When visitors head to Florida, they go for the sun, fun and food. At every Florida attraction, food and beverage directors and onsite chefs strategize to provide meals and snacks that will satisfy hunger and make their guests feel at home.
Located in Loxahatchee, Lion Country Safari is Florida’s only drive-through safari. Including the walk-through amusement park, the attraction is home to more than 900 animals. The 500,000 guests who visit the 320-acre park and onsite campground each year enjoy animal encounters plus a variety of rides and a water sprayground.
“We get a lot of people who come for the day, and we want to have food that they like whether it is for snacks or full meals,” said Food and Beverage Manager Richard Conti. “Our guests have a choice of food at our main cafeteria-style restaurant, our snack bar by the sprayground and our Carvel kiosk. We also have a tented banquet-style area for special or private events.”
The most popular items in the main restaurant are the made-on-site, 8-inch pizzas followed by the kid’s meals that include chicken tenders, French fries and a drink. In the sprayground area, the most popular items are funnel cakes, hot dogs, pizza slices and ice cream.
“Most people who come to the park want traditional fun foods, but I do have a healthy corner on our restaurant menu,” said Conti. “Healthy choice items include garden and spicy black bean burgers, hummus, garden salads and shrimp kabob over a bed of rice. We also want to offer our guests variety, so we maintain a sandwich bar where each guest can select the sandwich meat, type of bread and toppings.”
Conti relies mostly on his own expertise, the requests of guests and the 110 employees he feeds each day for input on menu ideas.
“I have been in the food business my entire life, so I know what to look for and how to identify trends,” he noted. “I do listen to advice from vendors and my wife, who owns and operates her own catering company.”
LEGOLAND is a 150-acre interactive theme park with more than 50 rides, shows, attractions and a waterpark all geared toward families with children ranging in age from 2 to 12 years of age.
“Because we cater to families with small children, we make sure to have a variety of food at convenient locations around the park,” said Director of Food and Beverage Kim Jensen. “We strive for unique offerings that stand out from typical park food. We have 11 quick-service and self-service restaurants plus we offer six food carts and stands.”
Some of the more popular choices at LEGOLAND are the Imagination Panini and the park’s signature Granny Apple Fries that are especially popular with season pass holders. More traditional “theme park” food including hot dogs, hamburgers and pizza are always in demand with guests.
“We feel it is very important to provide healthier food choices especially because LEGOLAND attracts families with small children. We want them to know we care about nutrition as well,” Jensen noted. “We strive to offer healthier options, but we know that balance is essential because we have to have the foods too that appeal to our visitors who are just here to have fun.”
LEGOLAND does offer choices in their kids’ meals. Guests can choose water or milk as a beverage instead of a soda and a choice of fruit or salad instead of French fries.
“Our menu is always a balance and we always focus on providing that balance,” Jensen added. “For example, we do not offer an all-day dining deal or beverage deal as we find it goes against what LEGOLAND Park should stand for regarding obesity.”
Jensen makes additions and subtractions to the park’s menu by tracking customer sales and preferences with in-park surveys and watching trends in the food industry itself.
“Our goal is to provide food that is pleasing for everyone who comes to the park. We want our families to know that we care about taste, nutrition and them.”
Since 1947, Weeki Wachi Springs in Spring Hill, Fla., has attracted local guests and out-of-state visitors who come to the 538-acre park for its river boat cruise and a 400-seat submerged theater that gives them a front and center view of the park’s famous live mermaid show. The park is also home to Buccaneer Bay, which offers a flume ride plus and the opportunity to observe domesticated birds and reptiles.
“There is a lot of activity here,” said Bob Orris, general manager of the Cape Canaveral-based Cape Leisure Corporation, which operates concessions at state parks in Virginia and Florida. “We have four concessions stands that serve food. Mermaid Galley is our main restaurant, plus we have Captain’s Quarter, Pirates Grub and the Snack Shack, which all offer a variety of food from meals to ice cream.“
The most popular foods in the venues include the chicken breast sandwich, hamburgers, hot dogs, chicken tenders and pizza.
“We have investigated and are considering adding more of the healthier options, but those foods are not in demand as of yet. We do listen to our customers and we do change our menus to accommodate customers,” Orris said. “We look at all our options frequently and will continue to do so at food shows and by listening to customer requests and food industry trends.”
Sister parks Fun Spot America in Orlando and Fun Spot USA in Kissimmee offer guests roller coasters, go-kart racing, arcade games and other thrill rides. As Director of Food and Beverages for both locations, Mike Benner understands what it’s like to feed families all day long.
“In both locations, we have restaurants and stands that provide a variety of food,” Benner explained. “In Fun Spot America in Orlando, we have one sit down restaurant, one snack bar in the arcade and two outdoor kiosks plus a confectionary shop. In Kissimmee we have six outdoor kiosks and one snack bar in the arcade. The food options vary in each location and so do the popular food items.”
At the 15-acre Orlando site, the top-selling foods are hamburgers, French fries and funnel cake, while at the seven-acre Kissimmee location, funnel cakes, churros and cotton candy top the most-popular list.
“When families come here, they are focused on having fun and not worrying so much about what they are eating. It is a special day, and they want to enjoy their food without guilt,” Benner said. “But that doesn’t mean I don’t think about it. If we provide the healthier items, guests will order them.”
At Fun Spot America, Benner has added a chicken sandwich, yogurt, fresh salads and fresh fruit cups to the menu.
“We just started having these items this year and so far the response has been positive,” he said. “We are careful to monitor food trends and customer requests to make sure we have food and refreshment items that all our guests are comfortable with. “
Benner looks to food shows and attraction shows for menu ideas plus to other parks in Florida and across the country for menu ideas.
“Attraction parks are a close-knit family and we give each other ideas all the time,” Benner explained. “I am also a big believer in variety, so I make sure that each kiosk has something different. They might have overlap with some items, but I want our guests to see our variety and enjoy it.” –