Some waterparks are finding that expanding the menu offerings with unique dishes increases both food sales and customer satisfaction. Still, traditional fun food menu items are in the forefront of the profit picture for these popular attractions.
Deep River Waterpark in Crown Point, Ind., is a waterpark owned by the Lake County Parks and Recreation Department that serves around 250,000 visitors a year. Jim Basala, supervisor of business development, said that while burgers are top selling, taco salad is also very popular.
Wet ‘n’ Wild has three waterparks, Phoenix, Ariz., Las Vegas, Nev. and Kapolei, Hawaii. The 29-acre Wet ‘n’ Wild Hawaii is Hawaii’s only waterpark.
“In Hawaii, the park has a broader menu as they have the opportunity to entertain a higher number of international guests who have chosen to visit Hawaii,” said Trevor Wilson, marketing and sales director at Village Roadshow Theme Parks.
The Wet ‘n’ Wild restaurants and concession stand menus include unique items like vegetable spring rolls, Saimen and Teriyaki burgers. Guests can even get loco moco, which is a plate lunch that features two hamburger patties and a sunny side up egg covered with brown gravy. The park also offers catered meals that include kalua pork, Korean style garlic chicken, kalbi, pork stew, beef curry and teriyaki chicken.
Wet ‘n’ Wild’s selection of unique menu items is the exception among parks. Still, although other attractions surveyed are content to offer nachos and pizza, some see strong sales from churros, tacos and pasta.
The location of concession stands offering a new menu item can also affect its success in a waterpark. Deep River Waterpark added a taco stand along with its general concession stand in order to handle more customers and introduce tacos to the waterpark’s menu.
“When we moved the taco stand next to the main concession booth, it did a lot better,” Basala said.
Big Splash Adventure in French Lick, Ind., is in a county where one out of four people are youths. The park has two facilities in the same building. One location is a full-service grille on the first floor and the other is a pizza stand upstairs.
“Some people seem reluctant to go upstairs for pizza,” said Audrey Brames, marketing director for Big Splash Adventure. “They are in their swimsuits and don’t want to go upstairs.”
Whether a typical item or something unique, guests are looking for food value, a quality a menu item such as pizza provides. “A pizza can serve a family for less than it would cost to buy all of them a meal,” said Miguel Triplet, food and beverage supervisor for Geyser Falls in Choctaw, Miss.
Some waterparks take advantage of a diverse staff to improve the menu. Seth Bundy, food and beverage manager for Big Splash Adventure, said cooking staff employees from Jamaica provided the opportunity for the kitchen to prepare authentic Jamaican dishes.
“We had jerked chicken on our weekend buffet and it did very well,” Bundy said. “Of course, we couldn’t make it nearly as hot as it is in Jamaica.” He said the dish may be featured on the regular menu.
At Camelbeach Mountain Waterpark in Pennsylvania’s Pocono Mountains, while pizza and baked ziti are popular, unique items such as crab cakes and waffles topped with ice cream are also favored by guests, said John Bray, director of food services.
Adding unique foods to menus can present challenges to management. “We would add more items, but it would require different equipment,” Basala said. He said locations tend to offer meals that can be prepared with the same equipment and similar ingredients.
“I would love to do fish tacos,” Basala said. “I think that it would do well, but it would take too long to prepare.” –