Business Strategies: Keeping Food Costs Down at Leisure Entertainment Facilities

January 10, 2012

By many industry estimates, a well-thought-out food service component can account for 25 percent or more of total revenues generated at leisure entertainment facilities.

However, achieving such a feat is a double-edged sword for operators these days. On one hand, economic pressure is leading visitors to demand more affordable fare, meaning that prices must be kept in check to prevent guests from waiting until they leave the amusement park, family entertainment center, museum or other establishment to pick up a meal or snack. On the other, food costs are rising. While adding cheaper options to the foodservice menu helps to address this issue, taking steps to maintain at least a partial lid on the food bill affords operators some leeway in terms of how much they must charge for various menu items, without eating up into their profits or turning off guests.

Tracking food costs is a very effective means of keeping them in check, according to Randy White, CEO of White Hutchinson Leisure & Learning Group. White counseled operators to look closely at “prime cost,” or a total cost of goods that encompasses not only the food or beverage, but also the paper products (disposable cups, napkins, etc.) needed to serve it and the gross labor cost for all food and beverage employees. The latter includes payroll, but payroll taxes, worker’s comp, medical insurance and other employee benefits. For foodservice operations in leisure entertainment facilities, White said, a “good” benchmark for prime cost is 60 percent or less of food and beverage revenue.

Although many operators only track and calculate prime cost on a yearly basis, White recommended doing so at least monthly, if not more often. Otherwise, he said, too much time will have elapsed before it is recognized that costs may have exceeded the benchmark. “There’s no way to go back and correct them at that point, so it represents a permanently lost profit opportunity,” he said. “For example, maybe the costs of some raw products have increased and driven up food costs. If you wait for months to find out, then you’ve lost the opportunity to either adjust menu prices or find less expensive substitute products. Perhaps some new employees haven’t been properly trained and aren’t following the proper portion control. Or perhaps an employee has been stealing some food product out of your walk-in on a regular basis. Waiting months to calculate COGS to finally learn it is out of kilter can mean you let thousands of dollars walk out the back door, literally.”

Taking advantage of the volume buying power available through foodservice programs also has an impact on food expenditures shouldered by leisure entertainment facilities. Sister Bay Bowl, in Sister Bay, Wis., participates in one such program and reaps considerable savings, according to Mike Daubner, general manager. Among less expensive items on the menu, pizza, at $8 for a 10-inch round, is popular, as are hamburgers ($4.95 for a four-ounce portion and $5.95 for a six-ounce portion) and grilled cheese sandwiches ($3.75).

Somewhat more subtle strategies can also help to rein in food costs. Portion control ranks at the top of the list. For example, The Broaster Company recommended, according to Director of Marketing Mark Markwardt, that customers dispense packets of condiments rather than leave them where guests can take as many as they like, and possibly stash them in a bag or purse for use at home. Subway includes portion data when conveying product information to operators via “Sandwich Artist News,” a communications vehicle intended to provide information about new products slated for addition to its permanent lineup and available through limited-time offers, said Liz Smethurst, global accounts manager.


Gold Medal Product Co., Reveals New, Profitable Ideas

Gold Medal Products Co., a profit partner for fun food concession equipment and supplies, will be unveiling the 68th edition of its catalog in early 2012. This definitive guide includes the latest industry innovations and new products to help businesses expand their sales.

Featured are proven profit makers and revolutionary advancements that will help improve ease of use and attract new customers. Gold Medal has it all with a variety of machines and supplies for popcorn, Sno-Kones®, caramel corn and other gourmet flavors, cotton candy, nachos, pretzels, hot dogs and so much more.

Plus, all Gold Medal products are backed by more than 80 years of experience and are designed with the customer in mind. The equipment lines are industry favorites thanks to quick serving time, durability and ingenuity. Gold Medal also offers corresponding supplies and cleaning supplies to make it truly a one-stop resource

Contact the company to learn more about these products, or any of its equipment and supplies. Ask for a free copy of the catalog. Or, visit to see the complete lines, get free money-making resources and to view the online version of the catalog.


Valentine’s Plush Mixes Are Available with Free Shipping

Coast to Coast Entertainment has a full stock of premium quality Valentine Plush Mixes ready to go. The company has pre-pack kits in regular size ranges from 7 inches to 11 inches and jumbo size ranges from 12 inches to 19 inches. The regular sized pre-pack is priced at $1.09 per piece and it comes in a case with 150 pieces. The Jumbo pre-pack is priced at $2.49 per piece and it comes in as case with 96 pieces.


New Licensed Jumbo Mixes at Lower Prices Are Available Now from Coast to Coast Entertainment

Coast to Coast Entertainment has two new licensed jumbo plush mixes available now. First, the company has its Super Value Jumbo Licensed Mix at one of the lowest prices in memory. It is also one of the lowest prices available right now for any mix of its kind. This 12-to-14-inch mix offers the company’s normal Super Value Jumbo plush, but with 10 percent licensed pieces included at a low price point of only $1.99 per piece.

Only a limited quantity are in stock right now as this mix was priced to move out fast to make room for the company’s Valentine’s Plush Mixes.

Additionally, the company has new 30 percent Licensed Jumbo Plus Mix with pieces ranging from 12 inches to 19 inches. This mix not only offers more licensed characters from television shows like Spongebob Squarepants, Looney Toons and the Simpsons, but it is now available at a special, lower price of only $2.49 per piece. Each case has 96 pieces.

Shipping is free in the continental United States. The company offers top-quality plush at excellent prices and a satisfaction guarantee. The company’s customers tell them that they sell some of the best quality plush in the country. Never a minimum buy required.


Carnegie Science Center Awarded NASA Grant to Establish Heliophysics Education and Public Outreach

Carnegie Science Center has been awarded a three-year, $764,000 grant by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) to develop an exciting and innovative program for education and public outreach in heliophysics, an environmental science that combines meteorology and astrophysics.

Out of 75 proposals, SolarQuest: Exploration of the Sun-Earth System was chosen to receive funding as part of NASA’s Education and Public Outreach for Earth and Space Science (EPOESS) Program. Building upon the Science Center’s long history of informal science education in the areas of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM), SolarQuest will examine the interactions between the Sun and Earth and examine how these interactions impact life on our planet.

The programs funded by the NASA grant will have a profound impact on onsite visitors, as well as the Science Center’s educational outreach initiatives, including students, educators and other informal science presenters.

According to Stephanie Stockman, lead for education and public outreach at NASA headquarters, “The scientific and technical merit of the proposals submitted to this program was evaluated by a panel of knowledgeable scientists and educators and by NASA. [This] proposal’s high intrinsic merit, in combination with a consideration of the relevance, available funding, program balance and program goals, led to a recommendation for selection.”

While the SolarQuest project has a number of applications, its primary premise is to provide high quality, high-technology experiences to regional schools that would otherwise not be able to present astronomy and space science in a dynamic way. Carnegie Science Center has a long history of effective school outreach programming through its Science on the Road initiative, which currently serves roughly 200,000 students and teachers annually in 150 locations across five states. Likewise, SolarQuest will be delivered through formats that have proven to be successful in engaging students in grades 4–8, using NASA data, imagery and experts to portray the environment in which the Earth travels and the ways in which the Sun and its interactions with the planet affect human life.

John G. Radzilowicz, director of science and education at Carnegie Science Center, is serving as the principal investigator for the project. According to Radzilowicz, “Like NASA, Carnegie Science Center has long used the wonder and beauty of the cosmos as a gateway to excite students about STEM, and to motivate them toward careers in astronomy and space science. The SolarQuest project builds on these synergies to present the frontiers of heliophysics for students, teachers, and the general public.”


Gold Medal Raises $7,500 for the Make-A-Wish Foundation®

It’s not often that a company can dramatically and directly impact a child’s life, especially when he and his family are battling a life-threatening illness. Yet, Gold Medal Products Co., its distributors and employees were given the chance to make one life-changing wish come true.

Joseph is a brave 7-year-old boy that has undergone 30 chemotherapy treatments in battling brain cancer. He asked to go to Walt Disney World® Resort in February. This special vacation will allow him to escape the countless tests and prednisone medical treatments, and spend much-needed quality time with his family.

The Gold Medal family answered by raising $7,500 for the Make-A-Wish Foundation® of Ohio, Kentucky and Indiana, Southern Ohio Region during its annual Distributors’ Conference last December. This amount will not only fulfill Joseph’s wish, it will also go a long way toward helping another child’s dreams come true.

“Joey and his family are wonderful and caring people,” said Dan Kroeger, president and CEO of Gold Medal. “I thank God that I had the opportunity to meet them and in some small way help give them some fun time together that they so much deserve.’

The Walt Disney Company will provide theme park tickets and other perks for Joseph and his family as part of their overall relationship with the Make-A-Wish Foundation®.

For more than 80 years, Gold Medal and its distributors have specialized in the tasty treats that bring smiles worldwide. But more than popcorn, Sno-Kones® and cotton candy, the company built its global reputation by bringing quality food to families and helping countless businesses thrive. That’s why the Gold Medal family doesn’t just make fun foods; it makes memories to last generations.

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