By Jen Heller Meservey
At waterparks, classic American foods like pizza, burgers, hot dogs, French fries and chicken tenders, are the most popular. Josh Roybal, waterpark manager at Hotel Cascada Waterpark in Albuquerque, N.M., said that “convenient and handheld items are easier to eat in a crowded waterpark.” Mark Litz, vice president of food and beverage operations at Massanutten Resort and Waterpark in McGaheysville, Va., said that these foods sell best because “families are enjoying the waterpark facilities and can take advantage of our quick food services.”
Ken Lingo, food and beverage manager at Jungle Jim’s River Safari Waterpark in Rehoboth Beach, Del., said that chicken tenders sell best at his park. “Our chicken tenders provide a level of comfort for the average consumer,” he explained. “Most tend to find a food they are familiar with and is consistently palatable throughout food establishments. These foods tend to be commonplace menu items, such as burgers and fries.”
At Great Waves Waterpark in Alexandria, Va., the Crispy Chicken Strips Combo is one of the most popular menu items, according to Brent Hodnett, the park’s Recreation Business Specialist. “This combo has long been our top seller,” he said. “The white meat chicken strips come out of the fryers crispy and go great with the different condiments we offer.” The combo includes the park’s Beach Fries, which are also popular with their over 90,000 annual visitors. “Who doesn’t like French fries?” Hodnett remarked.
Great Waves added their “Surf Side Pizza” concessions to the park last season. “We were happy to see the rapid growth in popularity of visitors craving a slice of pizza to cure their hunger while at our waterpark,” said Hodnett. This year, Hodnett plans to expand the Surf Side Pizza menu. “We added a five-piece boneless buffalo chicken wings basket,” he said. “We also added a junior soft serve swirl option, chocolate sundae, strawberry parfait and floats. In addition, we have lowered the price of our whole pizzas to make those a more attractive item on the menu.”
Following current trends, many waterparks are offering healthier menu options for the 2016 season. “We are adding a grilled chicken wrap to offer a lighter item that’s still filling and delicious,” said Andrea Walsh, facility manager II at Coconut Cove Waterpark and Recreation Center in Boca Raton, Fla. “We plan on expanding our healthier options by adding a chicken Caesar wrap to the menu this season,” said David Andrews, Jr., general manager of Wet ‘n’ Wild Palm Springs in Palm Springs, Calif.
Roybal said that gluten free options will be added to the menu at Hotel Cascada this year for their average 80,000 visitors to enjoy. At Wild Mountain Waterpark in Taylor Falls, Minn., General Manager Kevin Starr, said that “fresh, prepared to order salads” will be added to the menu, along with an “easy to prepare and hold BBQ pulled pork sandwich.”
Massanutten Waterpark is adding a whole new food concept called “The Chill Grill” for their expected 250,000 guests in 2016, according to Dana Staniunas, general manager of the waterpark and director of recreation at Massanutten Resort. “The Chill Grill is an outside eatery providing food and beverage service specifically designed for guests of the park,” he explained. “Along with The Chill Grill, we’re introducing semi-private cabana rentals. The cabanas will contain more upscale furniture for park-goers to relax when not enjoying a slide or learning to master the FlowRider. Cabana guests will also receive dedicated service from The Chill Grill, taking the overall experience up a level.” Other new menu items at Massanutten this year will include “a traditional Jamaican jerk pork dish and a freshly-opened coconut drink,” according to Litz.
Whale’s Tale Waterpark is a brand new park opening in Lincoln, N.H., this year. Jeb Boyd, CEO and general manager of NLI Entertainment, LLC, has been overseeing the construction of the new park. “We expect to see 20,000 visitors to the waterpark this year, but we fully expect to exceed this number,” he said.
When it comes to the menu at the new park, Boyd said that he expects grab and go items to be top sellers. “We plan to balance grab and go, cafeteria style products with healthy options like fruit and veggies for 2016,” he said.
Novelty, Prepackaged or Hand-Dipped?
The Scoop on Ice Cream
Josh Roybal, waterpark manager at Hotel Cascada Waterpark in Albuquerque, N.M.: “Packaged because there are often large groups and we host a lot of waterpark birthdays.”
Kevin Starr, general manager of Wild Mountain Waterpark in Taylor Falls, Minn.: “Hand-dipped! Guests love the variety of options and flavors we offer, as well as our huge root beer floats. Hand-dipped also offers lower equipment costs and easier cleanup. Besides, guests can get soft serve and novelties every day from the quick service restaurants and convenience stores in their own neighborhoods.”
Andrea Walsh, Facility Manager II at Coconut Cove Waterpark and Recreation Center in Boca Raton, Fla.: “We sell Mini-Melts along with Blue Bunny ice cream bars. Mini-Melts offer a wide variety of flavors with great taste that both kids and adults enjoy.”
Ken Lingo, food and beverage manager at Jungle Jim’s River Safari Waterpark in Rehoboth Beach, Del.: “Dippin’ Dots are one of our top selling menu items. During the hot summer, many people love a delicious cold snack. Dippin’ Dots fill that niche to perfection, while presenting it with aesthetic flair. Each cup contains thousands of tiny frozen balls of flavor that catch the eye and satisfy the palate of the consumer.”
Brent Hodnett, recreation business specialist at Great Waves Waterpark in Alexandria, Va.: “Our top seller is definitely Dippin’ Dots. I believe this is our top seller because it is unique and not something that you can find everywhere, like at your local grocery store. It’s a fun way to cool down in the summer heat.”
David Andrews, Jr., general manager of Wet ‘n’ Wild Palm Springs in Palm Springs, Calif.: “Our visitors seem to really enjoy our Dippin’ Dots novelty ice cream the most. There are several different flavors for the whole family, but rainbow ice and chocolate chip cookie dough are the favorites. We have also added Italian ice this season, which has been a hit already in the spring, and I’m sure will be the way to keep cool this summer. We are blowing through sour apple and watermelon.”