Whether discussing food and beverage sales at entertainment attractions or food service concepts, strong trends are emerging in the food and beverage industry and at attraction-oriented stores.
According to Tim Hershberger, vice president of marketing and sales for America’s Incredible Pizza in Springfield, Mo., his company has established a burgeoning market niche for a fun, family-friendly environment. “Our Founder and Owner Rick Barsness had a goal to create a place where families and friends could come together and enjoy good times and good food all under one roof, without the presence of alcohol. And he succeeded, opening his first location in 2002,” Hershberger said.
The entire concept is now being franchised as a family entertainment center. “Our stores feature combined attractions such as go-karts, bumper cars, laser tag and over a 100 video and prize games, along with an all-you-can-eat buffet featuring over 80 items,” Hershberger noted. The company currently has four franchisee locations and five corporate-owned stores, with growth primarily focused on adding one corporate store yearly, primarily in the Mid-West and South.
America’s Incredible Pizza offers a wide range of food items on the menu. “We have 60 varieties of pizza, lasagna, meatloaf, tacos and an 80-item salad bar. We also offer items like chicken fingers and hot dogs,” Hershberger stated. Approximately 50 percent of their food is homemade from scratch. “We’ve also begun to introduce a healthy menu focusing on a gourmet, healthy line of pizzas. We have five in this category with 50 percent less calories and a third less carbs. And of course, there are our healthy fresh salad bar items, too.” And to make it even fresher, the company is currently working on locally sourcing its produce. The company is featured on the national Healthy Dining Finder website.
At Airway Fun Center in Portage, Mich., General Manager Marc Wiese has made some recent changes to his food and beverage service and the center overall. “We had a Quizno’s Restaurant in our center which we’ve taken out. Their revenue was dropping, and it was time to do something different. Now we offer a lunch buffet Monday through Friday with a 26-item salad bar, and soup or chili on the menu. Quizno’s was basically a lunch business, and we didn’t want to lose that. We’re doing well, averaging 300 to 350 guests every week,” he said. In general, about 25 percent of Wiese’s profits come from his food service.
“We do a lot of fresher items these days. We make our own guacamole and queso cheese. In general we’ve upgraded our food which has led to an increase in sales. Our sales are up about 15 percent from a few years ago,” he reported. “We added an eight-lane suite last year, and we upgraded our food because of that. You can’t create something nice and upscale without raising the bar on the food service, too. We host a lot of groups in that suite, corporate events, birthday parties – we have a party there almost every day of the year. A lot of it is food-driven, and we’ve essentially upped our game to keep up with the demand.”
Beyond the addition of the suite, Wiese’s center itself is also being renovated. “We’re in the middle of re-doing our laser tag, and making it twice as large. We’re also adding about 15 games to our game room, and an outdoor ropes course. On top of that, we’ve redone our redemption counter, utilizing the old Quizno’s space and creating a store environment. Along with prize redemption we sell toys, including a lot of plush items.”
At Octane Raceway in Scottsdale, Ariz., President Scott Sanders described his food service changes and growth. “This summer we are going to do a complete revamp of our food and beverage concept. We like what we have, but we are looking forward to offering lighter offerings with fresh ingredients,” he said. “We want to provide more catering-friendly items for groups and parties. About 40 percent of our business comes from groups. We host everything from corporate team building events to bachelor parties and birthday parties. But a vast majority of our groups come from the corporate environment. They are looking for quality food offerings. And while we definitely do a great job with what we have today, there’s opportunity to improve our menu, hit a higher margin and reach a higher level. Our goal is to go from a ‘plus one’ situation to a ‘plus five.’ ”
Sanders described his current food service as already “a bit of the unexpected. We’re not just a straight snack bar. When people go to a family entertainment center, they often just expect, and often get, items like pizza, fries and hot dogs. We offer wraps and salads. And we have traditional favorites like wings. In the past year we added a full bar, which lends itself to higher quality in terms of food expectations. We serve a quality premium cocktail, and it would be great to pair those drinks with specially prepared, high-quality entrees as well,” Sanders attested. Overall, he would like to outperform in his market niche. “We’re planning to add more complex items, more fresh items and more robust flavors. We’re adding a smoker, and plan to serve barbecue items.”
Sanders has not needed to renovate his center because he moved to a new location just 18 months ago. “Everything is in great shape,” he noted. “The next step is to upscale our grille.” With approximately 20 percent of Octane Raceway’s profit coming from food and beverage sales currently, Sanders would like to see this percentage raised to above 30 percent. “A reality for us is that on weekends, customers may have to wait to race. We want to make sure that those who do wait can enjoy watching the races while having a quality food item. We want them to stay here for lunch or dinner, not go elsewhere and return.” Sanders has noticed an increase in food and beverage sales overall. “Honestly, the addition of a full bar has led to an up-kick in sales for both food and beverages.”
All in all, food and beverage changes are strong and positive at entertainment driven stores nationwide, and focus on areas such as family-friendly entertainment, health-driven choices and higher-quality food items.