Cedar Fair CEO Matt Ouimet talks about the future of roller coasters in the company's parks

Posted Monday, August 31, 2015 9:00 PM | Contributed by slithernoggin

Los Angeles Times reporter Brady MacDonald sat down with Cedar Fair CEO Matt Ouimet for a wide-ranging discussion about roller coasters at Cedar Fair's parks.

Read more from The LA Times.

Saturday, September 5, 2015 12:57 AM
slithernoggin's avatar

I agree. The bigger the chain, the more likely the company wants to hold down costs; ten food stands selling hamburgers, hot dogs and chicken fingers is more cost effective than ten food stands selling unique menus.


Life is something that happens when you can't get to sleep.
--Fran Lebowitz

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Saturday, September 5, 2015 1:04 AM
LostKause's avatar

I was talking about the cost of buying and preparing cheaper food, but what you wrote makes sense too. I'm saying that if the frozen chicken catalog has premium, regular, and value chicken nuggets, they would more likely buy the value to keep costs down.

I would think that if they decided to buy and serve the higher quality product, more people would buy the food because it is good, and not because "people have to eat."


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Saturday, September 5, 2015 1:20 AM
slithernoggin's avatar

I'm going with "give Ouimet a chance" here. He's been CEO for a few years, yes, but it takes time to change a company with the size and scope of Cedar Fair from top to bottom. When I see money being put into things like the Breakers renovation and multi-use food facilities like Harmony Hall Marketplace, my take away is that he gets an improved, more upscale experience is a money maker.


Life is something that happens when you can't get to sleep.
--Fran Lebowitz

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Saturday, September 5, 2015 3:35 AM
Lord Gonchar's avatar

I suspect food operation at the larger chains is very 'assembly line' for lots of reasons - cost, structure, consistency, etc.

I don't think it's as simple as buying 'better' frozen chicken. (Is that a thing? I would think chicken hastily thrown in a deep fryer is all essentially the same in the end.)

To make better food, requires more effort (which costs more), likely a more trained staff (which costs more), better ingredients (which costs more), more time (which costs more), upgraded cooking facilities (which costs more)...

You see where this is going.

A premium experience will always carry a premium price. I suspect for a vast majority of visitors, 'good enough' is good enough. Even more so if you presented the price difference for the better offerings.


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Saturday, September 5, 2015 7:47 AM
kpjb's avatar

You can get chicken fingers that are essentially McNuggets, processed random chicken parts. You can get things like thigh strips and the top of the line which would be all white meat breast tenders. The better chicken strips are loads better, and they cost a lot more. Same with burgers. 72% lean meat with a lot of soy filler versus an Angus patty that's 95% lean... the Angus patty is probably twice the cost, but it's 10 times better. Same goes for many other products. Things like that don't require any operational changes, they just cost more.

If you're a small operation that prides itself on quality food service then it's probably worth it. If you're a huge corporation that sells a lot of food... what if those burger patties cost $2 more each and you think you've maxed out on consumer pricing? You're talking a multi-million dollar loss just to have tasty burgers.


Hi

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Saturday, September 5, 2015 12:05 PM
slithernoggin's avatar

Consumers tastes are evolving. Fast food chains have been facing competitive pressure for years from fast casual chains. Don't remember the exact numbers, but the difference between an average meal at McDonald's and at Chipotle is only a couple of dollars, and the customer gets a fresher, healthier meal*. Folks are willing to pay more for what they perceive as better quality.

I do think there's room for Cedar Fair to nudge the quality, presentation and overall experience upwards a couple of clicks, spread across all of a park's food outlets or perhaps by creating a couple of more "upscale" dining establishments in each park.

As long as I can buy my french fries covered with cheese sauce and slathered with chili and sit under the Sky Ride on a warm summer's eve, I'm happy.

*Well, except that all those fresh, healthy ingredients, in that quantity included in that delicious meat burrito with cheese, salsa, sour cream etc Chipotle gives you, represent about two-thirds of the average person's calorie "target" for the day.


Life is something that happens when you can't get to sleep.
--Fran Lebowitz

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Saturday, September 5, 2015 3:42 PM
Timber-Rider's avatar

On the Question of food, I think the food at Cedar fair parks is by far better than six flags. But, I am the type of carnivore that looks for the best deal. Cedar Point probably has the most unusual food variety, from nicely edible to, total crap. I had a meal in frontier town that I ended up feeding most of it to the gulls. Their buffet is the best value, and eating at a franchise is probably going to give you better food, at a hugely inflated price! like the $20.00 footlong meals at the Parks Subway. Best food suggestion...Panada Express, good taste, at the lowest price.

I have been to some park Buffets, and Six Flags Great America was the worst, almost everything was cold, and food outlets are run by unhappy workers. I once ordered a burger meal at Wascals, and once got two burger meals with no meat in the bun. The workers comment..."Sorry We are out." And, we were not the only people to receive meatless burgers that day. So,I always eat before I arrive. Didn't know that an air burger meal still cost $12.95. But, a park manager took care of that, and gave us our money back.

MA is similar to Cedar Point, from decent to Horrible. I ate at their buffet, which was actually pretty good, but, not much selection. Also had MA pizza, which was the most mediocre I have had. I spent 6 years making pizza, and there is really no excuse for making crappy pizza. I would guess it is mostly made ahead of time, and warm until purchase. Food prices at MA, outside the Buffet are crazy high. Meal plans might only be usefull for families.

As for a Gate Coaster. What is the big deal on this? There are parks that something like that would not fair well, or at least take away the charm. Six Flags Great America for example, would you really want a coaster to over shadow that Double Carousel entrance? And, I always found Canadas Wonderland, and Kings Island to have really nice entrance plaza's. A coaster in front of that would take away it's old charm. Of which Cedar Fair had nothing to do with.

Cedar Point did the gate coaster, because their entrance was old, and they needed room to build a large coaster, and make their entrance more modern. But, that was also Cedar Fairs attempt to modernize the front half of the Main Midway, as some of the store fronts had been there for decades.

I think the most impressive entrance coaster is Shivering Timbers, as it is the first thing you see when you pull into Ma's Parking lot. Hopefully, if they build a hyper, the view will look towards lake Michigan. That would be something to see. If you recall the prior entrance, the entrance was in straight line view to the parks Corkscrew. The old entrance is actually where Zach's Zoomer sits, and it was nothing more than a wooden shack. Similar to Indiana beach.


I didn't do it! I swear!!

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Saturday, September 5, 2015 3:52 PM
slithernoggin's avatar

*sigh*


Life is something that happens when you can't get to sleep.
--Fran Lebowitz

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Saturday, September 5, 2015 6:12 PM
Jeff's avatar

slithernoggin said:

Folks are willing to pay more for what they perceive as better quality.

I don't think it's just perception. I think you could objectively say that something from Chipotle or Pei Wei or the like is better quality food than what you would get at any McDonald's or even Wendy's. I mean, you can see them make it from raw ingredients. At McD's, you can see them bring it from the freezer to the fryer or the microwave. :)


Jeff - Editor - CoasterBuzz.com - My Blog - Silly Nonsense

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Saturday, September 5, 2015 6:44 PM
slithernoggin's avatar

Is a Chiptole burrito better quality than a Taco Bell burrito? Sure. Is a Chipotle burrito a better choice, healthwise, than a Taco Bell burrito? Not usually, as it turns out. Taco Bell has a few burritos on the menu that top out around 800 calories, but over half of their menu burritos clock in at 600 calories or less. With the smaller size of Taco Bell burritos, sodium, fat content and so on are lower than Chipotle burritos.

Unless you're a Chipotle ascetic, most folks are better off at Taco Bell.

(Digression: For a number of years there was an annual book series, Eat This Not That, that contained often surprising comparisons of chain restaurant food, such as the Chipotle/Taco Bell comparison. Cheesecake Factory managed, for several years, to accomplish having one of the highest-calorie dishes on their menu be a salad.)

Short story long, what's better quality may not be better for you.


Life is something that happens when you can't get to sleep.
--Fran Lebowitz

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Saturday, September 5, 2015 6:46 PM
Lord Gonchar's avatar

slithernoggin said:

Don't remember the exact numbers, but the difference between an average meal at McDonald's and at Chipotle is only a couple of dollars, and the customer gets a fresher, healthier meal*. Folks are willing to pay more for what they perceive as better quality.

I think that's entirely true outside the park in a "what can we snag quickly and cheaply for dinner" sort of way.

I suspect (and I have nothing to back this up) that the mentality changes when it's multiple food stops and a full day at the park. A couple extra bucks a couple times a day could start to beat you up psychologically. "The kid just needs a burger to shut him up. Why the hell is everything here $12!?"

And offering on levels certainly makes sense from my standpoint as a customer, but it kills the 'assembly line' streamlining and requires educating the customer that all the hamburger stands are not created equal.

"Why is the hamburger here $12!? The one we got earlier was $8!"

It may be changing. I don't know. But I think the system in place has endured for a reason...and one that's not necessarily nefarious or entirely profit-driven or whatever.

Last edited by Lord Gonchar, Saturday, September 5, 2015 6:47 PM
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Saturday, September 5, 2015 7:08 PM
slithernoggin's avatar

I'm just saying that offering a slightly broader menu that tops out at nine or ten dollars, the company can buy into the public's changing tastes for fast foods in a way that produces increased profits for the company.


Life is something that happens when you can't get to sleep.
--Fran Lebowitz

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Saturday, September 5, 2015 9:12 PM
Jeff's avatar

You aren't suggesting that Toxic Hell tastes better than Chipotle, are you?


Jeff - Editor - CoasterBuzz.com - My Blog - Silly Nonsense

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Sunday, September 6, 2015 1:46 AM
slithernoggin's avatar

That's part of what fascinated me about the Eat This Not That books. Chipotle tastes better, but Taco Bell is often the better choice, healthwise, between the two. The books are full of such interesting comparisons between items on restaurant menus.

That one struck me in particular though: between going to Chipotle and having someone build your burrito from fresh ingredients and going to Taco Bell and having someone put predetermined ingredients on your mystery meat burrito, it's the latter that's the lower calorie, lower sodium choice.


Life is something that happens when you can't get to sleep.
--Fran Lebowitz

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Sunday, September 6, 2015 10:16 AM
LostKause's avatar

What happens to that better choice comparison when I have to buy two Taco Bell burritos to fill my belly, when I have to only buy one at Chipotle? I order a lot more when I'm at Taco Bell, because each item is so small. One Chipotle item fills me up.

I bet a gazillion dollars that a double cheeseburger from Five Guys has more calories than a double cheeseburger from Burger King.

And an Ice cream cone from Stone Cold Creamery has more calories than an ice cream cone from McDonald's.


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Sunday, September 6, 2015 11:10 AM
slithernoggin's avatar

That slides into our national tendency towards oversized portions.

The Taco Bell burrito is a good-sized portion for a meal; a Chipotle burrito is, portion-wise, two meals, but who eats half and takes the other half home for dinner? I don't.

Just read a piece on the Eat This Not That website about how we assume that salads are by definition a healthy choice; they took salads from various places and compared them to a Whopper. A Thai Crunch Salad with Fresh Avocado and Thai Peanut Dressing sounds good, right? A Whopper clocks in at 670 calories and 1,020mg sodium. That salad (from California Pizza Kitchen) clocks in at 1,408 calories and 1,064mg sodium.

Sorry to blather on, I do find it fascinating.

I still eat at Chipotle, but I treat it as an indulgence, not a handy place to get supper a couple times a week.


Life is something that happens when you can't get to sleep.
--Fran Lebowitz

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Sunday, September 6, 2015 11:37 AM
Jeff's avatar

I think you're splitting hairs about quantity. I've seen people have burritos made with insane amounts of food that will be a million calories loaded with fat and salt. I've also seen people put away three Taco Bell nutritious, because why not, they're cheap and small. If you make good choices, ounce for ounce, the Chipotle burrito will taste better, and might be better for you.


Jeff - Editor - CoasterBuzz.com - My Blog - Silly Nonsense

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Sunday, September 6, 2015 12:03 PM
Tekwardo's avatar

Or it may taste better and not be better for you.

I think there is a definite difference between taste/enjoyment quality (Chipotle) and health/benefit quality (not that big @$$ Chipotle burrito). I personally like Taco Bell as well as Chipotle, but I've lost 40lb since January, and believe me when I say Chipotle is an indulgence, whereas I can eat two tacos at Taco Bell and be full and feel better and not bloated.

But that doesn't mean the Chipotle burrito is different than someone downing the entire value menus at Taco Bell. Eating too much is eating too much, regardless of how good a single serving is for you.


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Sunday, September 6, 2015 12:07 PM
LostKause's avatar

I just found this in Google News.

http://www.ajc.com/news/news/national/new-ad-campaign-fat-shames-chipotle/nnY8w/

Last edited by LostKause, Sunday, September 6, 2015 12:07 PM
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Sunday, September 6, 2015 12:09 PM
OhioStater's avatar

If you're concerned about nutrition and you find yourself in line at a fast food joint you've already lost.

Not that, or that.

That said, the only battle Taco Bell wins over Chipotle is if it's 2 am and Chipotle is closed. And you're buzzed. And you only have 1.35 in change that you found between the car seats.

Taco Bell is disgusting.

Last edited by OhioStater, Sunday, September 6, 2015 12:10 PM
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