo sauce and topped with chili powder, cheese and lime is a fan favorite.

RECOMMENDATION: Instead of shucking and grilling fresh corn cobs, take the speed-scratch route with Simplot RoastWorks® Flame-Roasted Corn & Jalapeño Blend. And for a great elote recipe, try this Elote Street Corn from the Simplot Culinary Team.

Recreation consumers also over-index in affinity for:1

  • Queso fundido

  • Gyoza

  • Tostones

  • Poutine

  • Scallion pancakes

  • Truffle fries

  • Seaweed salad

  • Rice rolls

3. Don’t forget the PM snack occasion.

When the game is over, hungry students are just getting started. The PM Snack occasion represented 20% of all traffic in commercial restaurants in the last quarter, up +1% vs. a year ago. The most frequently consumed foods during the PM Snack occasion (PM Snack servings % change vs. year ago) were:2

  • French Fries +22%

  • Potato Chips -8%

  • Soft Serve Ice Cream -4%

  • Chicken Nuggets +23%

  • Breaded Chicken Sandwich +26%

4. Consider grab-n-go options for fans on the run.

Not everyone has time to hang out in the dining hall before the game. Offer your students something to take to go as they head to the game or back to their rooms.

RECOMMENDATION: Pre-packaged items like 2 oz. cups of Simplot Harvest Fresh™ Avocados Western Guacamole travel easily and add loads of authentic Mexican Hass flavor as a dip for chips or topping for prepared wraps and sandwiches.

Tips for implementing your dining options on game day

Engage with your students: Before rolling out new snack options, solicit student feedback. They can provide insights into popular food trends and preferences.

Offer variety: Ensure that there’s something for everyone. From health-conscious options to indulgent treats, a diverse menu can cater to a broader audience.

Opt for mobile vendors: Food trucks or mobile carts can provide flexibility in location and menu offerings. This approach reduces the need for permanent infrastructural changes while allowing for easy scalability.

Promote ahead of time: Use social media, campus newsletters, and other communication channels to create a buzz about the new offerings. The more anticipation you build, the higher the initial participation is likely to be.

In conclusion, the moments before and after a football game are ripe with potential. By seizing the opportunity to offer pre- and post-game snacks, colleges can enrich the fan experience, generate additional revenue, and further weave food into the fabric of campus culture. As foodservice pros, you have the power to transform game days into gourmet experiences, making them even more memorable for all in attendance.

1 Datassential SNAP! Keynote Recreation, 2023

2 Circana, JJA’23