CHICAGO – Last year’s 2.6 percent decrease in sales in the recreation foodservice segment was actually a big improvement over the prior year’s nominal decline of 10 percent, according to Technomic. Hit hard by the recession’s lingering effects, the industry has continued to struggle as discretionary spending remains down from pre-recession levels.

The recreation segment in the US 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 its foodservice offerings to attract those customers venturing out and seeking more for their money.

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

Highlights include:

  • After two years of revenue declines, the gaming industry is starting to show signs of growth. Las Vegas, in particular, is benefiting. 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.
  • 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.
  • Attendance is down in some but not all markets for major sports, and this remains one of the segment’s strongest subsections. 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.
  • 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 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 percent nominally from 2005 to 2010.
  • 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.
  • Several 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. Operators are offering family packages and adult-focused theme nights to court customers.
  • 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.