By Karen Appold
At facilities that offer mini-golf and go-karts, food can be part of a guest’s experience and part of your revenue. Jason Durbin, manager, Putt-Putt FunHouse, Webster, Texas, advised offering a variety without going overboard. “We market our most profitable food items and always push those items; however there are always customers looking for something different whom you should cater to,” he said.
In addition, online purchases for attractions, games, birthday parties and groups have helped to boost food sales. “When a customer goes online and pre-purchases play cards, payment is due at that time,” he explained. “Most customers do not come to your facility until a week or two later—when they have received a new paycheck. As a result, they tend to have a new budget—and food sales always benefit.”
Rich Phillips, owner, Hill Country Golf & Guitar, Bee Cave, Texas, said he has made a conscious decision to provide a quality dining experience—which in turn results in more food sales. “By creating a superior dining experience, [we get] adults [to] stay and order extra appetizers and drinks while the kids play an additional round,” he said. “Instead of building the mini-golf course in rows to minimize real estate, we created a more natural experience and at the center of the course put a stage and lawn for live music.”
A formal onboarding program ensures that all staff are trained on the core competencies, such as being respectful, accountable, professional and detail-oriented, which are vital for success and good customer service. “By reaffirming these core competencies, we are guaranteed to attract and retain a higher quality employee,” Phillips said.
Cynde Harris, owner, Go Kart World, Carson, Calif., advised placing concessions in high-traffic areas. In addition, put up pictures showing that your food is delicious. “The more food you sell, the more food you will sell,” she said. “It might sound obvious, but the more people who are walking around with popcorn, nachos and personal pizzas, the more other customers will see the food and get hungry themselves.”
Pasquale Crea, food and beverage manager, Castles ~n~ Coasters, Phoenix, Ariz., suggested selling good portions at a good price for foods guests know and love. Since a large portion of guests are young adults, the facility caters the menu to their food preferences including pizza, burgers, mini-corn dogs and fries. “We also emphasize hot and fresh products made to order, rather than precooked, in order to maintain their flavor integrity,” Crea said. “It is also vital to package food conveniently, so eating is an enjoyable and convenient experience.”
At Putt-Putt FunHouse, pizza is by far the top-selling menu item. It is what customers expect when they visit a family entertainment center, Durbin surmised. Also, it is a food item that families can share, which creates a better experience than individual food items. In addition, the center markets and promotes pizza as its main item due to its much higher profit margins compared to other food items.
After pizza, hamburgers are a constantly growing runner-up at Putt-Putt FunHouse. “There is an increase in the [choices of food] consumers make with all of the attention to obesity,” Durbin said. “Customers may rule out pizza because they know it is bad for you. So most customers tend to turn to hamburgers—even though they aren’t that much healthier. But most customers tend to think that way.”
At Go KartWorld, pizza is the top-selling food item as well. “This is because pizza is provided with our birthday party packages,” Harris said. “When people walk by one of our party locations and see people eating pizza, they get hungry for their own.”
Best sellers at Castles ~n~ Coasters include ICEE products. “With our park’s location, it is important to provide cold and satisfying drink choices for our clientele,” Crea said. “They find the ICEES enjoyable and refreshing.” Other top sellers include nachos, pretzels and 100 percent beef hot dogs. The familiarity and convenience of these items make them guest favorites. The park often changes menu items, switching brands out when necessary to ensure quality and value.
Hill Country Golf & Guitar’s signature top-selling burgers are ground in-house using fresh Angus beef, shoulder roast and brisket. Its Hill country fried mushrooms are made with fresh white mushrooms filled with herb cream cheese and are breaded, fried golden brown and served with horseradish cream and spicy aioli dipping sauces. “Our guests embrace a higher-quality bar and grill experience,” Phillips said. “Fresh ingredients make the difference. While the prep time is longer, the end result is a better product and happier guests that keep returning.” The average wait time for an entrée is about 10 minutes.