Who’s Job Is It?

By Allen F. Weitzel

As I was wrapping up my ‘Don’t Look At Me’ blog on the subject of knowing your job and doing your job, the Theme Park and Attractions discussion group posted dialog about increasing in-park sales by tying sales to season pass programs.  Simplified, this issue proposes asking the ticketing department to help food, merchandise and games/arcade departments increase their in-park sales.  No insult intended to those who voiced this topic, but I would like to weigh in on this subject.

What About Team Work?

If various departments help each other out to improve the guest experience and boost revenue, it is always a positive thing.  But, I contend that at the end of the day each person in each department should do their own job first and foremost.

Of course, if the Marketing Department can tweak a ticketing plan to help improve in-park sales without slowing up the main gate lines or up-selling complex ticket packages, then it would be acceptable for marketing to help out other departments.  But I remain steadfast in that each department should be doing their own job without leaning on or expecting other departments to tackle part of that job.

If one department asks a favor of others, they must remember that it is a favor they are asking for, not an obligation.

 

The Whole Picture

 

Early in my career I worked at a mid-sized park, managed by a brilliant general manager.  The facility was heavily wooded and just inside the main gate we created a well-shaded public picnic area where the families could bring their own picnic for the day.  Parents could buy general admission tickets for themselves and pay-one-price ride tickets for the children.  They could ‘pitch their tent’ in Picnic Area P.  The kids could enjoy the rides and mom and dad could relax in the shade of the eucalyptus trees.

 

During a staff meeting, one director suggested we close the public picnic area and add new rides and attractions.  He said that other amusement parks enforced a policy preventing guests from bringing food into their park, with the belief that allowing guests to bring their own food lowered per capita spending at the park food stands. Our food director was convinced that such a move would increase his food sales.

 

Our general manager explained that length of stay is a key element in park operations.  The longer the guest is on the property the more opportunities there are for them to spend money on impulse purchases.  The picnic area provided a place for the family to rest and recharge their batteries, so they could spend the entire day at the park.  The general manager reminded us that it is the job of the food, merchandise, and arcade/games directors to provide exciting new products and experiences that guests find appealing to purchase or play.  Additionally, because the other parks in the area did enforce food restrictions, guests may choose our park over others.  Our general manager decided that our picnic area would remain unchanged.

 

Our food director embraced the message and began to introduce unique, fun foods.  One example was our corn dogs.  We had our corn dog batter made especially for us.  Our dogs were so good that locals came to the park just to buy them.  The groundskeepers soon noticed an increase in the number of abandoned bag lunches found in the public picnic area.  It was clear that as our GM predicted, guests were giving up their peanut butter and jelly sandwiches from home and buying our unique foods instead.  We also had a fishpond stocked with 14,000 pounds of live rainbow trout to catch, purchase and take home. Again, we had guests coming to the park only to fish.  Our specialty products actually increased our attendance and revenue.

 

Other Examples

At the Winchester Mystery House, the gift shop staff located and sold hard to find books about the Winchester rifle, and gun enthusiasts visited the facility just to buy those books.

 

When Marriott’s Great America opened it created Maggie Brown’s restaurant, which offered a tasty chicken dinner that prompted guests to return again and again.

 

And, we all know of the success that Knott’s Berry Farm has had with their chicken restaurant.

 

The Final Point

Departments should interact and help each other provide a wonderful, overall experience for the guest.  However, each manager is paid to do their job and to invent creative solutions to make their departments better.  Food and merchandise departments must offer products so unique that guests come to the park just to buy such products.  These departments should not ask other departments to modify their operations just to help sell more drinks or T-shirts.

 

Industry expert Allen F. Weitzel spent 45 seasons in the recreation field and was most recently safety and training manager at a California amusement park.

Industry expert Allen F. Weitzel spent 45 seasons in the recreation field and was most recently safety and training manager at a California amusement park.