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Stadium Concessions: Trends and Insights for 2023 and Beyond

Jul 7, 2023

Stadium Concessions: Trends and Insights for 2023 and Beyond

For stadium concession professionals, it’s time to play ball.

Venues for sports events and concerts are enjoying a resurgence of attendance back to pre-pandemic levels. What’s more, fewer consumers say they intend to cut back on live entertainment, meaning more dollars will continue to move into leisure and experiences.1

Industry research firm Technomic predicts strong growth into 2024 for this segment:2

  • Recreation real $ growth forecast 2023 vs. 2022 (excludes inflation): $23.6MM, up +3.7%
  • Recreation real $ growth forecast 2024 vs. 2023: +6.8%

But something else is also rising: Expectations of the food and beverages offered at events.

  • 62% of consumers say food options are very important when going to a sport/concert stadium.3
  • Yet only 44% of consumers were extremely or very satisfied with their food and beverage purchases at a sports/concert stadium—statistically lower than the recreation segment average.3

This represents a prime opportunity to improve your customers’ satisfaction while ramping up sales and profitability.

In this post, you’ll get a snapshot of the stadium concession customer today, learn what they’re looking for, and see what’s new on stadium menus. You’ll also find solutions to reduce your labor and improve your profitability.

Who’s the customer for stadium concessions in 2023?

A third of all consumers visited a sport/concert stadium in the last six months. These rates run higher among males, Gen Z and Millennials. That’s a lot of hungry, thirsty people!

  • 78% of consumers who visited a sport/concert stadium ordered food, particularly handhelds (49%), apps/sides (22%), and burgers (22%).3
  • 52% of F&B purchases at a sport/concert stadium were impulse purchases.3
  • The average customer spent $32.02 on purchases at their last visit to a sport/concert stadium.3
  • 23% of consumers report their visitation to sport/concert stadiums has increased over the last year.3
  • 28% anticipate their visitation will increase over the next year.3

And don’t forget, consumers who visit a sport/concert stadium are more likely to have children, so kid-friendly options are a must.3

What customers say stadium concessions are doing right (and wrong)

Sports/concert stadiums thrive when they have welcoming staff, a diverse selection of beverages, and efficient service. However, fewer than 20% of patrons believe that these venues stand out in terms of providing discounts or exclusive food and beverage items.4

Here’s how many consumers rated concessions positively on a variety of parameters:4

58% Staff friendliness
53% Variety of beverage options
51% Speed of service
48% Freshness of food/beverage options
46% Pleasant/comfortable seating
43% Quality of food/beverage options
40% Variety of food options
27% Staff prepares the food “made to order”
19% Best value
19% Availability of specialty, seasonal or limited-time items
13% Availability of deals

What would make fans purchase more food and beverages at stadiums?

According to the researchers at Datassential, sports and concert stadium attendees would be more inclined to buy more food at events if they were offered a greater variety of food options, larger portions, and healthier, snacking, and unique choices. A small fraction of patrons—roughly one-fifth—reported that nothing would motivate them to buy food more frequently at these venues.4

17% Wider selection
17% Healthier options
16% Bigger portion sizes
16% More snack options
11% Shareable portion sizes
8% More local sourcing
6% More customization
6% More modern/less traditional options
5% Longer hours
5% Better kid-friendly options
4% Smaller portion sizes
23% Other
20% Nothing would

French fries are still #1 in stadium concessions

This shouldn’t come as a surprise: french fries have long been America’s favorite side. And this still holds true at sporting events and concerts.

Here are the sides and appetizers consumers say they love or like the most in the recreation segment:4

91% French fries
88% Mashed potatoes
87% Chicken strips
87% Chips and salsa
87% Garlic bread
87% Hash browns
87% Mac-n-cheese
86% Baked potato
85% Mozzarella sticks
85% Quesadillas

HOT TIP #1: Simplot offers a huge selection of fries in every shape and flavor profile imaginable. From our unforgettable SIDEWINDERS™ Fries to our fast-cooking Infinity® Fries, we have fries for every type of operation. Use the Simplot Fry Finder to find your perfect fry faster!

Interestingly, recreation-segment customers also over-index for the following items vs. the general population:4

Queso fundido
Elote
Gyoza
Tostones
Poutine
Scallion pancake
Truffle fries
Seaweed salad
Rice rolls
Bacon-wrapped dates

Here’s what’s new at Major League Baseball concessions around the U.S.

Wondering what your competition is up to? In April, Foodservice Magazine researched the concessions menus in ballparks around the country and published a partial list of the new items they found related to nachos, fries, sweets and beverages. Naturally, fries play a starring role.

Here’s what they discovered:5

Shareable & Portable Meals

Loaded & Flavored Fries

  • Loaded Greek Fries (Wrigley Field, Chicago)
  • Cajun Fries (Minute Maid Park, Houston)
  • South Philly Disco Fries (Citizens Bank Park, Philadelphia)
  • Colossal Potato Wedges (Guaranteed Rate Field, Chicago)
  • Green Chili Cheese Fries (Coors Field, Denver)
  • Bacon Jalapeño Philly Fry Helmet (Chase Field, Phoenix)
  • Hot Honey Chicken Loaded Fries (Guaranteed Rate Field, Chicago)

More Shareable & Portable Meals

  • Strawberry Churro Shortcake (Oakland Coliseum)
  • Crab Rangoon Nachos (Progressive Field, Cleveland)
  • Jerk Chicken Nachos (Rogers Centre, Toronto)
  • Loaded Potatoes (Target Field, Minneapolis)
  • Elote Corndog (Guaranteed Rate Field, Chicago)

HOT TIP #2: The best loaded fries stay crisp under all those wet toppings. We strongly recommend a clear-coated fry like Simplot Conquest® Delivery+® Fries (40+ minute holding time) for loaded-fry recipes. For a savory-seasoned/battered option, try Simplot SeasonedCRISP® Delivery+® Fries with 30+ minutes of hold time!

HOT TIP #3: For mouthwatering loaded-fry toppings, you can’t go wrong with Simplot RoastWorks® Roasted Vegetables and Harvest Fresh™ Avocados Guacamole. Roasted vegetables and guacamole add a healthy halo to recipes and are extremely popular. Count on perfect consistency and minimal labor, event after event.

Portable Desserts

  • Berry Waffle Cone (Coors Field, Denver)
  • Cheesecake on a Stick (Dodger Stadium, LA)
  • PB&J Churro (Rogers Centre, Toronto)
  • Peach Chimmies (Coors Field, Denver)

Refreshing Drinks

  • Mangonada (Guaranteed Rate Field, Chicago) – a frozen mango drink with mango, chamoy and chili powder. Mmmmm.

HOT TIP #4: You can’t count on getting fresh fruit all year long. For consistent quality, pricing and availability year-round, consider Simplot Simple Goodness™ Premium Fruit. You’ll find all your favorites (mango, strawberries, and more) with bright color and easy thaw-and-serve prep. Great for less-skilled labor!

Solving for labor in stadium concessions

While foodservice employment overall has reached 99% of pre-pandemic level, attracting and retaining skilled kitchen labor remains a challenge in many locations.6 Simplot frozen potatoes, vegetables, avocado, fruit and grains can help concession operators. Here’s how:

Less labor: The prep on our products is as simple as heat and serve. We’ve done all the washing, peeling and slicing. And new products like Simplot Ready-to-Eat Vegetables don’t even need to be heated—just thaw and serve. They’re ideal for salads and grab-n-go items.

Consistent quality, pricing and availability year-round: Our products are harvested at the peak of maturity and then quickly frozen to lock in their farm-fresh color and flavor.

Less waste: You get 100% usable product. Why pay for peels and pits you can’t sell?

The season to make changes has arrived

According to Datassential, the number-two reason consumers visit sport/concert stadiums is to indulge/treat themselves.3 In a post-COVID world, there is an undeniable craving for experience, and food & beverage should be a central attraction. With Simplot frozen foods, you can create a consistently positive food experience for fans while keeping your labor and food costs in check.

1 Datassential, Table Stakes Report, April 2023
2 Technomic Long-term Forecast, May 2023
3 Datassential, Recreation report, June 2023
4 Datassential, SNAP! Keynote, Recreation, June 2023
5 Food Management: What's new at Major League ballparks
6 Bureau of Labor Statistics, May 2023