Business Strategies: Increasing Food Revenues at Leisure Entertainment Facilities

January 16, 2012 No Comments

January 16, 2012

While most consumers will purchase food, beverages or a combination thereof when visiting leisure entertainment facilities, there is much that owners and operators can, and should, do to sell more items and boost revenues in this category.
Offering “signature” foods tops the list of possibilities. Such items need not be fancy or difficult to prepare quickly, but the strategy works in part because visitors come to consider the item(s) special treats they must have no matter what else they happen to order and whenever they frequent the venue in question. In many cases, facilities can also charge higher prices for their specialties, kicking revenues up a notch.
At the Franklin Skate Club in Franklin, Ind., the “signature item” is freshly baked breadsticks brushed with melted butter and garlic and accompanied by a cheese dip. “People go to the snack bar for the breadsticks since we’re known for them, and they not only buy more of them; they tack on other things,” said Jerry Williams, co-owner. “They’re more of a specialized item, which is an added attraction, so we can get more for them. That they are less costly to make is a plus.”

Putters Family Entertainment Center in Eugene, Ore., garners similar results with its pizza based on the fact that it is the establishment’s specialty, noted Steve Gilbert, owner. “It just dwarfs everything else” on the balance sheet in terms of sales and profitability, he noted. For maximum profitability and to compel guests to buy more food, Putters does not offer pizza by the slice. Rather, the menu includes whole pies in small, large and personal sizes; these are priced, respectively, at $20 to $30 (depending on the topping or toppings), $9 and $5.

Providing a wide variety of alternatives to traditional leisure entertainment facility favorites comprises another viable strategy for increasing foodservice sales and revenues. “Fresh fruit is a nice start, but people want to be accommodated more than that now,” stated Liz Smethurst, global accounts manager, Subway. “If there are, for example, healthy sandwiches available, you will sell more as visitors who might otherwise leave an amusement park, museum or whatever and take the rest of their party with them because they cannot find something to eat there. Instead, they will stick around.”

Holiday World & Splashin’ Safari in Santa Claus, Ind., is experiencing higher food sales now that its menu includes lower-calorie and/or lower-fat fare like black bean burgers, baked potatoes, turkey legs and roasted turkey, according to Jason Martin, director of food and beverage. The park also touts vegetarian-, allergy- and diabetic-friendly items, ranging from “no-sugar-added” ice cream to strawberry-feta cheese salad. Nutritional information for all special fare is posted at the food outlets that serve them. Visitors with allergies can order food to be prepared to their specification when they arrive at the park and return for it later when they are ready to eat.

Owners and operators of leisure entertainment facilities might also consider “packaging” some food items, beverages and/or special meals in souvenir containers to encourage sales, observed Phil Tromber, of Rio Syrup Co. and Lisa Dominique, owner, Sippers by Design. The Indianapolis Zoo in Indianapolis, Ind., sells kids’ meals in plastic sand pail-style buckets emblazoned with its zebra logo. “Guests see the buckets as a ‘value-add,’ so they buy more food,” a spokesperson stated.

According to Tromber, “value-adds” like souvenir cups and containers offer a secondary benefit that goes equally far towards helping leisure entertainment facilities to increase food sales: They serve as advertisements for the concessions as visitors walk around with their purchases, he explained.

Speaking of publicizing food offerings as a means of boosting sales, “upselling” and the use of print collateral definitely fit the bill because, as one source said, “the power of suggestion is strong.” Holiday World & Splashin’ Safari takes a two-pronged approach to this tactic, first, by posting, at the point of sale, materials that depict viable combinations, and secondly, via verbal “cues” from employees, e.g., “Roasted corn would go great with your turkey leg.” Subway conveys suggestive selling tips to operators in its “Sandwich Artist News” publication.
Mark Markwardt, director of marketing, Broaster, noted that at large leisure entertainment facilities, like amusement parks, collateral can and should also include flyers to be handed out by roving employees. Help with all promotional materials, among them flyers, is available from Broaster.
Moreover, with so many consumers consulting venues’ websites to look for “deals,” buy tickets, learn more about the facilities or simply plan their visit, leisure entertainment entities of all kinds would do well to leverage the Internet to tout their foodservice offerings and plant the idea for purchases in guests’ heads. Big Al’s in Beaverton, Ore., utilizes its homepage to promote long-time customer favorites and new items alike; food-related developments are also spotlighted using Facebook and Twitter.

INDUSTRY NEWS

Cleveland Metroparks Zoo Breaks 1.3 Million Visitor Mark in 2011

Attendance at Cleveland Metroparks Zoo surged to more than 1.3 million visitors for only the fourth time in its 130-year history in 2011. The accomplishment also marks the 19th year in a row the zoo has surpassed one million visitors.
The final tally for the year was 1,318,458 visitors, an increase of 16 percent over 2010, once again making the zoo the number one year-round attraction in Northeast Ohio.

“We were predicting a sizeable increase in attendance due to the opening of our new African Elephant Crossing exhibit,” said Zoo Director Steve Taylor. “But a 16 percent increase is more than we hoped for, and all of this happened in spite of a record 65 inches of rainfall.”
The zoo’s yearly attendance record was set in 1993 when 1.4 million people visited following the November 1992 opening of The RainForest. Several other attendance records were set this year however, including best June ever at 252,611, best November at 52,565, best single day at 24,976, best Mother’s Day at 16,303 and best Thanksgiving Day at 9,335.
The zoo netted its highest attendance of the year, 24,976 on June 13, a free admission Monday for Cuyahoga County and Hinckley Township residents. The lowest attendance, 58, happened on Friday, March 11. The record-breaking rainfall forced the zoo to close on Monday, February 28 when an early spring thaw caused Big Creek to rise over its bank and flood the zoo.
Boo at the Zoo also continued to be a popular draw for the attraction in 2011, selling out five of its eight nights and bringing in 40,680 Halloween revelers for a 9 percent increase over 2010.

INDUSTRY NEWS

LEGOLAND® Discovery Center Chicago Names New General Manager

Merlin Entertainments Group, a leading name in location-based family entertainment, formally announced today that Cassandra Weber has been named General Manager of  LEGOLAND® Discovery Center Chicago.
Since 2008, LEGOLAND Discovery Center Chicago has been inviting LEGO® enthusiasts of all ages to step inside a world of more than 3 million LEGO® bricks. With the LEGO Factory Tour, Jungle Expedition, a 4-D cinema and two interactive rides, as well as MINILAND® – an amazing recreation of Chicago’s skyline and iconic buildings created from nearly 1.5 million LEGO bricks – the center is an indoor family entertainment destination that is fun for kids and the kids at heart. It’s also a great location for field trips, birthday parties and more.
“Having worked as a leader and innovator in the attraction industry for more than a decade, Cassandra has a proven track record of creating world-class guest experiences,” said Janine DiGioacchino, director of Midway Attractions at Merlin Entertainment. “As we continue to grow and evolve, we are certain that Cassandra will serve as an invaluable asset.”
“LEGOLAND Discovery Center is one of Chicagoland’s premier family destinations, and I am honored to be a member of this team,” added Weber. “I am looking forward to a number of exciting new developments, which we have planned for the center in 2012. We will also have the return of some much anticipated  events like LEGO STAR WARS days and Pirates Weekend.”
Relocating from Bloomington, Minn., Weber joins the center after 11 years with SEA LIFE Minnesota Aquarium located in the Mall of America. SEA LIFE is a Merlin Entertainments Group attraction and the world’s biggest global aquarium operator with almost 30 centers and three sanctuaries across Europe and the United States.
Merlin Entertainments is the second-largest visitor attraction operator in the world with nearly 80 attractions spanning four continents. Currently, Merlin has 12 attractions in the United States, but has seen continued growth within the last five years.
“We work hard to develop new and exhilarating experiences for our visitors,” said DiGioacchino. “This year alone there are three new family friendly attractions scheduled to open in the United States Those include SEA LIFE, LEGOLAND Discovery Center in Kansas City; and LEGOLAND Discovery Center in Atlanta, Ga.”

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