Whirling around a roller-skating rink can certainly work up an appetite or at the very least a powerful thirst. For this article, five centers in different parts of the country described what their customers clamor for in terms of food service, and how they best meet their demands.
Wood’n Wheel Family Fun Center in Ulster Park, N.Y., serves all the favorites – pizza, hot dogs, French fries, nachos, pretzels, churros, popcorn, and ice cream plus a diverse array of beverages. Since the venerable establishment only operates Friday through Sunday during the winter months, it is a challenge to keep many fresh food items available. “It’s why fresh sandwiches, for example, are absent from our menu,” said Owner Bud Sorbello. “We’ve beefed up our offerings with chicken wings, chicken tenders and other fried items.” Wood’n Wheel has also added David’s Fresh Baked Cookies which heat up very nicely in the pizza oven. “All these items are easy for entry level employees to prepare and result in minimal food waste.” Since the facility has an automated fryer, safety concerns are also diminished. As for the sweet side of the equation, Dippin’ Dots have turned out to be a worthy addition.
It’s a no-brainer that food quality must be better than standard snack bar fare to boost sales but Sorbello has also worked a different angle. “The strategy for us was to increase the length of stay. We are creating more comfortable seating for adults and we’ve ramped up the quality of the games in our arcade to appeal to adults. In addition, we keep looking for additional activities that appeal to adults – not only as a revenue source, but to increase an entire family’s length of stay. The longer a family stays, obviously the more they spend on activities and food!” Wood’n Wheels aims to schedule more parties during the 5 to 8 p.m. timeframe as well, having noticed food sales correspondingly increase.
Roller skaters looking to refuel at Extreme Action Park in Chocowinity, N.C., head to the snack bar where they find such tantalizing items as pizza, cheeseburgers, hot dogs, French fries, nachos, pretzels and ice cream. Owner Denise Vick has noticed that combination packages work wonders in terms of boosting food sales so her menu features several. “Most of our food combos are the same price and include three items – for example, a cheeseburger, fries and a small drink. We do much better this way than attempting to sell items individually.”
Family owned and operated for 50 years, Franklin Skate Club in Franklin, Ind., is well versed on the kinds of food that appeal to roller skaters. Pizza, hot dogs, French fries, pretzels, nachos, ice cream, snow cones – those are items hungry patrons clamor for, with pizza often being a top choice. “We do a pizza and a pitcher special. It’s a Hunt Brothers pizza – it comes to us as just cheese and then we add the pepperoni and sausage,” said Manager Vicki Clay. She usually has the pizzas made up ahead of time and will feature several in a display case, depending on the crowd. “Obviously, you don’t want to have all kinds of food prepared only to go to waste if attendance is light. But I think presentation has a big impact on sales. [Keep] the display case stocked, and don’t forget signage. It’s very important too.”
They have the basics covered at Skate Along USA in Lilburn, Ga. “We serve pizza, hot dogs, popcorn, nachos and cheese,” said Owner Chris Salome when asked to provide an overview of the menu. He and his wife, Chris – yes, they share the same name! – own the facility. Patrons simply refer to them as Mr. Chris and Ms. Chris and somehow it all works out. “Everything comes to us pre-cooked except for the pizza which we assemble and put through our oven here,” Mr. Chris explained. To increase sales, dee-jays are commonly asked to mention snack bar offerings during skating sessions they are hosting. Other times, management will announce them via the P.A. system. There is also a multi-carousel warmer by the snack bar equipped to display two to three pizzas, depending on the crowd. It frequently speaks louder than words.
Hungry patrons are sure to find all their favorites while skating at either of Roller Kingdom’s two centers in Massachusetts. Both the Hudson and Tyngsboro locations feature pizza – including a gluten-free option – as well as pretzels, fried dough, hot dogs, nachos with cheese, and popcorn. Skaters who crave something sweet enjoy the cookies on hand and the facility’s hugely popular slushy drinks. Roller Kingdom has tried packaging items to sell more food, but it seems patrons simply prefer to buy things à la carte.
Black light is the customary illumination setting at Roller Kingdom locations which prompts the question: Might the snack bar be hard to find? The assistant manager at the Hudson location set the record straight in that regard. “Our snack bar is aglow with special glow-in-the-dark paint and features a big, bright neon sign,” said Michael Thompson. “Even the napkin dispensers on the tables have the menu items printed on special glow-in-the-dark paper on the sides of them.” Food sales get a boost come closing time if items remain. “At the end of the night, we’ll announce discounted food. Rather than throwing it away, we’ll simply discount it and price everything at a dollar just to get rid of it. That way we make some money instead of no money by throwing it away,” Thompson concluded.