Tips to Improve Your Business: Getting the Menu Right at Leisure Entertainment Facilities

February 14, 2011 No Comments

February 14, 2011

Most, if not all leisure entertainment facilities offer some type of foodservice component, but many operate it as an afterthought, giving little real consideration to the type of items available there. However, this is a short-sighted method of operation, because by many industry estimates, a well-thought-out, quality foodservice component can account for 25 percent or more of an average facility’s total revenues. Even more important, it is essential to cultivating repeat business. According to Randy White, of White Hutchinson Leisure & Learning Group, the most successful and oldest operating leisure entertainment facilities have built their reputation and following as much around food as much as they have around the entertainment components. As a result, owners and managers must go the extra mile to ensure that they get their facilities menu right.

Closely monitoring restaurant trends, through observation as well as by reading foodservice trade magazines and consumer publications that cover local and national dining, constitutes a good start. “The once standard fare of pre-frozen hamburgers, pre-frozen shell pizza and soft drinks will no longer ‘cut the mustard’ in today’s sophisticated restaurant environment,” White said. “Just look at the menu selections of many casual cuisine, chain restaurants such as Chili’s or Applebee’s. Consumers are becoming more and more sophisticated in their food choices, and expect the same quality and variety” from leisure entertainment facilities.

White added that his company’s research with families shows a marked interest in healthier, higher-caliber offerings. Examples include ethic wraps, branded gourmet coffee bars, thin-crust gourmet pizzas (for adults, children still like the classic style), fresh salads, grills, fresh fruit smoothies and specialty children’s menus that go beyond the standard chicken nuggets and fried fare. Bellaboo’s Play & Discovery Center in Lake Station, Ind. put a spinach salad and a variety of wraps on its menu after monitoring local trends, resulting in a considerable increase in foodservice sales, according to a spokesperson.

Considering the tastes of target audiences is equally important. “It’s good to have something for everyone, but the more the majority of the food ‘matches’ the clientele, the better the results,” stated Al Roque, director of marketing, Fastcorp.

Peter Shapiro, owner of Brooklyn Bowl in Brooklyn, N.Y., would agree. In configuring Brooklyn Bowl’s menu, Shapiro kept in mind the fact that the facility caters to a younger, “hip and upscale” urban clientele. As a result, its menu offerings include “edgy” fare, like smoked fish salad, blackened salmon, and roasted adobo corn; ethnic favorites, such as hummus; and eclectic menu items, from oyster po’ boy sandwiches to Sloppy Joes. New twists on old favorites, like macaroni and cheese made with several different kinds of cheese and such add-ons as artichokes and black olives or smoked chicken and peas, are available as well. Brooklyn Bowl also touts traditional dishes, among them a variety of burgers.

Visitor demographics and preferences were also taken into consideration when Giuseppe Ciufra, founder and CEO of La Jolla, California-based Giuseppe Restaurants & Fine Catering, created the menu for the Museum Café at the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego, which is also located in La Jolla and is managed by his company.  Ciufra said the museum’s visitors are largely well-traveled, adventurous types; “so the typical steam table and fried items were never in the running.” The café does serve a hamburger, but it is topped with chipotle aioli, melted smoked gouda, and onion marmalade, plus tomatoes and lettuce. Prepared using hormone-free, grass-fed, all-natural premium Angus beef, it comes with rosemary roasted Yukon gold potatoes.  The café’s version of a grilled cheese sandwich, dubbed the Ultimate Grilled Cheese, features mozzarella, prosciutto, tomatoes, and basil pesto on sourdough bread.

Yet another strategy for “getting the menu right” entails testing different options, whether this means offering items on a trial basis first, querying guests verbally or with surveys to discern what they would like to see offered on a menu, or a combination thereof. When one roller skating rink owner, who asked not to be named, decided to augment her facility’s menu of sandwiches and burgers, she introduced a veggie burger for a limited time to gauge patrons’ reaction. She still has several cases of the products in the freezer, and a test of another undisclosed item, to be kicked off by a survey guests will be invited to fill out when they enter the facility, is about to get underway.

Similarly, Debbie Branby, foodservice manager of the Café Musee at the Nevada Museum of Art in Reno, Nev., “went through” several iterations of her establishment’s hamburger before she was satisfied that it was the “right choice.” She experimented with a few different types of bread and meat prior to drawing a conclusion; “in the end,” she said, “it was worth the trial and error and adjustment to find out that the plain roll was the best roll.”

Phil Tromber, president of Rio Syrup Company, also advocates playing around with adjustments to arrive at a good menu option and mix. “It doesn’t even have to be a big change,” he stated. “For example, a small, and relatively inexpensive, addition can add greatly to your fun park treats.  With snow cones, for example, you can add cream, a ‘sour shot,’ a combination of flavors, or a piece of fruit to an otherwise plain snow cone and see what happens. The additional perk shouldn’t cost a great deal, but can command a bigger price, and a nicer profit.”

Industry News

Triotech’s Mad Wave and Typhoon Coin Dominate the Industry

Over the past years, Triotech’s legacy motion based coin operated units have consistently made the top of an industry ranking.

The MadWave Motion Theater and the Typhoon (second generation of MadWave Motion Theater) deliver up to 2G’s of acceleration, 400 movements per second and an exclusive motion technology with high-tech actuators, allowing the player to sense it all.  Over 1,000 MadWave Motion Theaters and 300 Typhoons are presently in circulation worldwide.

Founded in 1999 by Ernest Yale, Triotech is a leading manufacturer of interactive attractions for the entertainment industry and a privately-held company based in Canada, that has developed award-winning products, gained recognition on an international scale and continues to innovate by bringing new products to the market.  The Triotech team includes some of the best hardware and software engineers, amusement industry veterans in sales, marketing and customer service, as well as the best creative minds in the business.  With sales offices in Montreal and Texas, the company has many strategic partners in Europe and Asia including Sega Amusement Europe.

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