Ken Whiting

Oct 3, 2013, 13:30 PM

Growing up, Ken Whiting was one of eight siblings who helped his dad, Ted Whiting Jr., operate a concession stand at Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk.

“He had a built in workforce,” Whiting jokes.

Ted Whiting Jr. purchased a concession stand at the amusement park in 1953. As Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk grew and prospered, the business grew too, expanding from one concession stand to a total of 24 food and beverage locations throughout the park.

Although Whiting was guaranteed a part-time job as a teen, he had no expectations that his seasonal position would evolve into a career in the family business. Over time, it became clear that his passion for the amusement industry made Whiting a natural fit to step into a leadership position with Whiting’s Food Concessions. Today, he runs the concessionaire alongside his brother, Ron, and sister, Margie.

In addition to serving as the primary food and beverage provider at the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk, the trio – with the help of a team of staff – operates concessions at fairs, festivals and special events.

Each of the siblings has a different area of expertise: Margie handles human resources, including recruitment and retention and Ron oversees repairs, remodeling and maintenance issues. Ken uses his strengths in strategic planning to manage overall operations.

Whiting has handed off some of the operational responsibilities to his nephews, helping to prepare the next generation to step into leadership roles. The move has allowed him to pursue additional business goals.

“After 25 years of managing daily operational responsibilities, I get to think more about future planning and bigger picture stuff,” he says.

His passion for theme park food and beverage management led Whiting to offer consulting services to other amusement parks and attractions. The operators who hire him are either running in the red or looking to boost lackluster revenue in their food and beverage programs. Whiting reviews menus, evaluates food and labor costs and analyzes revenues to help parks create and execute plans for successful food and beverage programs.

“When I was coming up, there were several people with more experience [who] reached out to me, included me and made me feel that what I had to say mattered,” he explains. “Consulting a way to leverage the experience and expertise I’ve gained over the years to give back and do something that helps others.”

A passion for helping others also led Whiting to get involved with the IAAPA food and beverage committee. He serves as the current committee chair and has participated at various levels for more than two decades.

“It’s a great way not to operate in a vacuum. Instead of wondering what the rest of the world is doing [in their food and beverage programs] and how they are evolving, I’m part of a worldwide community of people who share their experiences.”

Through his participation in committees, Whiting notes, “My world started to grow.”

Although he has connections around the globe, when Whiting reflects on his career, he is most proud of what he has accomplished at home.

“One of my biggest accomplishments is having a role that in making the food experience part of the overall guest experience at the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk,” he says.