Creating the Next Best-Selling Food Items at Leisure Entertainment Facilities

August 23, 2011 No Comments

When it comes to food service, leisure entertainment facilities have a “captive audience” in their visitors that helps to keep the operation profitable. However, periodically introducing new food items with the potential to become best sellers can set the profitability bar even higher.

Viable ideas for additions to leisure entertainment facilities’ menus might come from visitors. At Rockin’ Robin’s Amazone Family Entertainment Center in Medina, Ohio, requests for a take on the ever-popular “Slushie” drink played a part in leading Owner/Manager Robin Creswick to roll out a selection of Siberian Chill frozen beverages this summer. As expected, the products rank among the snack bar’s top movers.

Alternatively, looking at old favorites in a new light, and applying a bit of creativity, can give rise to foodservice hits. Potato Patch, located at Kennywood Park in West Mifflin, Pa., sells traditional hand-cut French fries deemed very popular by Foodservice Director Mike Menninger. However, six years ago, park management decided to kick the menu up a notch and experiment with variations on the staple. The result: Bacon Cheddar Fries—hand-cut fries topped with cheddar cheese and a generous helping of bacon—that consistently rank among Potato Patch’s fastest-moving fare.

Vendors can also provide assistance in crafting menus. Quik n’ Crispy, which maintains a joint marketing program with eight food processor partners, will sometimes make initial contacts with manufacturers to ask them or their brokers to bring food samples to leisure entertainment facility operators, said Paul Artt, president and founder. “These would all be items that can be prepared very well in our equipment,” Artt explained. A 34-page list of these items, with codes, appears on the Quik n’ Crispy website.

Moreover, Quik n’ Crispy shares direct feedback with its customers on designing menus whose scope extends, as Artt put it, beyond core offerings like chicken strips, French fries and cheese sticks. “We will ask how experienced they are with foodservice and, taking that as well as what is selling at comparable facilities into consideration, come up with suggestions,” Artt stated. Representatives always bring to the table the proposal that operators incorporate regional favorites into their menus; for example, fried Italian bread dough in the Northeast, taquitos and jalapeno poppers in the Southwest and churros on the West Coast.

Artt emphasized that for Quik n’ Crispy, lending a hand on the menu-creation front also means giving operators input as to whether they are pricing new items properly. The objective is to arrive at a price that will yield a profit, without negatively impacting the appeal of the new product or products in question.

Broaster, too, weighs in with customers about which items they might incorporate into their foodservice menus and how these should probably be priced for maximum profitability and appeal, reported Mark Markwardt, director of marketing. “Many foodservice operators don’t think to ask these questions of us or our distributors, but the willingness to help out is definitely there,” Markwardt noted.

Meanwhile, although the novelty of new food items clearly has a positive effect on sales, leisure entertainment facilities would do well to go the extra mile by actively promoting these offerings in one fashion or another. Enchanted Forest/Water Safari in Old Forge, N.Y., leverages its Web site and e-newsletter for this purpose, according to Katie Noonan, marketing director. A recent addition to both touted the availability of Little Orbitz donuts and popcorn chicken to the park’s menu.

Creswick employed an identical strategy when Rockin’ Robin’s launched the Siberian Chill beverages in its snack bar. She augmented the effort with point-of-purchase materials supplied by the manufacturer.

As is the case in configuring menus, vendors can—and do—play a role in showcasing new items to consumers, both before the latter arrive at leisure entertainment facilities and during their visits. Subway represents a case in point. In addition to local and national broadcast advertising and point-of-purchase materials that spotlight new items, Subway publishes “Sandwich Artist News,” a communications vehicle intended to provide employees with detailed information about new products slated for addition to the company’s permanent lineup, as well as about items available through limited-time offers and other promotions, said Liz Smethurst, global accounts manager. Suggestive sales tips are included in the publication.

A similar publication for franchisees and operators with a Subway component to their foodservice offerings features detailed information about new items, their ingredients, how to prepare them and how to promote them. “We basically bombard people with information, because the more they have, the better the job they can do with the introductions,” Smethurst asserted.

Assistance in designing artwork and other menu board components that put new launches in the best light is available from Broaster as well. Help with promotional materials, such as flyers employees of leisure entertainment facilities can distribute to visitors throughout the premises, is offered as well.

“Working to come up with new products and promote them sounds like a lot of trouble, and sometimes, it is,” one operator said. “But it is a worthwhile endeavor that is reflected in higher sales.”

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