Business Strategies: Finding, Training and Retaining Employees

May 10, 2011

Good employees are the “backbone” of every leisure entertainment facility, to keep operations running smoothly as well as to ensure top-notch customer service. Finding, training and retaining good workers cannot be left to chance; it must be a very methodical process.

Tapping the resources of existing employees ranks among the best ways to recruit additional staff, particularly teenagers, according to Ken Whiting, founder of WAVES For Teenage Workforce Success, a workforce consulting company. Offering employees a small incentive, such as a gift card, in return for referrals of friends and relatives whom they think would make excellent additions to the staff roster is a good idea, too, he said, adding that signing bonuses paid directly to new hires, along with a smaller bonus for the referring employee, are excellent enticements as well.

Whiting also suggested that operators reach out to local high schools and colleges to obtain the names of competent job candidates. Hal Schilling, owner of Kokomo’s Family Fun Center in Saginaw, Mich., deemed this one of his best personnel sources.

Meanwhile, Tom Cristi, owner of Santa Clarita Lanes in Saugus, Calif., claimed he has identified “quite a number” of his best employees among league players and regular customers who frequent his facility. “My ultimate goal is to find people who are passionate about bowling, and customers can be top candidates,” he said. “Of course, they still need to be assessed and interviewed further, but talking to them to assess their interest in working here is a great first step.”

At Santa Cruz, Calif.-based Boardwalk Bowl, Director Willie King has found that outlining expectations for prospective workers—from the dress code and grooming requirements to hours worked and, in the case of summer employees, the length of commitment—goes far toward weeding out potential good performers from the duds. Detailed information about these topics appears on the Web site maintained by the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk, which operates the bowling alley and other adjacent leisure entertainment facilities.

But no matter how they find job applicants, some operators are not content to rely solely on the strength of prospective employees’ applications and interviews to predict whether they will be good workers. Schilling administers three standardized tests to all applicants. One test assesses mathematical skills; a second, the presence or absence of key personality traits (e.g., whether an individual is outgoing and optimistic) and the third, basic moral values. Of several hundred applicants who apply to work at Kokomo’s on a seasonal basis, fewer than half pass the tests and one in three are eventually added to the payroll.

As for training, “on-the-job” education should go beyond a few hours of orientation and the distribution of employee handbook—although these two “staple” practices are essential. At the Children’s Museum of New Hampshire in Dover, N.H., new staff members must attend a series of meetings to review operational procedures, expectations, and more, according to Heidi Duncanson, director of marketing.

At Oasis Bowl & Family Fun Center in Fallon, Nev., new employees “shadow” seasoned colleagues who hold the same position for a period of several days before they are left to work on their own. This makes the transition smoother and faster, according to Milton Wallace, manager. Conti takes a similar approach with Santa Clarita Lanes’ new hires, extending the hands-on experience to a few weeks and supplementing it with one-on-one instruction from management.

“For example, once a party host has followed another party host closely for awhile, we will sit down with that person and explain how to ‘work’ a party, how to work with other people, how to handle parents, how to handle problems, etc.,” he explained. “By putting together the hands-on and the instructional piece, everything begins to make better sense for the new person, creating a better worker.”

Whiting corroborated the value of these strategies. He added that many employees, especially younger, tech-savvy teenagers, react favorably to and embrace training with a technological twist. Preparing and posting online short training video clips that may be viewed  from the cash register and which “provide instructions on everything from mopping a floor to dipping an ice cream cone”  have proven to be very helpful for many of his company’s clients, he said.

Moreover, while giving employees the necessary skills to perform their jobs bodes well for retention, owners and operators of leisure entertainment facilities must also do more to increase good workers’ inclination to stay on rather than jump ship and seek employment elsewhere. In Whiting’s experience, rewards for a job well done are an OK start, but they are just part of the antidote for staff attrition. Teenaged employees, in particular, are far more likely to remain in a facility’s fold when managers and owners do not “talk down” to them or act entirely disinterested in what they have to say. “A condescending, disrespectful attitude, showing no personal interest towards your teen employees, will send them out the door and working down the street,” even in tougher economic times, he insisted. So, too, will a lack of scheduling flexibility; by contrast, giving employees online access to schedules, and communicating via text messaging any requests that they work a different shift, come in earlier, or stay later, cultivates loyalty.

Operators also advocated soliciting employee feedback on and suggestions for new attractions, programming, menu items and problem-solvers and eschewing micro-managing. Santa Clarita Lanes has a number of new programs on the drawing board, and the seeds, said Conti, were sown in part from staff input.

Industry Feature

Those Lazy Hazy Crazy Days of Summer – Breakwater Beach Gears Up for Another Great Season

By Frank Seninsky, President/CEO Amusement Entertainment Management and
Tracy Sarris, Director of Marketing and Communications, Alpha-Omega Amusements

For many of us who live in the Northeastern states, Memorial Day not only reminds us to honor our fallen soldiers, but it is also a time when families start the age-old summertime tradition of packing up the car and heading to the shore for the summer weekends, vacations and holidays.  As schools let out and the days get longer and warmer, thousands of people flock to the Atlantic coastline to relax and explore the miles of family friendly beaches. They stroll the boardwalks with their carnival-like atmosphere; the smell of freshly made popcorn, pizza and funnel cake in the air. Here, the “Good Old Days” are still very much alive and well. Memorial Day also marks the start of another summer season for Jenkinson’s Breakwater Beach Waterpark located in Seaside Heights, N.J.

Breakwater Beach’s Focal Point, “Perfect Storm,” is an interactive, multi-level AquaPlay™ RainFortress for all ages that is themed to resemble a North Atlantic fishing village.

Seaside Heights is a resort community, with a beach, a boardwalk, an arcade and numerous restaurants, clubs and bars, making it a popular destination for all ages. The town markets itself as, “Your Home for Family Fun Since 1913!” and has been a favorite destination long before it became famous for being the backdrop for the hit television show, MTV’s “Jersey Shore.”  At less than one square mile in size, the borough welcomes more than 3 million visitors annually.

History of Jenkinson’s Breakwater Beach Waterpark

Breakwater Beach (formally Water Works) is a lot of park packed into just 2.5 acres. It is located adjacent to Casino Pier, which stretches 300 feet into the Atlantic Ocean and is part of the two-mile boardwalk. Originally built in 1986, Water Works (along with the Casino Pier) was purchased by the Storino family in 2002. In 2004, the new owners began an extensive, multi-million dollar remodel that was aimed at making the park more family friendly. The project was broken up into three phases. The first involved a change in theming that brought in elements from the various coastal areas around Massachusetts.

Breakwater Beach’s “Revolutionary Wild” - an interactive lazy river ride with non-stop action around every turn.

The remodel involved removing several older water attractions and introducing a new six-lane, zero-gravity racing slide from WaterWorld Products, Inc., now named “Patriot’s Plunge,” which allows you to compete against others as you plummet on a mat to the finish line. Wizard Works added interactive elements to the lazy river so there is non-stop action from water cannons and compressed air blasts depth charges beneath the water with bubbles coming from every direction! “Perfect Storm” is an interactive, multi-level AquaPlay™ RainFortress from Whitewater West Industries that was custom themed to incorporate quaint fishing village scenes and local sea-life. This focal point attraction is one of the largest interactive water play areas on the North Atlantic Coast and includes a 400-gallon “Nantucket Bucket” that dumps water every two minutes, spray hoses, tipping cones, water wheels, slides, net climbs and more.  “You can’t walk into this ride without getting wet!” said General Manager Louis Cirigliano.  “Lighthouse Cove” was designed for the toddlers with soft-play slides from Custom Fun Company and interactive fountains.

In 2005, as part of the second phase of the remodel, the original 55-foot body slide was removed and a go-kart track replaced it, which was sectioned off from the waterpark to become part of Casino Pier. The double tubes slide was rebuilt as “The Minuteman Express,” raising the ride from 35 feet to more than 50 feet in the air. This two-person ride has several twists, turns and drops before plunging you into a heated splash pool. If you are looking to wind down, you can take a break from all the excitement and relax in the large invigorating “Plymouth Rock Hot Tub Springs.”

Breakwater Beach's... and exciting slides and attractions

The multi-year renovation continues in 2012 with the beginning of Phase Three. Not wanting to give anything away, we were only told that there will be something “new” for next year’s operating season. Additional water attractions currently  include: “Salem’s Serpent” – A fast moving slide with two enclosed serpentine body slides that twist you from the start then shoots you out into a pool after a 5-foot drop;  “The Nor’easter” – A quick but invigorating slide; and “Pilgrim’s Plummet” – A speed slide with a 7-foot drop into a deep pool.

Marketing Breakwater Beach

Breakwater Beach has moved away from much of the traditional radio and print advertising. “At lot of the stuff we are doing tends to be online and social media. We have cut back on our radio ads because more people seem to be on the Internet than are listening to the radio these days,” said Cirigliano. “Our Facebook page allows us to stay relevant in our guest’s daily lives, especially in the summer. The more people see our name, the more they may think of coming to Breakwater Beach.” During the off season they keep guests interested by holding contests on Facebook and counting down the days until opening.

Breakwater Beach attracts around 150,000 guests each season. When asked what makes this location a place people want to visit and come back to, Louis told us, “We do a better job than many of our competitors.  We feel that Breakwater Beach may be small on size, but it is big on fun. We’re not the biggest park by any means, but we are clean and we are attentive. Our staff is highly trained. We do a great job – from the time guests arrive until they leave – to make it a memorable experience.” The park employs around 200 individuals during the summer season. Most of the employees are young adults from the local area, but they also employ a number of international exchange students. Employees go through an extensive safety training program that continues throughout the season and all their lifeguards are certified. Breakwater Beach is a 2009 recipient of the Kelly Olge Memorial Safety Award from the World Waterpark Association for significant contribution to guest and employee safety.

A view of Casino Pier, which is located adjacent to Breakwater Beach.

The town of Seaside Heights also has a lot to offer visitors. After a day in the sun, you can take a walk up the block and visit the Casino Pier, which has attractions comparable to a large amusement park, and Casino Pier boasts one of only two surviving American-made classic carousels in the state of New Jersey. The historic carousel is now over 100 years old! The traditional wooden boardwalk provides games of skill, arcades, a multitude of eateries ranging from traditional boardwalk fare to raw bars, and a mix of boutique and standard beach wear shops.


When asked what challenges exist for a water park that is located at the beach, the first and most obvious we were told is the weather (or the weatherman). “When people think about heading to the beach, they tend to watch the weather forecast and arrange their plans according to what they are hearing,” said Cirigliano. “Unfortunately, the weather forecast is often wrong – as much as 50 percent or more of the time, but people will still change their plans to head to the beach if they hear rain may be a possibility.”  After a record year for attendance in 2008, the park saw a decline in attendance the following year due to the inclement weather that hung around most of the summer season – especially on the weekends, according to Cirigliano.

One would think that water quality would be a challenge as well in a waterpark. “It is a huge issue for the entire industry, but we have a maintenance crew that is extremely attentive. They do chemical checks every two hours, which is required by the state of New Jersey, plus they backwash the system several times a day to clean out the pools and filtration systems,” said Cirigliano. “Whether busy or slow, the same process has to happen at all times during operations. A lot of what happens in this industry, like crypto outbreaks, can be avoided by being attentive and staying on top of your game. We follow the regulations, but we also go above and beyond to keep the water quality and our guests safe.”

Guests competing against one another on “Patriot’s Plunge” – the six-lane, zero-gravity racing slide.

The 2011 summer season is just about here and another batch of vacationers is getting ready to hit the highways and head to the Jersey Shore. If they are heading to Seaside Heights, they can look forward to creating lifelong memories spent with friends and families, fun in the sand and surf, salt water taffy, nights on the boardwalk, thrill rides on the pier, carnival games, and great times at Jenkinson’s Breakwater Beach Waterpark!

Louis Cirigliano is the general manager of Breakwater Beach Waterpark and has worked for the Storino family since 1993. He was elected to the Board of Directors for the World Waterpark Association in 2010 and has been an active member of the New Jersey Amusement Association.  For more information about Jenkinson’s Breakwater Beach and Casino Pier visit

(Tourist Attractions & Parks magazine Contributing Editor Frank Seninsky is president of the Alpha-Omega Group of companies, which includes a consulting agency, Amusement Entertainment Management, LLC (AEM), a nationwide revenue sharing equipment provider, Alpha-Omega Amusements, Inc., Alpha-BET Entertainment, and Alpha-Omega Sales, a game and related equipment distributor. All are headquartered in East Brunswick, N.J.  Tracy Sarris is director of Marketing and Communications, Alpha-Omega Amusements. Contact information: Phone (732) 254-3773, Fax (732) 254-6223, e-mail:, Web sites: and

Industry News

Be Green and Make a Little Green

Going green is a major buzz word in sales and marketing, and consumers are willing to pay more for products that are environmentally sound. Now, it is even easier to do your part for the environment, save money, and offer your customers tasty treats from eco-friendly sources.

Gold Medal offers a number of products to help you go green. For example:

  • * Uni-Maxx®: A unified kettle and heat element to permit the lowest possible energy consumption with maximum popping capacity. Try the the Macho Pop 16/18-oz. machine; it’s the largest kettle that’s run on a standard 15-amp plug.
  • * LED Lights: Reduced energy consumption and longer light life means less in landfill waste. Available in numerous popcorn machines.
  • * Auto Shutoff: Turns off kettle heat after 15 minutes of idle use; allows kettle heating element to last longer and saves on electrical power.
  • * EcoSelect™ Laminated Popcorn Bags: Made with natural-fiber papers, are grease resistant, and FDA compliant. Available in 32 to 170-ounce bag sizes.
  • Contact Gold Medal today to learn more about these products, or any of the company’s equipment and supplies. Ask for your free copy of the catalog. Or visit the company online to see all of the lines, get free money-making resources and view the online version of the catalog.

Wilderness at the Smokies Resort Names Steve Cruz General Manager

Wilderness at the Smokies resort has named Steve Cruz general manager of the popular 700-acre indoor/outdoor waterpark resort in Sevierville, Tenn.  Cruz, who previously served as director of sales and marketing for Wilderness, brings more than 15 years experience in the East Tennessee tourism industry to his new role.

Cruz’s professional experience includes working with Dixie Stampede in Pigeon Forge, Tenn. and Wild Adventures Theme Park in Valdosta, Ga.

“Wilderness at the Smokies has changed the tourism landscape in this area.  It’s exciting to be part of such a special place that so many families look forward to visiting.  We plan to build on and grow the unbelievable success Wilderness at the Smokies has experienced in its first three years of operation,” Cruz said.

Wilderness owner Pete Helland said Cruz has the perfect background and knowledge to firmly establish Wilderness at the Smokies as the Smoky Mountain region’s premier resort attraction.

Wilderness at the Smokies resort opened in 2009 and is the Southeast’s largest indoor/outdoor waterpark resort.  With two outdoor waterparks and a six-acre indoor waterpark, Wilderness also has six restaurants, a deli, gift shops, convenience stores, mini-golf and a 36-hole championship golf course.  Wilderness is connected to a 100,000-square-foot conference and event center capable of hosting events for 10,000 people.

Coast to Coast Entertainment Friction Gun Game Kit Is Available

Coast to Coast Entertainment’s Friction Gun Game Kit was released recently and has already proven to be among the most cost-effective games available.
In a recent blog posted by Arcade Heroes, the company lists step-by-step information of what you can expect after you receive your Friction Kit. And they also list some helpful hints on installation set up.

Area 51, Big Buck Hunter II, Golden Tee ‘99 and Street Fighter Alpha 2 can be used with the Friction kit from Coast to Coast Entertainment.

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