TAPMAG.com World's Leading Publication for Management of Leisure Facilities, Attractions, Entertainment and Amusement Centers 2020-01-08T21:00:13Z https://tapmag.com/feed/atom/ WordPress Caroline Burns http://www.tapmag.com <![CDATA[Sacoa at EAG EXPO 2020]]> https://tapmag.com/?p=9549 2020-01-08T21:00:13Z 2020-01-08T21:00:13Z

At EAG Expo in London, Sacoa Cashless System, with over 1,900 installations in 70 countries around the globe, will be showcasing its latest products at the upcoming show on January 14 to January 16.

The latest Sacoa development includes, among others: Spark reader and the Kiosk K4:

Spark: The revolutionary low-cost, small-footprint, 2.8-inch HD color reader by Sacoa comes with RFiD and NFC reading capability (cards, wristbands, tokens and key fobs) off the box, magnetic card is now optional. It enhances customer experience with its backlight coloring, which can be adjusted to show age-restrictions, promos, tickets awarded, etc.  The device is fully Universal Card Link (UCL) compatible, and it is water and dust resistant in its tap version.

 Kiosk: The kiosk cabinet uses a 32-inch touch-screen for a familiar interface that comes with an intuitive interface, allows buying, reloading, detailed analysis and supports CRM integration. Multiple card purchases in a single transaction are handled and transactions can be paid with cash or credit cards. The software is multilingual, supporting an unrestricted amount of languages. Products sold can be any combination of Credits, Time-Play, and Passports. Optionally a second screen can be attached to use as advertising platform (showing slide shows, animations, videos, etc.)

Since there is a tendency to make online transactions, Sacoa came up with online platforms such as:

Sacoa Mobile App, which allows registered guests to check playcard balance, purchase special offers paying online with credit card, and accumulate reward points.

Party and Event booking (The Online Party Booking features multiple store selection, availability, party packages, food and gifts, online payment, and everything needed to manage party reservations). 

The Sales and Promotions CRM Modules: Sacoa online Customer Registration Management (CRM) module allows the guests to register their demographic information and check their card balances online (either on the web or from their mobile phones), and – when tied with the Online Sales Module, it allows customers to purchase online pre-set amounts of recharge on their cards as well. This module also allows operators to manage their own custom-tailored marketing campaigns through a newsletters mailing engine which may use segments of the database generated according to various criteria, and can be integrated with the operator’s existing mailchimp/sendgrid/etc account for massive mailing.

Visitors to the expo will have the opportunity to learn more about these fascinating products at Sacoa’s booth #736 at this year EAG Expo, or visit the company web site www.sacoacard.com.

Caroline Burns http://www.tapmag.com <![CDATA[International Debuts Plus the All-New Mini Virtual Rabbids at EAG Dallas]]> https://tapmag.com/?p=9546 2020-01-08T20:37:33Z 2020-01-08T20:37:32Z

The Entertainment, Attractions and Gaming Expo (EAG) will set the stage for the international debut of LAI Games’ new 2020 lineup next week in London, including a brand new Virtual Rabbids model. The Mini Virtual Rabbids sports a lower, compact screen, while featuring the same award-winning game play as the original, making it perfect for pubs and other venues with limited ceiling height. On display will be the three new Virtual Rabbids experiences introduced last summer, as well as the three originals that made the game a monster hit globally.

Other games making their European premiere include the competitive target shooter Outnumbered, the sports-themed ball throwing game HYPERpitch and the family-friendly video redemption game Toy Frenzy. Outnumbered is specifically engineered to drive traffic back to a venue through its companion app, Weapon Forge. Players unlock new in-game content after each stage, which they can use to create and upgrade custom weapons in the app. Progress is saved, and by using the app to log in at the cabinet, players can pick up where they left off and use their new weapons in the game, creating a revolving door for repeat gameplay. HYPERpitch features dynamic lights that chase the ball down the HYPER Tunnel while explosive sound effects create an incredible sensation of power as the ball hits the target. This ticket redemption game creates a social competitive atmosphere that draws a crowd and gets players lining up for their turn.

Toy Frenzy lets up to three friends compete or collaborate to free suspended toys by shooting their ropes using oversized blaster cannons. The simple gameplay is perfect for a young, energetic audience, while deeper layers of strategy that unlock bigger rewards give the game mass appeal.

LAI Games invites you to experience these games for yourself at Harry Levy Booth #600 at EAG. For more information, visit www.laigames.com.

Debby Clarke <![CDATA[Welcoming 2020 – January 2020]]> https://tapmag.com/?p=9542 2020-01-06T20:25:32Z 2020-01-06T20:25:31Z
Scott C. Borowsky

As we meet the New Year with a sense of optimism and determination for positive change, we can also look to the successes and challenges of 2019 for inspiration moving forward. This first issue of 2020 offers fresh insights on many interesting industry topics. And we at Tourist Attractions & Parks are looking forward to another year of examining the industry as only we do, by reaching out to the professionals on the front lines of the business to learn from their opinions and experiences.

In this issue’s Large Park Report, Contributor Chad Emerson starts off the year with a look at the international pictures for parks, where there is phenomenal growth. And closer to home, Contributor Karen Appold examines the state of the waterpark industry in the story “What’s Hot, and What’s Not – Waterpark Trends for 2020.”

Each January ahead of the IISF carnival tradeshow in Gibsonton, Fla., we present expanded coverage of this interesting and timeless industry segment. In this issue’s Fair and Carnival Report, Contributor Hilary Danailova covers changing times for fairs, while in a separate article, Contributor Genie Davis writes about ride safety.

In each issue of the year, TAP covers the entertainment center business like no other publication. In this issue’s Entertainment Center Report, Contributor June Allan Corrigan reveals managers’ secrets to a well-run bowling center. The section also includes stories about laser tag, trampolines, zip lines, and mini-golf and go-karts.

TAP also presents interesting stories about the highly specialized coin-operated game business by interviewing operators from all over the country for the Street Beat section. In this issue’s installment, we cover swipe cards in one article, and offer advice to hire the best staff in a second piece that includes a bonus sidebar on keeping workers safe.

Food service is an integral part of the success for many entertainment locations. In TAP’s Food Service Spotlight section, we throughout the year examine the role food plays in both the guest experience and the bottom line of attractions. In this issue, we look at food service at zoos and aquariums.

Insurance is a vital element for any business model or established company. We open 2020 with a Special Spotlight on Insurance section that offers perspectives on the insurance needs of museums and of amusement rental and inflatable device companies.

I hope you enjoy the issue. Please contact me through Facebook, by calling 610-645-6940 ext. 0, or by emailing editortapmag@kanec.com and I will respond to your note or call personally.

Scott C. Borowsky
President and Executive Editor
Tourist Attractions & Parks magazine

Debby Clarke <![CDATA[From Aliens to Ancient Egypt Best Laser Tag Arena Themes]]> https://tapmag.com/?p=9533 2020-01-06T20:23:20Z 2020-01-06T20:23:19Z Despite competition from any number of activities at indoor play centers, not to mention online gaming, laser tag remains a favorite leisure time pursuit. The theme of an arena contributes mightily to its success and certainly influences the chances of repeat visitation. For this article, four laser tag facilities around the country described their personal formula and why it works for them.

Elijah Brown and Marisa Meyer photographed at Indoor Extreme Sports. The center offers three laser tag experiences.

When Founder and Director Randall Briggs opened his first ShadowLand laser adventure in 1997, there were only 50 to 60 laser tag centers like it in the country. As the activity’s popularity continued to soar, Briggs kept pace and now there are five ShadowLands – three in Maryland and two in Virginia. “I chose the name ShadowLand to represent the large, 6,500-square-foot, multi-level landscape that people play on – the ‘arena,’ ” he said. Themed to be dark, mysterious places where mystical creatures cavort, the nature of all five centers evolves naturally from the features of the game equipment Briggs uses. His go-to is a small company called DarkLight based in the United Kingdom. “The game system I use allows players to earn special powers that enhance the player’s ability to advance their position,” he explained. Some of those powers include invisibility or invulnerability or can be described as Dark Thief, Electroblaster, Nebulizer and Megapower. Players can also be pursued not just by other players but by creatures such as vampires and adverse elements such as viruses and snakes that are all part of the game software. There are even special “cures” that can be employed to ward off these detrimental elements.

Jeff Willy, owner, Loveland Laser Tag, Loveland, Colo., with employee Noah Kline. Willy is always refreshing and updating aspects of the center.

Since it has worked so well, Briggs has no plans to change the theming at any of his five centers. In fact, he said it’s been rewarding to see that since he began opening his centers – ShadowLand in Columbia, Md., in 1997 and ShadowLand in Gaithersburg, Md., in 1999, to name two – that his chosen theme has been taken up by a few other successful entertainment undertakings such as Harry Potter in 2001 and Game of Thrones in 2011. Briggs attributed ShadowLand’s steady annual visitation rate to the fact it offers a “real space” experience where everyone is actually together in the same location versus an online or virtual experience. “We can place 40 people in an adventure where every single person in the group shares the exact same experience at the exact same time. No other indoor entertainment center can do that.”

Indoor Extreme Sports offers three laser tag experiences – Blacks Ops, Arena and Zombie – at its facility in Long Island City, N.Y. Each uses the same basic equipment with minor modifications depending on the theme. Blacks Ops Laser Tag was the first to debut and it remains the most popular. “It is our interpretation of the video game Call of Duty which was gaining popularity at the time we came up with the idea,” explained Co-Owner Chris Fermoselle. “What sets us apart from the competition is the realistic equipment we use. It’s actually used for military and law enforcement training – that’s how realistic it is.” Black Ops is a customer favorite because the playing field resembles a run-down city street with actual stores players can run in and out of. There can be up to 24 players on the field at a time.

Loveland Laser Tag’s ancient Egypt theme is more inclusive of people’s interests, according to the owner.

Indoor Extreme Sports has no plans to change its themes. If anything, it has only expanded upon its original idea. Black Ops was the genesis for later themes like Arena Laser Tag which Fermoselle described as close quarter battle. Aimed at 7-to-12-year-olds, the game is fast-paced, uses a smaller playing field and requires just six players, playing three-on-three.

Meanwhile, Zombie Laser Tag can have up to 10 players, playing five-on-five but in this instance, the field is decked out to look like a real zombie research facility. It features many gory elements and is recommended for players aged 12 and up. These three different laser tag experiences each contribute to Indoor Extreme Sports’ steady visitation rate and in fact, as the year closed out, numbers appeared headed towards a slight increase. Fermoselle attributed the slight upward tick to Indoor Extreme Sports’ habit of adding new and different experiences – such as axe-throwing – to its facility.

Marisa Meyer and Michele Ashrafi photographed at Indoor Extreme Sports. The Black Ops Laser Tag game is a customer favorite.

An Ancient Egypt theme was already in place at Loveland Laser Tag in Loveland, Colo., when Jeff Willy purchased the business. It was the original owner’s idea to move away from typical space and sci-fi themed laser tag and to install something more adventurous that would appeal to all ages. “I would have done the same thing,” said Willy. “As far as gender demographics, our Ancient Eqypt theme tends to be more inclusive of people’s interests. Space themes tend to skew more towards pre-teen boys and laser tag has evolved a great deal past that nowadays.”

Willy has no plans to change Loveland Laser Tag’s theme as it is definitely working for the center. However, he is always refreshing and updating aspects. Over the summer, a black light artist was brought in to do some repainting. In recent years, elements borrowed from the popular movie Stargate have been creeping in as well. “There’s always been those conspiracy theories the Ancient Egyptians were visited by aliens and the pyramids were built by them. So, we’re having some fun with that.” Visitation numbers remain on a par with last year’s figures and Willy attributed it to increased competition in the market. He calculated there are least seven other laser tag centers within 45 minutes of him not to mention other family-centric activities all vying for the same leisure time dollars.

JP Ford, Brandi Krassler and Walter Cabrera of Shadowland. The company has five centers in Virginia and Maryland.

The Stargate media franchise influenced Arena 51 Laser Tag in Middleburg Heights, Ohio, as well. Reminiscent of an ancient temple, albeit one that is alien-owned and operated, the theme was in place when James Bailey bought the center. It remains popular so Bailey sticks with it while at the same time adding upgrades like neon paint. “We keep remodeling here and there. We’ve been finding lots of unused space under the ramps and things like that. We’ve been slowly opening up places that weren’t in play before. Any space that is negative space, basically we’re trying to make it positive space that players can walk through, just to make the arena bigger,” he said. Younger guests, especially, like the little bunkers, cubbyholes and smaller spaces under ramps they can duck into. At this point, Bailey figures his visitation rate has reached a plateau. “It goes up in the winter and down in the summer.  Basically, we’re crazy in the winter and slow in the summer,” he concluded.

Debby Clarke <![CDATA[Bowling Managers’ Secrets to a Well-Run Center]]> https://tapmag.com/?p=9528 2020-01-06T20:18:20Z 2020-01-06T20:18:19Z There are many moving parts involved in running a bowling center, especially one that is part of a larger entertainment venue. For this article, the owners and managers of four facilities around the country offered their best advice on how to keep things operating like a well-oiled machine.
At Uptown Alley in Surprise, Ariz., General Manager Scott Dittmer said it is helpful to paint a bigger picture for employees so as to coax the best performance from them. “I impart to them that we are in the hospitality business and not just a bowling alley,” he said and in fact, he incorporates this message it into his daily business plan via written direction and motivational encouragement. It starts with employees at the front desk and winds its way all the way back to the kitchen. “Our restaurant is no different than any other restaurant. It comes with a lot of responsibility,” Dittmer said. “Serving safe, top quality food does not happen by accident.  Because it is such a critical, non-negotiable part of my business, my restaurant staff understands its importance. With that understanding, comes a sense of pride and purpose.”

David Crowley, owner, The Alley, Charleston, S.C. The attraction can handle a crowd of 452 people.

The real tactic behind prompting staff members at Uptown Alley to achieve their full potential is to ensure daily and plentiful interaction with management, Dittmer said. Once again, he incorporates such interactions into his daily business plan so that they are certain to occur. Uptown Alley is home to 40 high-tech, regulation-sized bowling lanes and reported that annual visitation is flat compared to last year’s figures, mainly due to newer competition that opened in late 2018.

When it comes to staffing, Rock ‘n’ Bowl – with one location in New Orleans, La., and another in Lafayette, La., – believes that great people beget great people. “We focus on finding the right people and then asking our best people if they know someone else who is looking for a great place to work,” said Owner Johnny Blancher. This approach is the jumping off point for how both centers keep their front desks working efficiently because of course, there is so much more. “We also work very hard to give our desk operations the information they need to make the guest experience great. They’re armed with names and details of advanced bookings. They’re also armed with information about upcoming events,” he said. The only distinction is that front desk staff members’ ability to book anything is limited to what is occurring that day. Advance bookings are left to the back office and event coordination.

Scott Dittmer, general manager, Uptown Alley, Surprise, Ariz. Dittmer emphasizes to his staff that they are in the hospitality business.

Food and beverage is the most important part of business at Rock ‘n’ Bowl, which welcomes approximately 100,000 guests annually, with each year showing slight improvement over the last. The customer always comes first, according to Blancher. He stressed the need for staff to get that message across. “We’re always on the customer’s side. It’s not so much service as it is hospitality. We keep our kitchens well organized but also aggressive. We err on the side of the customer. We allocate an entire brain to buying at the best price. We focus on cross utilization and efficient food handling. If we err on the side of waste, we’d rather it be for the customer’s benefit,” he explained. It always circles back to finding great people to fulfill service roles. Rock ‘n’ Bowl does its best to stretch everyone so that they meet their potential to be great workers. “We have a weekly meeting with the upper 20% of our team and we go over upcoming events and express to each other ways we think we can improve. Goals are made to be reached. There’s always a new goal to set,” he concluded.

JB’s On 41 in Milwaukee, Wis., runs a very large guest service training program for incoming employees. Custom made, the program is a combination of what management believes great guest service should be but at the same time, asks new employees what they think it should be as well. “Because if you ask yourself when you walk in somewhere – what is good guest service? – everybody is going to have a different answer,” said Assistant General Manager James Miller. “So we like to put that in their hands and give them a great guideline of what we expect but also inquire of them what they think great guest service is. And those two together, I believe, factor into the efficiency customers experience at our front counter and snack bar.”

JB’s On 41 completes yearly evaluations on all employees. However, at least once a quarter, management at the 35-lane facility likes to sit down and try to talk with all of the employees about what is working well and what is not. “I think employees like feeling they have some say about what is happening on a day-to-day basis. When they tell us something is wrong, we can fix it. I think it engages them to help create a better experience for the guests,” Miller said. There is also an employee incentive program in place centering around what are known as Code Green forms. “They’re basically forms employees are encouraged to fill out whenever they a) see anything positive going on in the center, or b) see anything positive going on with another employee,” Miller explained. Completed Code Green forms land on a manager’s desk and truly outstanding reports will result in various gift cards being awarded to the key people involved. JB’s On 41 must be doing something right. Despite competition from at least five new family entertainment centers opening in the greater Milwaukee area over the last year, business is holding steady!

Now in its eighth year of operation, The Alley in Charleston, S.C., is a busy place. “We’re actually more of a large scale restaurant, sports bar, entertainment and event venue that happens to have eight lanes of bowling,” explained Owner David Crowley. The Alley can handle a capacity crowd of 452 people and during the busy winter season, it will hit those numbers night after night. The front desk is the first point of contact for incoming guests, so it’s crucial the host be well informed. Managers on duty keep individuals manning the desk up to speed by providing them with a print-out that lists incoming events, reservations as well as the bowling desk’s lists of reservations on any given day.

Owner Johnny and his wife Christine Blancher, of Rock ‘n’ Bowl, New Orleans and Lafayette, La. Johnny Blancher said he asks his best employees if they know anyone who is looking for a great place to work.

The Alley’s full service restaurant tends to rely on seasoned service and bar staff that have been in the industry for several years. “It’s obviously an industry that has a lot of turnover but we are able to mitigate that turnover by qualifying who we bring in,” Crowley said. Not that promotion opportunities don’t exist. “When you have a team that works cohesively and the message trickling down from management is that people care….. well, it creates a culture. The end result is staff end up caring too and they love working in a place that is so unique and different from anywhere they’ve ever worked before.” In a town chock full of tempting entertainment venues, The Alley staff often choose to hang out at their own place of employ during off hours and bring in their friends. In Crowley’s opinion, that exemplifies how much they believe in the business.

Debby Clarke <![CDATA[Amusement Products Becomes the Official Distributor of Inowize’s VR Quest Arena]]> https://tapmag.com/?p=9525 2020-01-06T20:14:50Z 2020-01-06T20:14:48Z Amusement Products, a leader in the family entertainment center industry, and Inowize, developer of the VR Quest Arena, has announced that they will work together on distributing VR solutions to family entertainment centers throughout North America. As an exclusive distributor, Amusement Products will be responsible for consultancy, installation and technical support for the VR Quest Arena. They will offer customers Inowize’s location-based VR system, a premium turnkey solution that is highly optimized and profitable for FEC operations, according to the company.

Inowize and Amusement Products displayed two arenas at November’s 2019 IAAPA Expo in Orlando: a four-player system in Inowize’s booth and a six-player system in Amusement Product’s booth.

“When Inowize approached Amusement Products, I was very impressed with their VR QUEST attraction. They not only created four new games with tremendous graphics, but they had also created the first six-player VR arena. With over 58 years of designing, manufacturing, and supplying spectacular attractions for parks and FECs here in the USA, we know a winner when we see one.” said Dutch Magrath, the president of Amusement Products.

Inowize is present in the industry for over 11 years and has worked on more than 1,000 projects, designing custom interactive/VR/AR solutions. The VR Quest is their biggest project and has pushed forward the standards in location-based VR attractions.

“VR Quest Arena is our biggest undertaking and our greatest project so far. We strive to develop truly amazing entertainment solutions for FECs, attractions that are business-wise and profitable for owners, but also very fun, engaging and competitive for guests. Amusement Products and Inowize share the same goals and ideals. Most certainly our partnership will reinforce our commitment to provide remarkable entertainment solutions and will expand the use of VR attractions in FECs. We are continuously learning from the industry, listening to FEC owners, and improving our products according to their needs.” said Claudia Mihalache, managing director and co-founder at Inowize.

Debby Clarke <![CDATA[Brunswick Bowling Realigns and Strengthens Consumer Products Sales Team with Experienced Former Ebonite International Staff Members]]> https://tapmag.com/?p=9522 2020-01-06T20:13:11Z 2020-01-06T20:13:09Z Brunswick Bowling Products recently announced several changes to its sales team, including the addition of two former Ebonite employees, following its recent asset acquisition of Ebonite International.

Dave Wodka

Adam Ishman and Dave Wodka come to Brunswick with over 45 years of combined bowling industry experience. Ishman joins the company as product specialist for its west sales territory. Wodka has been named product specialist for the northeast territory.

“Since the announcement of the Ebonite acquisition, we have made it a priority to review resources and add talent, with specific attention to building one of strongest sales teams in the industry,” said Ron Bragg, North American sales manager, Brunswick Bowling consumer products. “Adam brings plenty of outstanding relationships, bowling knowledge, and work experience. In addition to his incredible relationships in the bowling industry, Dave is a tenacious competitor on and off the lanes, making him a great addition to the Brunswick team.”

Jordan Vanover has been promoted to international sales manager. In this position, Jordan will take the lead in managing the consumer products international business, including customer relationships and market support.

Kevin Tabron will transition into a new role as product specialist for key accounts. His responsibilities will include communicating with chain pro shops as well as event coordination for seminars, trade shows, and tournaments.

Tyler Armour, formerly product specialist for the west territory, will now cover the southeast territory. Armour lived in Florida prior to working at Brunswick, providing him with local relationships and an understanding of the market.

John Bercier will remain product specialist for the Midwest territory, and Mike Dole will remain product specialist for the central territory.

“We are very excited about all of the changes taking place,” said Bragg. “With the addition of Adam and Dave and our internal realignment, we are well-positioned to represent all of the brands within our portfolio and provide outstanding service and support to our distribution and pro shop partners.”

Debby Clarke <![CDATA[Going Wild for Food Changes The Eatery Picture at Zoos and Aquariums]]> https://tapmag.com/?p=9514 2020-01-06T18:49:44Z 2020-01-06T18:49:42Z It’s not just the animals at zoos and aquariums that work up an appetite: guests get hungry, too. Cuisine offered at these venues varies widely: from sit-down locations and food trucks to traditional snack offerings.

At the Los Angeles Zoo and Botanical Gardens in Los Angeles, Calif., Brent Heinisch, general manager of Service Systems Associates, which handles dining at the zoo and gardens, said that over the past 10 years, many changes were made in zoo dining, including a focus on “Healthier food choices mixed with traditional ‘concessions food;’ more vegetarian options as people are choosing to eat less meat over the last 10 years; and more local items showcasing Los Angeles.” He added that “there’s been much less soda consumed, healthier beverage options and more water choices, as well as more frozen beverages in summer months.” Other changes include fewer food carts positioned on zoo grounds to create a look that is “less like the State Fair,” according to Heinisch. A food truck was also added to the dining options, with a second planned to debut in 2020.

A fish and vegetable dish at a Maui Ocean Center food outlet. The center’s fresh catch of the day menu item varies according to what the attraction’s fisherman brings in.

Asked if there’s a demand for sit-down meals at the zoo, Heinisch gave an enthusiastic response. “Yes, very much so. The L.A. Zoo currently has three sit- down locations.” Those include Café Pico, offering Mexican favorites such as tacos, burritos, and nachos; and the Mahale Café, where diners can find pizza by the slice, grilled chicken and burger baskets, kids’ meals, hot dogs, salads, deli sandwiches, and draft and canned beer. Mahale Café has outdoor seating allowing a top-notch view of the giraffe exhibit. The Gorilla Grill also offers outdoor seating and is located across from the gorilla exhibit. Top sellers include Philly Cheesesteak sandwiches and Italian sausage.

“We see a demand for sit-down locations because the L.A. Zoo is surrounded by Griffith Park,” Heinisch reported. “It’s open all day, and is very large – 133 acres, with lots of walking and exploring. So, guests like to sit down in the shade, rest and get off their feet while enjoying something to eat.”

Chef Henry Tariga, who has been with the Maui Ocean Center for 20 years, finds new and creative ways to use local products.

Mahale Cafe is the largest revenue producing location at the Los Angeles Zoo, and for the 2019 calendar year, food and beverage sales were just over $1.5 million because it offers a great stop in the shade to sit all the way in the back of the zoo, he said.

New for 2020? “We will have an added location specific to healthy, allergy-free, kid-friendly food. Additionally, we’re planning for a new coffee shop, and we’re very excited about a classic Los Angeles landmark restaurant that will have a sister location here at the zoo. More details to come next year,” he said.

In Anchorage, Alaska, at The Alaska Zoo, coffee shop Assistant Manager Caren Sanders said there have been very few changes in the food offerings at the zoo. “We really offer standards because they do well for us. They’re easy for kids to eat, and they are also easy to carry while people explore the zoo. We generally do very well with items such as hot dogs, pretzels, pretzels stuffed with pizza filling, and jalapeno-stuffed pretzels, as well as with one unique regional item, reindeer dogs.” The latter are “a sausage that blend pork and reindeer meat. We get them from Indian Valley Meats, just outside Anchorage.” Indian Valley is a family-owned, custom processor of fish and exotic meat.

A dessert from the Maui Ocean Center. The center offers both a grab-and-go outlet and a sit-down restaurant.

She added that “we get a lot of tourists visiting the zoo, and they have never had something like the reindeer dog, and they will always want to try it.” Also popular are snack items such as granola bars and fruit bars.
Sanders noted that at The Alaska Zoo, there is no real demand for sit-down meals. “I don’t know how it will be in the future, but what we’ve found is that people want to move through the zoo and look at the animals. The coffee shop is located in the middle of the zoo, it’s a stop to grab something while visiting, not a destination itself in the zoo.” She foresees no changes ahead for 2020.

The Sea Lion Caves, located in Florence, Ore., is a wildlife preserve and bird sanctuary, a part of the Oregon/Cape Perpetua Marine Reserve. According to Jenny Cocciolo, in charge of retail inventory at the caves, the food service program has remained unchanged in recent years with one exception: newly-added flavors of fudge, made in house. “We sell Pepsi products, water, coffee, and hot chocolate; pre-packaged candy, and beef jerky that’s made in Oregon by Old Trapper Smoked Products. We also offer freshly-made popcorn and our fudge.”

Tiffany Devita, assistant food and beverage manager, Maui Ocean Center in Wailuku, Hawaii. The food operation has seen an expanding focus on sustainability and local dishes, according to Devita.

Asked why the fudge flavors change annually, Cocciolo noted, “We add new flavors to keep interest high in the product. We get the ingredients from the Calico Cottage candy company, and we mix it up here.” The company allows attractions and retailers to set up a “fudge factory” at their own locations. “They come out with new recipes every year, and sometimes we make up our own. Consistently, our most popular are chocolate walnut, peanut butter, chocolate peanut butter swirl, and Rocky Road,” she said.

As to each of the Sea Cave’s offerings, Cocciolo said, “We serve what we do because it’s a fun variety of items, and it’s easy and quick to grab on the go,” while people are enjoying the sea life and birds. There is, however, a growing interest in a sit-down dining venue. “We are located between two towns, 38 miles apart. People often ask if we are thinking of adding a restaurant, but it isn’t being considered at the moment.” For 2020, what’s ahead? “Different flavored fudge, for sure,” she laughed, although new flavor choices have yet to be determined.

At the Maui Ocean Center in Wailuku, Hawaii, Assistant Food and Beverage Manager Tiffany Devita said food and beverage changes over the years include an expanding focus on sustainability and local dishes. “We have been offering sustainable alternatives to serve and suggest to our guests. Currently our ahi, or big-eyed tuna, are overfished in Maui waters. So, we looked for new, creative options to replace that. We also added a plant-based Beyond Meat burger to our menu that gets lots of positive feedback. It’s our chef’s special daily, and sells very well.”

Along with alternative items, Maui Ocean Center’s Chef Henry, who has been at the center for 20 years, looks to “new and creative ways to use local products,” Devita said. “We use locally-grown ulu breadfruit in our risotto; we like to take what people are used to eating and put our own personal spin on it. For example, we offer a fresh catch of the day which varies by what our fisherman brings us. Chef Henry serves it two ways: as a special lunch platter, and as a sandwich,” she explained. “For example, today we had sugar cane shrimp paired with grilled mahi- mahi and avocado butter sauce; we also had a fresh catch mahi-mahi sandwich. You can get a fish sandwich anywhere, but here, we try to take it up a notch.” The center also offers kid-friendly food items such as hot dogs and grilled cheese, as well.
Devita related a strong demand for sit-down meals. “We have two venues, and one is a casual facility where guests can grab sandwiches and wraps; but since this is a walking aquarium without a lot of seated attractions, families come in for lunch daily or for dinner on the weekends and they like to sit down and relax in our Seascape Restaurant, to regroup and catch their breath. Sometimes that is due in part to not being used to the heat and humidity in our location.”

An entrée at a Maui Ocean Center eatery. In an effort to use local products, the center uses locally-grown ulu breadfruit in its risotto.

The environmentally friendly, Platinum Certified “Ocean Friendly Restaurant” is even serving a multi-course Christmas Day dinner.
And for 2020, the trend toward sustainability and locavore cuisine continues. “We’re always looking at new, local items to add to the menu. We’re getting rid of single-use plastic products in our grab-and-go packaging, and looking for packaging that doesn’t produce a lot of waste after eating. And of course, we are always looking for alternatives to overfishing.” With that in mind, the center is planning a new Mediterranean Taro Poke dish. “We have poke everywhere on the island, and we’re changing the concept with our local root vegetable, taro. Chef Henry flash-fries it, kind of like potato, and tosses it with ingredients similar to that in traditional poke. We call it our Land Poke. It’s a unique presentation, 100% vegan, and a very unique use of a local ingredient.”

Debby Clarke <![CDATA[Advice to Hire the Best Staff]]> https://tapmag.com/?p=9509 2020-01-06T18:43:13Z 2020-01-06T18:43:12Z Finding the best staff, hiring, and motivating them can be a challenge in any industry. But when it comes to coin-operated vending, the staffing experience can be difficult or it can be comfortably handled entirely by family members or long-term employees.

At Gator Coin in Jacksonville, Fla., Owner Jonathan Fanning said hiring the best staff is “getting harder and harder. There are not as many technicians in our field anymore.” He said the reason for this may very well be driven by product obsolescence. “The electronics industry is not made to be fixed or repaired any more. It’s meant to be disposable.” That aside, when he is looking to hire, Fanning relies primarily on word of mouth and referrals from other employees already on staff. “Most new hires are somehow connected to us; plus, we have some family who works here. All of our staff members were in the coin-operated industry before in some shape, and were either pointed out to us or personally recommended.”

To motivate his staff to do their best, Fanning focuses on a good work environment. “I try to have a fun workplace. We’re not so uptight, we are laid back, and it’s easy to communicate with each other. That’s a lot of motivation for some people,” he said.

Fanning’s route is expanding throughout the nine Florida counties he services. “It’s just part of growing to expand, no particular thing behind it. We’ve been around since 1946, we are a long-term operator, and it’s just natural growth in our market.”

In Valley Center, Calif., at Palomar Amusements, Owner Zach Thicksten related that “This is a personal relationship business. Most of my family is a part of this business as staff. We’re fairly small; my dad does all the repairs. We do have a couple of contractors we bring in for wiring and things like that, but I don’t really have to go out and hunt for employees. There are only a few hundred games out there, it’s not necessary for us to have a huge staff to run them,” he reports. “As to the contractors I use, I generally rely on referrals from other people in this business.”

In terms of motivation, he joked that it’s simple to motivate the family. “We want to keep the business strong because we want to make the mortgage payment, or be able to do something fun. It’s pretty obvious motivation in a family business.”

Thicksten’s route leads from the Southern border of California and Mexico up to Riverside and San Diego. “We are expanding as fast as we can. That’s due in part because we started with a couple of clients that have been slowly expanding their chains. We got lucky in that regard. One of our clients opened a new place last year and plans another in six to nine months; both have full arcade games in them. We’re following our clients’ successes as they expand.”

William White, operations manager for New Vemco Music Company in Fayetteville, N.C., said hiring the best staff involves referrals as well as running advertisements. “We like referrals better, because we get someone that we know, or someone else knows. We have a variety of incentives for our staff, depending on the department, whether it’s a route worker, a technician, or someone working in sales. We offer bonuses and things like that.” However, he added, “I think part of the motivation for our staff is that we always train them by sending them out with a senior employee. We have no official training program, it’s on-the-job training, and working together like that helps to motivate new staff members.”

White described the company’s route as running from the lower part of Virginia and North Carolina through Tennessee, South Carolina, and Florida. “We’re always looking for new opportunities, and I would say the business is always increasing and growing because of that. Our client base is also expanding due to the type of equipment we run. There is an old saying, ‘if you don’t grow, you die on the vine.’” With that in mind, he added, “We are always growing and looking for new locales to put our equipment in. We do primarily juke boxes, but we also are heavily into merchandisers with cranes, and we do well with pool tables.” He continued, “We have a lot of variety to meet the needs for bars, taverns, skating rinks, bowling centers; and we have a fairly good-sized ATM route that we incorporate with our game business as well,” he said.

At Amusement Unlimited in Eugene, Ore., President and Owner Jerry Johnston said, “To find the best staff, we rely on referrals. We are small, with only around 10 employees, and many of our techs stay with us for a long time, so I don’t have to look for them too often.” His motivation techniques include the monetary – “I’ve just finished okaying our year-end bonuses,” he explained, and education and travel. “We do take advantage of schools and classes put on by various manufacturers and distributors, and we always try to assist our employees with that. We also take some staff to trade shows and other locations.”

Like White at New Vemco, Johnston said, “We are always trying to expand our route and look for new opportunities. We run throughout Oregon, specifically the Western part of the state, up and down Interstate 5. We’re always looking to improve with new and different types of machines in the locations we already operate in. A lot of the work we do in expansion is with locations we already have.”

In Ukiah, Calif., Mike Nickel, owner of Northstate Amusement, said to hire the best staff members; he finds “people who have some mechanical ability. Once you’ve found them, then you have to train them. It’s such a technical business, that’s how you have to do it. We find staff through referrals, primarily.” Having trained and motivated hundreds of employees over the years, he said the best incentives are “financial bonuses for getting the job done right at the right time.”

Nickel said his route is currently expanding. “I run mostly in Northwest California, Sacramento through Sonoma, into Fort Bragg and Ukiah,” he reported. “I just adopted mini-golf into my operations, which is a major expansion for me.”

Summing up, most coin operators hire based on referrals when they need to staff-up; motivating employees ranges from a good work atmosphere to monetary compensation; and routes seem to be expanding overall, from either new business ventures or an expanded presence with current clients or locations.

Debby Clarke <![CDATA[What’s Hot, and What’s Not Waterpark Trends for 2020]]> https://tapmag.com/?p=9502 2020-01-06T18:39:14Z 2020-01-06T18:39:12Z By Karen Appold

As the New Year begins, it’s good to take stock of what’s hot and what’s not in the waterpark industry as well as get some tips for running such a business. Having this information at hand can help waterparks make good business decisions throughout the year.

Regarding popular rides, Connie Byers, waterpark manager, Boji Splash, Arnolds Park, Iowa, said slides are the most popular for both kids and adults. “Adults comment that it makes them feel like a kid again.” The park has added mat racers to its tube slide, enabling guests to slide down head first, which has been a hit with guests. This provides something different than the tubes. Guests enjoy rides even more when adding an element of competition.

Michael Schwitek, general manager, Alabama Adventure & Splash Adventure, Bessemer, Ala., said wave pools and lazy rivers are all the rage. “They have the highest capacity with the lowest wait times, and appeal to the largest audience,” he said.

Shown, of the Water Wizz of Cape Cod, Inc., staff, left to right:  Melanie Travers, Annalise Samuels, Kristi Tripp, Suzanne James, Eric Brotemarkle, Jackie Pierce, Patricia Kells and Shari Pratt. Kells said that family tube rides remain popular at the attraction.

At Water Wizz of Cape Cod, Inc., in Hope Valley, R.I., President Patricia Kells said teenagers love free fall body slides and enclosed tube rides. Adults prefer tube rides, the wave pool and lazy river. Family tube rides still remain popular.

According to Davis Columbus, waterpark manager at LEGOLAND California Resort, Carlsbad, Calif., the most popular waterpark attractions are unique in function or theming. “When a park can make a ride a one-of-a-kind experience, it keeps guests coming back,” he said. LEGOLAND’s Build-a-Raft-River is a great example of taking a simple waterpark attraction and making it unique. Guests can build on their raft with LEGO bricks while they float around a lazy river.

Food Trends
As far as food goes, Schwitek said simplified menus and quick service items are becoming more important. “Some parks have over-complicated their menus to a point where guests can’t make up their mind; this complicates the service and preparation side of things as well,” he said.

At Boji Splash, Dippin’ Dots are very popular with guests because they’re something different that they can’t find everywhere else. Drinks served in a pineapple were a smash last summer.

Dippin’ Dots also rule at Water Wizz of Cape Cod, as do staple fried foods such as hamburgers, hotdogs, chicken fingers, French fries, onion rings, pizza and dough boys. Annual visitation is over 100,000, which was down due to bad weather.

Connie Byers, manager, Boji Splash, Arnolds Park, Iowa. For children and adults, slides are the most popular attraction at the park.

LEGOLAND California Resort has found great success with offering fresh, healthy food choices as opposed to traditional theme park fare. The park offers wraps, burgers and authentic street tacos cooked to order.

Other Trends
Schwitek said radio-frequency identification (RFID) and cashless systems are still taking the industry by storm. “This makes it convenient for waterpark guests to have access to funds directly from a wristband (or like-item) without having to go back to their locker to get their wallet,” he said. “They can also track spending as well as other trends by using RFID technology.”

The park’s annual visitation is 212,000. “We are on a six-year uphill trend, as we are still a growing park that started from a very low point six years ago,” Schwitek said.

As Byers mentioned earlier, anything that adds a bit of competition is popular. “We’re adding a basketball court to our new outside addition that has the court lines on the bottom of the pool,” she said. It’s also appealing because it is something that a family can do together, even the older adults.
Columbus said lifeguard standards are growing rapidly. Lifeguard providers are coming out with more tools and resources to help support an industry where safety is always No. 1. Technology also seems to be coming more into play within the aquatics industry.

Keeping an Indoor Waterpark Interesting
Because indoor parks typically have less space than outdoor ones, it can be more of a challenge to keep a park interesting to a point where guests want to return again and again. To achieve that, Schwitek advised using theming elements. “Indoor waterparks that have created an entire story around the experience are the ones I remember and want to return to in the future,” he said.

Byers said that if guests feel safe at a park, that is a huge draw. “Guests remember ‘bad’ experiences, especially if they don’t feel safe,” she said. “A lack of lifeguards, guards on phones and guards eating on the stand are all turnoffs.”

In 2018, the park had 65,955 guests, which is up an average of 1,000 guests per month. “I think more people are hearing about us,” Byers said. “We use social media to promote specials and will sometimes leave a positive thought for the day so they see us on their feed.” She also works with school groups, church groups, boy scouts and other groups to schedule events.
Like Byers, Columbus said that having highly trained staff with a strong guest service and safety culture pays dividends in repeat customers. Memberships, unique theming, special events and community involvement can also play a large part.