Whetting Guests’ Appetites
How to Increase Food Sales at Waterparks

August 27, 2015 No Comments

Waterparks know how to sell fun. Hosting hundreds of guests daily who spend hours working up an appetite, experienced professionals at waterparks also know how to feed hungry guests.

Zoombezi Bay, a 22.7-acre waterpark with more than 400 employees, is located in Powell, Ohio, adjacent to the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium. Since 2008, guests have the choice of five primary food locations, two Dippin’ Dots kiosks and five food carts. As Assistant Director to Zoombezi Bay and previous Food and Beverage Manager, Alex Curavo knows how to drive food sales. His primary tip however is to keep it simple.

“Design your menu for peak meal periods. For your busiest locations, reduce your menu to four to six key items that your team can produce quickly and consistently,” explained Curavo.  Second, engage the senses. Having freshly popped popcorn and baked waffle cones “stimulates the appetite from the moment that a guest walks through the front gate.” Third, create visual appeal. “If you are going to attempt a signature item at your park, spend the few extra cents for an extra shot of whipped cream or an extra half scoop of ice cream to give it a Wow factor when your guests are carrying it around the park,” Curavo said.

Susan Riches, food and beverage team member, working a pretzel cart at Zoombezi Bay, a waterpark adjacent to the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium in Powell, Ohio. “Design your menu for peak meal periods. For your busiest locations, reduce your menu to four to six key items that your team can produce quickly and consistently,” the waterpark’s assistant director said.

Susan Riches, food and beverage team member, working a pretzel cart at Zoombezi Bay, a waterpark adjacent to the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium in Powell, Ohio. “Design your menu for peak meal periods. For your busiest locations, reduce your menu to four to six key items that your team can produce quickly and consistently,” the waterpark’s assistant director said.

A food success story for the park is Blue Pelican at Zoombezi Bay. Originally designed as a hot dog and fries concept, Blue Pelican’s menu has evolved over the years to meet the demands of an ever more health-conscious consumer. In 2014, the menu was updated to include four new hot and cold sandwiches and a wider variety of children’s offerings to correspond with the nearby opening of the new $4.5 million Baboon Lagoon multi-level waterplay structure. In 2015, Blue Pelican offered more healthy choices such as made-to-order entrée salads, fruit and yogurt parfaits and vegetables-and-dip cups. Introducing higher-quality ingredients and inviting the guest to customize their meal with healthier entrees and more options for sides has proven successful, as per-capita revenue at Blue Pelican has increased 51.5 percent since 2013.

The park’s best-selling food item is the Chicken Tender Basket because of its universal appeal. It is additionally customizable, sharable, portable and widely available throughout park. And, the best-selling dessert is Dippin’ Dots, which is a popular way to cool off on a hot day

Open since 2008, Aquatica, SeaWorld’s Waterpark™ located in Orlando, Fla., is a 59-acre water park with three main restaurants, two food markets and four snack cart locations. Each main dining location is different in service styles to appeal to a variety of guests. “Waterstone Grill is a two-line restaurant serving an assortment of sandwiches and salads, desserts and drinks. Mango Market is a grab-and-go restaurant serving picnic baskets full of tasty lunch items ideal for a picnic on the beach.  Banana Beach is an all-you-care-to-eat buffet featuring a variety of pizzas along with traditional hot dogs, pulled pork, baked chicken and classic side items and desserts,” explained Cathy Valeriano, vice president of Culinary Services.

Having a Cashless Wristband program is Valeriano’s top tip to increase food sales. Guests can avoid carrying cash by setting up a spending account to use via a waterproof wristband. The wristband can conveniently make purchases throughout the park, including the all-you-can-eat buffet that allows guests to dine all day.

The park’s best-selling food items are the classic favorites hamburgers and hotdogs, while like Zoombezi Bay, the best-selling dessert is Dippin’ Dots.

Just outside of Denver, Colo., Hyland Hills Water World features 50 water attractions on 70 acres. Celebrating 36 years of business, the park employs 950 seasonal workers and 15 full-time staff members. “The food industry is incredibly dynamic. Researching and discovering different fads helps guide us to offer successful food items,” explained Jason Sutterfield. With nine food service locations and three Dippin’ Dots locations, Hyland Hills Water World features a variety of different products, everything from Mexican and grilled foods to funnel cake. Sutterfield offered three tips to increase food sales: Generate ideas from staff;  offer refill and bundle programs; and use catchy signage.

The best-selling food items at the park are pizza and chicken tenders. The family-four-pack deal includes a large, 16-inch pizza, four drinks and four tickets while chicken fingers are a favorite of kids and adults alike. The best-selling dessert is funnel cake, and the park capitalizes on its popularity by offering variations such as the staff-suggested Colossus. This treat is ice cream sandwiched between two funnel cakes and topped with fruit.

Sahara Sam’s Oasis, located in West Berlin, N.J., is a 58,000-square-foot indoor and two-acre outdoor waterpark with 240 team members. The park offers two food kitchens, one indoor and one outdoor bar, and 15 outdoor cabanas with food and drink service. Brandon Moore, vice president of operations, has three tips to increase food sales at waterparks: Use digital menu boards to show actual images; offer family meals; and maintain food quality.

“Don’t serve the cheapest food you can purchase, or the most expensive. For example, spend the extra $3 on the case of chicken tenders which amounts to $0.03 a tender to give a better tasting and better presentation of food,” Moore explained.

The best-selling food item at the park is the family-sized bucket of chicken tenders and French fries because it has a high perceived value. Novelty ice cream, which is a grab and go item, is the top-selling dessert.

Family-owned and operated since 1969, Morey’s Piers located on the boardwalk in Wildwood, N. J., features two beachfront waterparks, Ocean Oasis Water Park and Beach Club and Raging Waters Water Park. Staffing approximately 1,500 seasonal employees, Morey’s Piers operates 25 food kiosks and four restaurants. Food choices vary from freshly-made French crepes to fried Oreos as well as fresh and locally bought seafood including lobster, scallops and shrimp.

“There is no one thing that makes selling our food easier and more effective, but rather several things working together in combination to create success. The first thing is, of course, [that] the food must be delicious and memorable. Without that nothing else will really matter. Then it’s a combination of marketing, promotions, specials, coupons, presentation and show, menu design and good old-fashioned hard work with a well-trained staff that offers the best possible customer service,” explained Simon Benichou, director of Food and Beverage.

Morey’s best-selling food item is Curley’s Fries. This fresh-to-order menu choice includes seasonings such as Old Bay and Cuban spice. The funnel cake is also a best-seller for the attraction. The Morey’s version is made-to-order with fresh batter and a choice of toppings including Nutella and apples and cinnamon.

Food and fun go hand-in-hand, and experienced professionals at waterparks know how to whet guests’ appetites. As a result, water parks have increased foods sales while leaving customers feeling full and satisfied after a day of fun in the sun.


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