What Works: Priming a Food and Beverage Operation to Sizzle
Visiting an attraction is fun—and requires burning energy. Hydrating and refueling visitors is not only the responsibility of a solid food and beverage (F&B) operation, but when done well, the effort can enhance a guest’s impression of an attraction and drive revenue. During my 20-year career, I have discovered several methods that can aid F&B managers with delivering a smooth and profitable operation:
Know Your Customer Demographics
One of the best ways to ensure your F&B operations are successful is by understanding your customers and their preferences. Knowing how many international guests, local visitors, and tourists visit your attraction each season allows you to cater featured menu items to that specific demographic. Having a featured dish of the month or food festivals catered to a particular nationality that you know will visit that month increases the chances of profitability. This also gives the locals, especially the season pass holders, a novelty to try during their return visits.
Track Dwell Time
While visiting a theme park or water park, a guest will typically have a meal, a snack, or a few beverages. While lunch and dinner are reliably busy, the in-between time is when an expert F&B operator must know how to pinch pennies. Strategically positioning a kiosk and carts in locations where there is heavy foot traffic can pay off, as customers must pass that area, increasing the likelihood of a purchase. Positioning a cart or kiosk next to a stage where popular shows take place also increases the probability of customers buying snack products like popcorn, slushies, or nachos. When an attraction has a good dwell time (more than 3 hours), F&B operations should look at this as an opportunity and open portable—yet well-placed—revenue centers.
Know What and Where to Sell
What one customer likes to eat or drink may not be liked by other guests. I usually play it safe by putting out F&B items that are aromatic or colorful. At Attractie- & Vakantiepark Slagharen, we tried sweet corn in a location where our parades were taking place, and we soon had long-winding queues. Similarly, if you place a row of slush machines next to the kids’ play area, the children will keep coming up to buy slush. Always choose a spot in your park where there is high visibility and you can share the aroma of the food product. I have found that hot dogs are usually in the top 10 selling food items; the smell of meat grilling can seldom be ignored.
Train on Suggestive and Cross-Selling
Proper training leads to not only professional employees, but confident and happy ones as well. At Attractie- & Vakantiepark Slagharen, we make sure our employees taste all the products, so they know what to tell our guests when they take the orders. I have found that when an employee is knowledgeable about the product, they are also confident selling it. We also train employees on upselling and redirecting. If the product a guest requests is not available at that location, the employee is empowered to direct the guest to a location where the product can be found.
Keep Up with Trends
It is challenging to remain innovative under restrictive budgets and a heavy workload. It can also be hard to disrupt a well-established routine. However, if you’re not constantly innovative, your guests will complain about the lack of food variety in your park.
At Attractie- & Vakantiepark Slagharen, we have a monthly promotion in our park where chefs prepare a dish of the month. We also host special food festival markets where we try food items for the first time. If the food is popular and in demand, we may keep it on the menu the rest of the season. If it’s not, I suggest utilizing that as data and research. Use it to create another solution. A new product failure can be hard, but we never allow the challenge stop us from trying again in a different manner.
Ralph Fernandes is the Director of Food and Beverage at Attractie- & Vakantiepark Slagharen in Slagharen, Overijssel, Netherlands. He spent time in similar roles at Dubai Parks and Resorts and Wild Wadi Water Park.