There is nothing worse than going to a theme park where the rule is “no outside food,” and then the food you purchase onsite is overpriced and tastes terrible. While as operators, our expertise is not typically centered around restaurant operations, here are a few things to consider when developing your Food and Beverage program:
Menu Matters There is a common belief that food sold at theme parks will be drastically overpriced. While you want a decent markup to ensure you are covering your costs and generating additional revenue, gouging the customers for their last pennies will not further your customer relationship. Research the types of customers visiting your park and center your menu to meet their expectations. If you have a medium to large size park, be sure to offer full, fresh meal options such as hamburgers, hot dogs, and salads. If you are operating a smaller park, maybe a snack bar type of menu is more appropriate with nachos, snow cones, and soft pretzels. Schedule a tasting session with your food provider, who will be more than willing to give you samples of product to ensure the quality meets your standards. No matter the type of menu offerings, quality ingredients at a reasonable price will keep your customers happy and returning throughout the summer.
Service Matters Even if your food is delicious and reasonable in price, if the service is subpar, the guests will not return. Design your labor schedule around lunch and afternoon snack rush times. These times will be unique to your park and depend on your operating hours and menu offerings. Always be sure to have enough staff available to fully execute your menu. For example, if you scheduled enough grillers and cashiers, but not enough runners, the food may be cold by the time it reaches the guest. Designate at least one person to supervise the operations and be aware of the line to order, the line waiting for food pickup, and the cleanliness of the concessions area. If the trash is overflowing, ketchup smeared on the counter, and frozen yogurt toppings all over the floor, the guest’s perception is that the back kitchen it just as dirty. Spending extra effort or labor time dedicated to maintaining a clean concessions area can make or break the customer experience. While we devote hours and budget to consistently training lifeguard staff, the same care should be taken with concessions staff. Lifeguards hold people’s lives in their hands while on stand, so they must follow protocol at all times. Similarly, if proper food handling procedures are not followed in the kitchen, food bourne illnesses are equally as dangerous. Focus training on food portions, presentation quality, and safe preparation practices. Inevitably, there will be mistakes on orders. Correcting the mistake, adding complimentary food, and/or giving them their food on the house are all reasonable ways to fix the issue. Upsell Once you have a quality product and outstanding service, build in ways to upsell the customer to spend more in your food and beverage areas. For example, most guests come with between 3-5 family members or friends. Offering a family 4 pack of cheeseburgers, chips, and drinks make ordering and execution easy, and also provides the opportunity to upsell the customers to french fries for an additional fee. Offering a logo souvenir cup for your park with free refills on the day of purchase and $1.00 refills the rest of the season is an excellent way to increase your daily per cap and also satisfy the customer with a big discount. Filling up the cup may only cost you $0.30, which leaves you a profit of approximately $0.70 per refill. Other ways to upsell can include additional sauces, bacon, patties, or “add a dessert” options. Including add-on options for party packages services by your food and beverage department can be the most lucrative upsell opportunity in your park. These can include cupcakes, ice cream, churros, popcorn baskets, salads, etc. While the food and beverage options are not the primary reason to visit your park, offering great tasting food at a reasonable price, served with a smile can be the reason they return, the reason they book their birthday party at your facility, or the reason they decide to stay all day instead of eating their picnic lunch on the bed of their truck in your parking lot.