In clubs and hotels these days, we all have essentially the same product offerings as our competitors. Most venues have restaurants, bars and gaming rooms for smokers and non-smokers as a minimum. Even coffee shops, cafes, bistros, gyms and snooker rooms are fairly common. With only a few really good decorators and designers in the club and hotel industry, even the décor can look similar to a player.

And that’s not even counting the number of competing business in the local area or the same street.

Standing out from the crowd is becoming increasingly difficult but it doesn’t have to cost a lot.

Limits on food in outdoor smoking gaming areas has complicated the issue and made it even more difficult. You are no longer able to serve food in any area where smoking is permitted and under the CODA (Commercial Outdoor Dining Area) regulation, any food that is served in a bowl, on a plate, finger food or food packaged for immediate consumption is not allowed to be served.

This doesn’t apply to beverages. Strictly speaking, you can offer food packaged for later consumption such as chips, nuts and chocolates but you must use your best efforts to ensure that food is not consumed in these areas, which can be tricky if you are giving away packets of chips.

The things that make you stand out from your competitors are the “surprise and delight” ideas that your players aren’t expecting.  They tend to be the things they talk about to people outside of your venue and must be one-off treats, not regular things which can then become expectations or part of the norm.

So here are some of the interesting but inexpensive ideas that have been used over the last few years that have got the gamers talking:

  • It’s a hot day. Send the staff out to buy ice-creams for the customers. Packet ones that they all recognize, such as mini magnums are perfect. (Don’t serve in outdoor smoking areas).
  • As it’s a beverage you could serve ice-cream spiders in the smoking areas instead…but play up the drama and serve it in tall 1950’s milk bar glasses, with a parfait spoon.
  • Virgin fruit cocktails are also popular for female gamers and you can make them look really impressive.
  • When installing new gaming machines or completing conversions, put them in a bank in the non-smoking area and rope the area off. Invite some of your players to test them out for the first few hours (only if they have opted in to receive gaming information from the club) and serve nicer finger food than normal. Make the new machines a highlight, an event.
  • If you have lots of female gamers and Asian players who drink tea or green tea serve them in traditional china cups and sauces for something different, rather than the standard white teacup.
  • Don’t miss the special occasions that can be marked by small themed chocolate boxes (packed for later consumption such as Christmas, Valentine’s Day, Easter), Lucky Red Envelopes for Chinese New Year (TC Permit may be required), Anzac biscuits (real ones) for Anzac Day.
  • Keep a stock of birthday gifts and cards for regulars and important customers.
  • Keep a list of your regulars preferences.
  • IGT’s new machines have a USB port to charge mobile devices – keep a variety of charging leads available for players to borrow to charge their phones and tablets.

We will have The Drop Members Forum open this week for our members to swap ideas about what they have seen or are doing, to “surprise and delight” their players and if they are replacing food in the outdoor areas with anything else.  


For clarification and as a reminder of the new regulations the below has been taken from the NSW HEALTH Smoke-free Commercial Outdoor Dining Guide:

Examples of foods that are packaged for immediate consumption include:

  • Meals on a plate such as a stir fry, steak and salad, a dessert, slice of cake
  • Foods in a bowl such as hot soup, ice cream or fruit salad.
  • Hot foods that are bagged, wrapped or in a container such as a tub of hot chips, a burger, a pie, fish and chips
  • A sandwich in paper wrapping or plastic packaging.

Examples of foods that are NOT packaged for immediate consumption include:

  • A packet of chewing gum, a packet of crisps or nuts, a wrapped chocolate bar, confectionery
  • An intact piece of fruit such as an unpeeled banana.

‘Food’ does not include drink under the Act.

Copies of this document can be downloaded from the NSW Health website