Attending a Severna Park High School sporting event often comes with the sweet taste of victory. Thanks to one dedicated parent volunteer, win or lose, fans can also enjoy a hot pretzel when they come for a game.
“They’ve a little bit become famous,” said Jennifer Roberts, concessions manager for the school’s Falcon Athletic Boosters Club, of her popular addition to the menu.
Roberts was recruited to take the helm of concessions ahead of the 2021-2022 school year, when a friend and fellow booster member suggested that her background in food service made her uniquely qualified for the role.
Not one to shy away from a challenge, Roberts accepted the all-seasons position and readily put her career experience to use for the high school.
Roberts said she went in with two main goals.
“Number one to not make anyone sick, and number two to raise money for the sports teams at the high school, so everything that I decide is based on those two things,” Roberts explained.
One could argue that, now in her second year as concessions manager, Roberts has far exceeded those goals.
“I love the idea of coming into something and finding a way to make it better,” Roberts said, adding that she hoped to get a system in place that could be handed off in the future to someone without her background.
Roberts has implemented a slew of changes to streamline the concessions operation. For starters, she overhauled the purchasing process by ordering food through a delivering distributor versus relying on shopping at wholesale stores. Additionally, she implemented Square technology, both to make it a more user-friendly experience for customers and to track data from year over year to anticipate product and volunteer needs.
“Very frequently, volunteers from other schools will come up and ask questions on products we offer, suppliers we use, how we set up electronic payments, etc.,” said Karen Fox, treasurer of the Falcon Athletic Boosters Club. “This happens 100% because of Jennifer’s efforts, energy and organization.”
Roberts hopes that her efforts will attract more volunteers. In a typical year, approximately 200 parent and student-athlete volunteers are needed to keep the concession stand up and running.
“It sounds like a lot of work, but the sessions, even the ones at a football game where we are so busy the whole time, everyone ends the night with, ‘Wow that was crazy, but fun,’” Roberts said. “The whole idea is I’ve tried to make it to where it’s fun and easy, and it’s not something where you go in and feel like you’re unprepared.”
As for the “famous” pretzels, Roberts credits crowdsourcing and a well-placed tip.
“I am always, and probably to the point of being annoying, asking my friends, their kids, anybody who’s a customer at the concession stand, what they think in terms of what do they want us to serve,” Roberts said.
One day, she received a text from the child of one of her friends. The student sent Roberts a picture of what she described as the “best pretzel [she’d] ever had,” and thought they needed to be added to the concession stand.
“With that picture and that description, I tracked them down and got my distributor to bring them in, and now people rave about the pretzels,” Roberts said. “It should be a community effort — I want them to think of it as their concession stand.”
The money raised from concessions is split between the general boosters account and those of the individual teams. These funds are used for events, stadium and gym music, uniforms, equipment and other various needs of the athletic programs.
“Everyone assumes that everyone has enough money to just send a big check for their kids to play, but that’s not the case,” Roberts said. “I like that what we do helps to financially support to level the playing field.”
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