If improvement in gaming performance is on the menu, then it is time to start thinking about food.

More so than ever before, it seems the way to a gaming machine player is through his or her stomach.  A quality food offering is revealing itself as one of the most important factors for attracting and retaining gaming machine players.  Clubs can no longer rely on having the latest gaming machine products alone to drive gaming visitation and spend.

Food in clubs has a long and entwined relationship with gaming.  The traditional club business model was built on using the revenue from gaming machines to subsidise cheap food and drink.  The $5 roast is such a time honored club tradition that some members see it more as an inalienable human right rather than a great discount.

In the past just having gaming machines was enough to get people through the doors.  For the many people who wanted to partake in a flutter on the pokies, the club was a great avenue for doing so.  Those days are long gone, the modern player is more likely to choose a venue based on the food and beverage offering than the gaming facilities.

Today's average club-goer is far savvier about their food than they used to be.  Television shows like MasterChef and My Kitchen Rules have created a legion of self-proclaimed food critics.  Armed with their smartphones and access to online restaurant rating platforms, they are quick to judge.  A few bad online restaurant reviews can have devastating impact on visitation, such is the power of the internet.

This begs the question, how important is the food offering to gaming machines players?  Recent research reveals that the main reasons most customers visited a venue the last time they played a poker machine was to dine at the restaurant or cafe.  Less than one in four players went to the venue with the primary purpose of gambling.  For the majority of people, playing the poker machine happens as a consequence of going to a venue for a meal.  Get the food offering right and you should see an uptick in gaming revenue as a result.

It is a safe bet that id a club's gaming machine players aren't impressed with the food offering, they will visit less frequently or stop coming altogether.  So improving food should be a top priority for clubs looking to boost their gaming machine performance.  However all too often, gaming and food and beverage are conducted in virtual silos, with decisions made in isolation of each other.  Clubs should be looking to regularly survey their customers to find out their opinions about the food offering and how it might be improved.  That information should be used to create a compelling food offering that will help attract and retain gamers.

The proximity of food outlets to the gaming area is also an important consideration.  The modern day customer is typically time poor - providing casual dining options conveniently located next to the gaming area can take away the difficult choice between a meal or a flutter.  In an ideal world, every diner would stop to put a few dollars in the poker machine.

(Daniel Mitchell, ClubsNSW Senior Policy Officer - Gambling, ClubLIFE May 2015)