By Allen F. Weitzel
I recently ran across some photos from my early industry days. Back then, I worked for a general manager that took his management staff on field trips to observe various parks in operation. We studied every operational phase. Those photos reminded me of many lessons learned.
The lesson that greatly impacted me was that of guiding guests through proper signage. One can easily overlook the influence that proper signage can have on moving and educating guests, and increasing capacity.
One location where managers fail to move their crowds quickly is at the parking lot entrance. I have seen few parks do it right. Parking signs, both pricing and directional, need to be painted in easy-to-read contrasting colors, the font size must be large enough to read from a long distance, and the signs placed a distance from the entrance. You do not want guests fumbling for their money when they are only one car length away from the booth. You want guests to understand the parking fee well in advance and have their money ready. This challenge is also complicated by the habit that some guests have of locking up their wallets and purses in the trunk of their car when they leave home. Once in line for parking, they stop their vehicle, get out, and retrieve money from their trunk. You will never change guest behavior, but if you place plenty of easy-to-read signs a decent distance before the booth, guests can have their money in hand, and you will speed up car flow into the lot. That gets guests into the park faster, which leads to more time on property and increased spending.
What About Food?
Menu signs are critical. While in line, you want guests to see what food is available, and to know what they want to order when they reach the counter. Your employees will slow the process somewhat with up-sell suggestions, but guests who are ready to order will help increase capacity. Fast service is critical to make sure guests get the right food, served hot.
Clarity of sign printing and language is also important. Some time back, I was asked if I would interview for a food director job at a wildlife park. I was intrigued so I accepted the interview. The current director was being promoted and they were looking for a replacement. During the interview and park tour, I discovered that they had only one restaurant and were under equipped for the crowds they were getting. The facility had recently changed themes from a water park to a wildlife park. The director introduced me to their new food innovations, of which he was both proud and frustrated. To incorporate the wildlife theme into the food program, the restaurant menu signs had been translated into Swahili. On each menu sign, the name of the product was written boldly in Swahili. Under the Swahili writing, the English name of the item was written in tiny letters that guests could not read from the counter, prompting time-consuming questions.
Not only had the menu signs been converted to Swahili, but also he required his counter staff to take the orders in Swahili, and call them back to the kitchen in Swahili. He could not understand why guest service was so slow and he was looking for a new director to untangle the mess. He had forgotten the basic principle of fast customer service, keep it simple, and make signs big. I immediately decided that working for them was not my cup of kahawa (coffee).
In any amusement operation, management may be called upon to help with guest service during busy times. During one spring break we had a manager help out in the food service department for a week. We chatted about his experience. He shook his head and lamented that, though he was not an old man, he still needed reading glasses. He said that our food director was smart to prepare food prep signs for employees to help them remember the steps and ingredients for each menu item. But, because of the small font size on each sign, he needed to stop in between each step and put on his reading glasses so he could see the instructions. This slowed his kitchen work production.
On And On
I could cite more examples of how proper signage, especially font size and location, can increase your operation’s efficiency, but you get my point. Signage is not the cure-all for every efficiency issue, but improper or lack of signs can stand the way of productivity if not correctly addressed in every phase of your facility.