Food and Beverage Leaders Serve Up New Strategies

by Scott Fais

Food and Beverage

 “Put a stick in it” is now “put it in a cone.” The newest food and beverage items generating a buzz—and a positive spike in sales—were the talk of education sessions Monday during IAAPA Attractions Expo 2017. “Don’t be afraid to try something new,” said Vern Gassen, director of revenue with Schlitterbahn Waterpark.
Food and beverage leaders like Gassen shared the benefits of creating unique items guests can enjoy on the move in-house, which can produce greater profits. A new handcrafted milkshake made at Hersheypark led to social media buzz, and a new fried rib sandwich at Silver Dollar City saw a return on investment of 94 percent in the first year. “You have to keep your guests engaged in new concepts,” said Jonathan Vigue, ICAE, director of revenue at Wild Adventures Theme Park.
Hersheypark took a location previously home to a third-party vendor and created an in-house brand named Simply Chocolate in 2016. The new location’s star is the “King Size Shake,” a colossal milkshake known for piles of candy adoring the whipped cream on top. “It’s truly become one of those things when people come to the park that they are searching out,” said Bernie Campbell, ICAE, a regional director with Whirley DrinkWorks.
Within the first week of its debut, the chocolate-dipped “King Size Shake” gathered 825,000 impressions on social media, while USA Today named it a top-10, must-have item at amusement parks. More than 5,000 shakes were sold in 2016; this year, sales grew to 25,000 units. The positive bump came from additional signage around the park. “Would you want to eat a faded hamburger?” asked Mike Holtzman, president of Profitable Food Facilities. He said he believes in using fresh signage, utilizing photos taken on something as simple as a smartphone, to drive revenue.
“If you still have menu boards with just words on them, you’re selling yourself short,” Holtzman said. Shannon Seip, co-founder of Bean Sprouts, also believes signage with photos needs to be placed outside a venue, not inside where a passing guest will never see it.
“I would have to put my head through the window to read the digital menu,” Seip said while offering an example of how passing traffic cannot see into a quick-service location. Her Bean Sprouts health-conscious, yet kid-friendly menu drove additional sales at a new location inside Kennywood. Food items containing nothing artificial are arranged in such a way that resembles animal faces. Targeting youngsters meant lowering the countertops to their level, painting exteriors a bright color, and assembling meals quickly. “We know kids do not want to wait,” Seip said.
Each speaker said in-house development of a concept for something that can be enjoyed on the go and sold at a premium is key to revenue growth.
Here are a few more tips:
* New products need to be unique and have a theme.
* Menu items must be perceived as a “must-have.”
* Walk your facility and take a fresh look at existing signs.
* Update maps to celebrate new items’ arrival and location.
* Menu boards must contain photos and be placed outside.
* Use fellow staff as a test audience for feedback.
* Don’t be afraid to fail and try again next season.