Making Dining Part of the Fun – Food Trends at Amusement Parks

By Carimé Lane
In 2022, nachos were the biggest hit with kids and parents alike at Altitude Trampoline Park in Slidell and Mandeville, La. According to General Manager Bethany Gex, they started selling nachos with chili and cheese at Mandeville, their newest park, and are poised to sell them at the older location, too. Their second best-selling category of food are locally made handmade candies, including chocolate covered Oreos, chocolate pretzel sticks and marshmallows dipped in chocolate.
To make more food sales, Gex endorses upselling. For instance, if someone buys a hot dog, ask if they need chips or a candy to go with it.

Menu selections from Castles ‘N Coasters. In terms of food best-sellers in 2022, it was a tie between fries and ice cream, the general manager said.

At both parks, they’re adding a kitchen, and with that, introducing pizza, wings and chicken strips to the menu. They’re also adding a bar to both parks to appeal to adults who visit with their kids. In addition, they’re upping their food game for adults. In their bar, they’ve added another popular menu item: charcuterie boards for two.
Customers make requests of either staff members or with Gex, since she’s in one of the two parks five to six days a week. She’ll respond by sourcing and then adding the requested items to the menu.
She has also received requests for healthier snacks, including granola bars and applesauce pouches, which they have added to their inventory.
In the two months they’ve been open, the numbers at their new Mandeville location are astronomical, said Gex. Even though it’s 20 miles from the new park, guest counts at Slidell remain either flat, or slightly up. Last year, their head count was 140,000.

Castles ‘N Coasters Park Manager Pasquale Crea. Crea said classic food best-sellers still win the day.

In 2022 at Castles ‘N Coasters in Arizona, Park Manager Pasquale Crea indicated classic best-sellers still win the day. They sold more ICEES than any other single item including soda, in particular because they’re located in the extremely warm climate of Arizona. Red (cherry) and blue (blue raspberry) have long been customer favorites, but in the last few years patrons have favored blue raspberry.
“People love the color blue,” Crea said.
In terms of food items, 2022 sales are tied between fries and ice cream. Vanilla is by far and away the best-selling ice cream flavor. Crea finds food and beverage items you can carry have always sold better than items that are more difficult to eat. They put everything – from fries to ice cream – in a cup so guests can munch on the move.
According to Crea, big, pretty pictures of product inspire sales. Signs do the upselling for you with kids, explained Crea.

A poster for waffle cones at Castles ‘N Coasters. According to the general manager, pictures of products inspire sales, especially with kids.

Last October, they opened a sit-in pizzeria. This was the first dine-in restaurant on the 14-acre property, and has done surprisingly well. Crea said. While inside, the pizzeria has nine tables, many customers order pizza to go so they can watch their kids on the rides while they eat.
Crea finds customers aren’t looking for healthy options, but they are seeking allergen-free foods, like dairy free and gluten free faire. Their soft serve falls into this category, explained Crea. It’s kosher, dairy-free, and gluten-free.

Jordan Morey, director of food and beverage, Morey’s Piers, Wildwood, N.J., and a third generation Morey. The organization’s food and beverage offerings include four full-service restaurants, approximately 20 concession stands, and catering.

At Morey’s Piers and Water Parks, in Wildwood, N.J., their culinary environments and offerings are wide-ranging. Their food and beverage portfolio consists of four full-service restaurants, approximately 20 concession stands, and catering. At their full-service locations, top sellers include pizza, tacos, cheesesteaks, and lobster and shrimp rolls. The top sellers at their counter service operations are pizza, fries, cheesesteaks, chicken tenders, and tacos. And at their concession stands, their top sellers are Curley’s Fries (their hand-cut French fry product), funnel cakes, ICEE frozen drinks, and pretzels.
 “We believe these items sell so well due to our location,” indicated Jordan Morey, director of food and beverage operations. “Our guests are on vacation and looking for classic boardwalk fare with a twist.”
Morey, explained their Food and Beverage Mission Statement is “Looks great, tastes great, compelling, must-repeat experience.” That mission statement encompasses their strategy to sell more food.
“A guest dining experience is so much more than the taste of the food on their plate,” commented Morey. “It starts with guest interaction and is followed up by food presentation and, finally, taste.”
According to Morey, they will definitely be adding more menu items. When this story was composed, the season had just ended, and the analysis stage was next. During this stage, it was to be determined what worked and what didn’t. Also during this analysis, the team were to contribute one dish each that could be a good replacement for an item that didn’t work. Next is the development stage, where new items are tasted and a vote is taken on what works best.
“New items are always fun,” expressed Morey. “But at the end of the day, it’s equally important to focus on what is working and ensure it’s consistent.”

Of Arizona’s Castles ‘N Coasters, from left to right, Mersaydeez Silvia, shift leader, Julianna Cobos, human relations and Piper Satto, shift leader. ICEES sell best for the food operation because of the Arizona heat, the park manager said.

Handhelds, salad entrees, and vegetarian dishes are the most notable trends they’ve recently experienced, expressed Morey. Most locations offer a variety of tacos. They’ve also condensed the number of entrees at certain restaurants and included more sandwiches. New items have included: grilled chicken skewers, Brussels sprouts, open-face lettuce wraps, and hand-breaded fresh mozzarella balls with a vodka marinara dipping sauce.
At Kentucky Kingdom, they serve a variety of foods at their restaurants inside the amusement park, including their Bourbon Craft House and Taco Tequila restaurants. Chicken tenders that come with a variety of dipping sauces have proven to be a guest favorite at Kentucky Kingdom, said James McQuade, director of food and beverage.
“This menu item is a staple every season and is popular among all age groups,” he said.
Staging food items to make them accessible and keep them within the sight lines of each guest is key to making food interesting and developing fan favorites. According to McQuade, this method helps guests see the wide variety of options they offer.
This year, they’re hosting their first ever Pumpkins event. This theme inspired them to incorporate a new fall spin on their traditional park staples. For instance, they took cinnamon bread – a fan favorite – and created a new pumpkin spice cinnamon bread option.
One of the trends Kentucky Kingdom anticipates in 2023 will be known as “Swicy” (fusion of sweet and spicy). They’re planning to incorporate this trend in upcoming meal options.

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