How to Make Money With Popcorn (and other Fun Foods)
Many people purchase a Gold Medal Popcorn Machine or Funnel Cake Fryer or Cotton Candy Machine and have visions of dollar signs rolling around in their head - but when they plug the machine in, the world fails to beat a pathway to the concession stand - and the "Get Rich Quick Dream is shattered. There are other people who buy a Gold Medal Popcorn Machine, set it into operation and have a virtual non-stop profit making operation. As a matter of fact, when you can sell all the output of virtually any Gold Medal piece of concessions equipment, it doesn't take much more than 3 sold days for that machine to pay for itself.
What is the key to success? Location. Location means being right in the middle of peak traffic where you don't need to do anything to stimulate sales - rather, the impulse of popcorn (or other Fun Foods) would generate its own sales.
Unfortunately, only of few have this type of location. Read on for everybody else who has to work a little bit harder after you "Plug it in". Yes, almost everybody can do dramatically better with promtional activity or merchandising activity. "Plan your promotions - then work your plan"
Popcorn Machine Placement
Your popcorn machine, slush machine, hot dog machine and any other type of "Action" machine should be on the front counter whenever possible - certainly, your highest profit margin items should be "up-front". There's a difference of 30% - 50% in sales of many impulse snacks which come when you take the machine off the back bar and put it on the front counter.
Illumination: Always... Always... Always select equipment which has illumination - you pay for it once. The lights under the popper dome attract customers to your snack bar forever.
"Profit Pairing": Place your popcorn machine next to the item that is most logical to be sold as a companion snack. Customers see both, and buy both. Keep the profit mates together.
Spend the money to get the machine which says, "Popcorn" in a manner which is as visible as possible from as far away as possible.
Popcorn Popper Appearance
Clean it - every evening at the close of business, pack all of the popcorn into polybags, tie it tightly and then thoroughly clean the machine. If you clean it each day it's a snap to keep clean. Consider buying a Gold Medal Popcorn Popper with the E-Z Kleen Kettle.
Fill it during working hours. Always keep a moderate display of popped pocorn - never get down to the absolute bottom - likewise, don't fill it all the way up - leave room to start popping in advance of an anticipated rush so the aroma is there. Remember, you can't sell from an empty cart.
Keep it Hot! - when you are popping, you may keep the doors open so the steam given off will escape and not fog up the windows. Once you have finished popping, keep the machine doors closed so the corn stays "Kettle crisp" all the time.
Light it up! - make sure you have the light bulbs in the dome working.
Keep the popcorn kettle clean - with every new Gold Medal Popcorn Popper you have been furnished a piece of terry cloth which can be folded 4 to 6 thickness' and used as a "Clean kettle wipe". Keep your terry cloth clean kettle wiper clean - after every 3 to 4 batches of corn, hold the popcorn kettle dumb knob, and with the other hand, take the folded towel and wipe the sides of the kettle with the towel - reverse hands on the kettle dumb knob and wipe the lid of the kettle and the other side. Do not bake on spilled popping oil. Always let the popcorn kettle cool down to a warm temp before wiping it clean.
Use coconut oil for a cleaner popcorn kettle - coconut oil is a fairly saturated popping oil , and will not form black varnish inside and outside of your kettle. Coconut oil will always give the best tasting popcorn, is easy to clean and won't go rancid like liquid oils will.
Pop at least 4-5 batches each time the machine is turned on. This will extend the life of your popcorn kettle.
Careful with the scoop: Don't jab the scoop into the tender kernals - rather, try to scoop from the bottom with the metal of the scoop in touch with the metal on the floor or deck of the popcorn machine. This will cut back on breakage. Remember, unbroken kernals take up a lot more space than broken kernals. The profit secret is to sell volume not weight.
Check the "Old Maid" drawer - too many old maids can mean your corn has dried out, or you have bought poor corn, or possibly your kettle is not getting to the proper popping temperature. That means you are selling "tough" popcorn - your customers will not come back for seconds. Too many "butterfly ears" which have broken off kernals and are now in the "old maid " drawer, indicate improper use of the scoop. Develop a softer touch- keep metal to metal contact.
Do not over salt - Portion Pak pocorn does not really cost money in the long run. It saves money, because your corn never dries out. You get maximum expansion in every batch of corn. You also get exactly the right amount of salt in each batch. If you over salt for one solid week, it could take as long as 6 months to get your loyal customer back. How much does that cost?
Specialized containers are available for specialized sales opportunities. Normally, a popcorn bag is slow working. It requires two hands to eat popcorn out of a popcorn bag. It is difficult to display corn in paper bags. Offer a personal size - Cone-O-Corn,is ideal for walk away situations like swimming pools, youth baseball, or covenience stores. Offer a large size pocorn box for two people to share. Don't forget to offer a "Take Home" size, 18" Heap-O-Corn, one gallon size, poly bags, or the 30" - 2 gallon size.
Make a change for the BUTTER: Some people feel the theatres have a patent on the right to sell popcorn topped off with a serving of imitation butter. Actually anyone will dramatically increase popcorn profits once they sell pocorn "just like the movies" - topped off with butter or imitation butter. Always offer two sizes of "buttered popcorn" - 24 ounce cup or the 46 oz cups are ideal. (Have patience when you introduce popcorn "just like the movies" - sometimes it might take as long as 30 days to really get it rolling.
Remember, if you plug it in and forget it, your customers may forget it too. Therefore, even though your profit percentage may be cut by a promotion, you do not spend percentages, you spend gross profit dollars that you take to the bank. Don't be afraid to to incentivize your customers. Coupons work very well. The important thing is to accelerate the momemtum of sales from the first day you receive your popcorn machine. Keep it exciting!!!
Other Promotional Ideas:
- Buy one get one free!
- Run a free popcorn weekend when you install a new popper-The Cone-O-corn full has a total cost of about 5¢ .
- Roll back prices to the "Good Old Days" 10¢ or 15¢ for a day.
- Buy a large soft drink - get a cone-ocorn free
- Good report card - All A's and B's get a free popcorn today
- Free popcorn with 8 gallon fillup.
- Turn your popcorn machine on 15 minutes before a crowd of people come through
- An important tip on popping: If your corn is not yellow enough, chances are likely you are putting the oil in the kettle and then waiting until it melts before putting the corn in. The Popping oil should be put in first and immediately add your corn and salt. This will make your finished product more buttery-like yellow, in apperance, and sell better.