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Oct. 22, 2009

There are many different entities involved in putting on a successful game day that the average fan doesn't see. Different groups from Game Operations and Marketing, all the way to Trucking and Concessions, work together in order to put on a great game day experience for the fans. Join us this week as we speak with Becky Bystrom, head of concessions at Miami University, in order to take an in depth look at how concessions operates on game days.

Wade Hinkle (WH): What is a typical game day like from start to finish?
Becky Bystrom (BB): We start eight hours before game time. We begin picking up the money banks for each concession stand. Then, we begin preparing the food and stocking the concession stands with packages. The food is delivered fresh from Culinary Support Services the day of the game. Approximately four hours prior to the game, our Concession Stand Operator Managers (CSO) arrive at the stadium, and from that time forward, we focus on assisting each concession stand in any way they need in order to be ready for when the gates open.

WH: Do you begin making any preparations in the days leading up to the football game?
BB: We begin three weeks prior to game day. We spend most of our time re-cleaning the stands to make sure they are as clean as possible, stocking the concessions stands underneath the east stands, stocking the trailer stands, setting up the concessions tents, and setting up the production room and the production counter. We also have to double check all of the equipment to make sure everything is working properly. I begin working with the CSO groups in June, and our first meeting is in August.

WH: What exactly are CSO's?
BB: CSO's are Concession Stand Operators. Basically, they are all volunteers that make money for their organizations. To be a CSO you have to be a true organization with a tax exempt number. We recruit CSO's through word of mouth and we keep an ongoing list of organizations that typically help out. At the beginning of the season, we e-mail all of our groups in order to fill up our concession stand personnel needs.

WH: What are your typical game day duties?
BB: One of my duties is to inspect the money banks to make sure everything is there and is counted correctly. I am also in charge of opening and inspecting the stands to make sure they are clean and in good shape for game day. I greet the CSO managers and make sure they are in the right places. My biggest duty is to make sure we open up the stands on time and make sure everything runs smoothly throughout the day. I also have to be available during the day to take care of any issues that may arise. At the end of the day, I am in charge of making sure everything is clean and the stands have all been shut down properly.

WH: How many people does it take to run concessions on game day?
BB: It takes 4 managers, 10 student managers, 30 students, 12 CSO managers, and at least 140 CSO group members. So, all in all, it takes approximately 200 people.

WH: What are some of the typical roles of the people that manage underneath you?
BB: Scott Smith, who is one of my managers, runs the concessions under the east stands from set up to finish. Heather Paynter, another of my managers, runs the production aspects from set up to finish and Scott Haas, the last manager, runs the south end concession stands. The student managers that work for me have two to three stands that they are directly responsible for. We make sure we help out organizations that have never worked concession stands before by putting in managers and students to help them set up and run their stand more effectively.

WH: What is the hardest part about game day?
BB: Getting everything ready, including the groups for the gate opening and the concessions rush at half time. The hardest part is gauging the amount of materials we need for the game day. There are just so many factors involved that make it such a difficult task, such as the past attendance history of a particular game or team performance. Also, we have to look at the weather for the weekend. For example, if it is going to be cold we know we are going to sell a lot of hot chocolate and coffee, and if it is warm we are going to sell a substantial amount of water. Another thing we have to factor in is the time of the game. If the game is at noon, people will be hungry because they may not have had lunch yet, but if the game is at three people might have already eaten lunch and won't be as hungry. There are so many factors we have to look into that it makes predicting how much we will sell very difficult.

WH: What is your favorite part about game day?
BB: I would have to say the excitement of the beginning of the game and seeing a very busy halftime for the concession stands. I also like seeing the customers enjoying the event and knowing that our staff contributed to the overall success of the event.

WH: How do you measure your success on game day?
BB: I measure our success by the satisfied customers that I see and talk to throughout the day. If we have provided quality and efficient service for that game day, I know that we have been successful.

WH: Everyone wants to know, what items are your best sellers?
BB: For our grills it is our Angus burgers and brats. For our deep fry, it is our funnel cakes and for our stands it is the Montgomery BBQ sandwich.

WH: What kind of efforts go into coordinating such a large effort like concessions on game day?
BB: We start meeting and planning for football season in May. We bring in extra cleaning crews in the summer. There is a lot of pre planning on my part in order to get the right groups to work the concession stands, find the right mix of food for each game, and also to coordinate all of my student workers.

WH: What improvements do you think you can make for concessions to help game days run more smoothly?
BB: We always look for ways to improve our services. At this point, I think just keeping the communication lines open between everyone so that we can all help each other out at the stadium will go a long ways into making things run more efficiently.