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Revamped Foodservice Offerings Play Role In Recreation Industry Recovery

CHICAGO (October 31, 2011 - PR Newswire)—It is rare for a 2.6 percent decrease in sales to be considered good news, but in the case of the recreation foodservice segment, last year’s decrease was actually a big improvement over the prior year’s nominal decline of 10 percent. The industry, hit hard by the recession’s lingering effects, has continued to struggle as discretionary spending remains down from pre-recession levels. The recreation segment had retail-sales-equivalent food and non-alcoholic beverage revenues of $15.8 billion dollars in 2010. One way the industry is seeking to restore profitability is by expanding and tailoring their foodservice offerings to attract those customers venturing out and seeking the most bang for their buck.

"The recreation segment continues to evolve from a sector with very limited foodservice opportunities to one in which foodservice plays a vital role in attracting and retaining customers," says Technomic Director Mary Chapman. "In many cases, their core business—from slot machines to museum exhibits—has been suffering, and restaurants are a key way to help build bottom lines. This creates a lot of opportunity for smart foodservice operators, contract management companies and food manufacturers."

To help those companies understand where opportunities lie in the recreation industry, Technomic has developed the Recreation Foodservice Report.

Interesting findings include:

Casinos/Gaming: After two years of revenue declines, the gaming industry is starting to show signs of growth. Las Vegas, in particular, is benefiting: For the past 16 consecutive months, the number of visitors to Sin City has increased, according to the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority. New regions such as Pennsylvania have also seen growth. Restaurant operators, including celebrity chefs, play a large role in attracting consumers to casinos and keeping them on premise.

Cruise Ships: The number of worldwide cruise-ship passengers increased steadily between 2007 and 2009, reaching 13.4 million in 2009—up a modest 3.0 percent over 2008. Cruise ships have been segment pioneers in leveraging foodservice as a lure to new passengers, not only by adding celebrity-chef-designed restaurants but also by creating cooking-class cruises with demonstrations by culinary experts.

Theme/Amusement Parks: Beyond the economic slump, parks are at the mercy of the weather, tourism rates and competition for less-expensive forms of family entertainment. Operators are working to underscore the unique and special qualities of going to a theme park versus other entertainment venues, efforts that often include aggressive promotions involving lodging and food packages, discounts for prepaid food and all-you-can-eat special deals.

Stadiums/Arenas: Attendance is down in some but not all markets for major sports, and this remains one of the segment’s strongest subsections. Every other category would love to build foodservice revenues as stadiums have done. Concessions have been improved; popular brand names are common; full-service restaurants are proliferating; and the quality of in-suite catering matches that of fine-dining restaurants.

Sports Clubs: Memberships in city, golf and yacht clubs are down. The number of golf rounds being played is also down. As a result, food-and-beverage revenues (which account for almost 30 percent of an average private club’s income) have declined.

Movie Theaters: Movie theaters are a bright spot in the recreation segment. Movie theaters are not only surviving a tough economic environment, they are succeeding. Despite the growth of Red Box vending machines, movies by-mail and streaming options, and myriad online video sites, box-office sales have grown by 20% nominally from 2005 to 2010. "Dinner and a movie" promotions are growing in popularity and many theater operators have added their own restaurants and lounges.

Museums: Attendance is down for all fine-arts categories, and museums also are being pinched by reduced donations and civic support. However, museums have been among the leaders in upgrading foodservice over the past decade, often with the help of national or local celebrity chefs.

Bowling and Entertainment Centers: A few chains, such as AMF 300 and Splitsville, are moving ahead with plans to open centers where quality dining is the primary draw and bowling alleys are secondary. When the economy brightens, many other centers will follow the lead of these companies. In the meantime, operators are offering family packages and adult-focused theme nights to court customers.

Zoos, Race Tracks and Others: Zoos, aquariums, horse and auto racing tracks, fairs and other entertainment attractions have seen declining admissions. These sectors have responded by reducing ticket prices to draw traffic, promoting foodservice facilities as an important reason to visit, and offering more trend-forward food and beverages to create a sense of excitement.

Technomic’s Recreation Foodservice Report provides an in-depth understanding of recreation foodservice’s major components: casinos, cruise lines, theme/amusement parks, stadiums and arenas, sports clubs, movie theaters, bowling centers, museums, zoos and race tracks. For each of these categories, major players are identified and the present and future role of foodservice is analyzed.

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