Cedar Fair exec says 2017 has been challenging

Posted Thursday, September 28, 2017 10:03 PM | Contributed by Jeff

It’s been a “challenging year” for Cedar Fair despite Cedar Point and Knott’s Berry Farm having record revenues fueled by expansions of their water parks, COO Richard Zimmerman said. Some of company’s amusement parks and outdoor water parks have exceeded expectations and most are where it was thought they’d be, but some have failed to meet revenue expectations, he added.

Read more from The Toledo Blade.

Friday, September 29, 2017 8:35 AM

Let me guess; the "underperforming" parks are Valleyfair and Michigan's Adventure. Of course VF hasn't had a new coaster in 15 years, and MA in 20. Of course, just judging by the Laborday crowds, KD could be in that mix too. Lots of light rain that weekend possibly chasing people away, but that weekends gotta be a money maker under normal conditions.

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Friday, September 29, 2017 9:51 AM

Well well well..... Now suddenly after years of mistreatment of Cedar seasonals and even full timers, the executives are whining that they can't keep people.... How sad!!

I have a few pointers for Cedar Fair

Don't be such cheap butt to your staff;
Offer contract bonuses like you did in the past; Stop making the seasonals feel like slave labor; Treat your staff fairly; your grooming standards policy should be reverted back to how it was in the past where your staff is clean cut, it's very noticeable that the professionalism of the Cedar Fair seasonals have significantly dropped.

This results in upsetting of other employees watching their peers look like they just rolled out of bed vs them who is well groomedgron the beginning of the day until the end. It makes people feel better and welcomed when others are groomed.

These are just some examples that I had to deal with when I did work for the Cedar Fair corporation.

Also as a supervisor I was given a sheet at the end of the season with all of the attendance discrepancies. I was told to go through it and write any staff up, this was while we still had the bonus program implemented for Cedar Fair parks. It's quite shady the way they do business with their staff let alone their customers.

So yeah, how sad.... The double standards of Cedar Fair are finally catching up to them.

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Friday, September 29, 2017 10:49 AM

I'm not sure how reversion back to the old grooming standards will attract today's young men and women to apply.

When I was in college, a season at Cedar Point seemed like the plumb job. It really was a way to have fun and make money. I knew a lot of people who wanted to do it, and it was actually a little difficult to get in.
Nowadays kids don't seem to want jobs like that. If they need a job at all, they're likely to look at something service oriented or career related. For the aspiring, internships are where it's at. In other words, no one is majoring in crowd control, rude customers, crappy food, or vomit.
Over the years it's been easy to see that employees include many foreign students and those that are less advantaged- the clean cut suburban college kids seem to be fewer and farther between. That's my take, anyway.

And not to say that the company doesn't share the blame. We lived in the Cedars and looking back it was pure crap. But we didn't care. The current housing situation sounds deplorable, but what kind of investment would it take to upgrade that to make it attractive enough to want to go there?

I travel and I've visited my share of parks. This staffing problem is something that is not entirely owned by Cedar Fair parks, not by a long shot. And some of the most enjoyable experiences exist at parks like Dollywood and Silver Dollar City, where a good percentage of hourly workers are retirees and seniors in it for pin money and something to do. They seem pretty happy, too.

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Friday, September 29, 2017 12:28 PM

Simple economics provides the answer: When demand is strong, parks raise the price they charge. When demand exceeds supply raise wages.

And, really, Cedars should have been replaced 20+ years ago!

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Friday, September 29, 2017 3:19 PM

Imagine that... you aren't having a problem with how much your labor costs but you're having a problem keeping labor. Can't imagine what the obvious conclusion would be.

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Friday, September 29, 2017 4:44 PM

Those of you proclaiming doom
And gloom, did you actually read the article?

And JEC, this is like the fifth time you’ve made that same post. Are you above the age of 25? Let. It. Go. Bitterness eats your soul and I’m pretty sure your core is showing.

Last edited by Tekwardo, Friday, September 29, 2017 4:44 PM
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Friday, September 29, 2017 5:13 PM

Hiring part time labor is hard for everyone right now. This is not something that's strictly a Cedar Fair or Cedar Point or amusement industry problem. Fewer high school and college students work these days and the Affordable Care Act has drastically changed how businesses hire and schedule part time employees.

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Saturday, September 30, 2017 12:29 AM

Tbone's chop said:
Let me guess; the "underperforming" parks are Valleyfair and Michigan's Adventure. Of course VF hasn't had a new coaster in 15 years, and MA in 20 years.

Let me guess. The number of years a park has gone without a new coaster has nothing to do with whether or not the parks in question are underperforming.

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Saturday, September 30, 2017 10:01 AM

slithernoggin said:

Tbone's chop said:
Let me guess; the "underperforming" parks are Valleyfair and Michigan's Adventure. Of course VF hasn't had a new coaster in 15 years, and MA in 20 years.

Let me guess. The number of years a park has gone without a new coaster has nothing to do with whether or not the parks in question are underperforming.

Well some idustry execs would disagree with you (and its not just new coasters, but being a coaster forum I just pointed out that these two parks get nothing, while CP, KI etc get regular ride upgrades, new rides and capital improvements, which generate buzz, draw crowds, especially repeat crowds, etc). From motley fool article on theme park attendance:

Even so, Universal had a very good year, the result of popular new Harry Potter attractions. Attendance at Universal Studios Hollywood, for instance, rose nearly 14 percent, to 8.1 million.

“It’s really capital expenditures that move the needle,” said John W. Robinett, senior vice president for economics at Aecom. “It’s also important to remember that 2015 was a tremendous year,” he said.

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Saturday, September 30, 2017 10:44 AM

Those two parks have not gotten nothing, they just haven't gotten roller coasters. Cedar Fair makes the appropriate investments for each park in the chain.

Capital expenditures do indeed "move the needle". But what moves the needle for Uni Orlando and what moves the needle for Michigan's Adventure are two different things.

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Saturday, September 30, 2017 11:15 AM

RCMAC said:

And not to say that the company doesn't share the blame. We lived in the Cedars and looking back it was pure crap. But we didn't care.

I don't know how I lived for 3 summers in the Cedars with no A/C. No way I could do that now. But you said it: we didn't care. My friends and I worked hard and played hard (mostly in the park; so many of us were park goers!).

As someone else mentioned, Cedar Point are sticklers when it comes to being on time and general "rules." To me, this is a good thing. It helps the overall operation of the park and keeps things running well. Some supervisors and managers I had were tough, but they wanted to keep up operations. I suspect the secret to getting people to come back is to pay them a little more.

Is there a senior crowd the park could tap into for work? Those Dollywood employees are some of the best, as RCMAC said.

Not sure what the set-up is now, but back in the 90s if you lived in the dorms, you had to work 6 days a week. It was their way of keeping us out of (more) trouble, and it worked. As much as I loved the Cedars with it's paper-and-spit walls, it's time for something new. They might as well build new dorms in the exact spot; crossing Perimeter Road into work was a huge perk.

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Saturday, September 30, 2017 2:14 PM

When you look at the attendance metrics of parks getting a new (or relocated) RC vs a flat; the attendance boost of a RC is significantly larger than that from a flat. But then the cost of a typical flat is sgnificantly lower than that of the typical coaster. Very little literature and metrics compiled on longevity of attendance impact by type of ride. Would be interested in seeing some #'s on ride utilization by type of attraction (repeat ridership, downtime, maintenance and upkeep, as well as ROI in correlation to ticket sales).

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Monday, October 2, 2017 11:48 AM

I'd like to see where you got your info Tbone, that says what you are claiming.

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Monday, October 2, 2017 12:21 PM

I'm inclined to agree that Cedar Fair and specifically Cedar Point has been pretty stubborn when it comes to addressing lack of staffing and this comment from Zimmerman seems to jive with their attitude of denial. They did away with the season long bonus several years back and they literally can't keep the place staffed in the fall because it's not worth it for people to drive three or four hours for 20-25 hours of work at minimum wage or just above. They used to try really hard to get people to contract for at least some weekends and they had that bonus (often $800-1000 built up over the course of the season) to hold over their heads to make sure they showed up for what they agreed to. Now they have nothing.

The housing also still sucks.

The hourly pay rate is far less than what people can make down the street at Taco Bell.

There was a Facebook post a couple weeks ago indicating CP was trying to hire people through a temp agency for hourly rates a lot higher than they have ever paid to any seasonal worker. I was glad they were admitting there was an issue, but they're lucky they didn't trigger a walk-out of existing staff.

They should bring that bonus back. Or at least bring back a tiered bonus for weekends to make it worth people's time. $1 an hour if you work 1-2 weekends, $2 if you work 3-4, all the way up to $4 if you work all 8 or 9 weekends. They also should try to tap into local seniors or reach out to alumni to come work a few weekends.

Every fall, it's the same story, but I don't see them doing anything game changing in order to fix it. "Casting a wider net" is part of the solution, but by itself is likely to just bring in a bunch of crud you don't want. Being a bit less cheap and a bit more creative also has to be part of the equation.

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Monday, October 2, 2017 9:55 PM

Every time I do a cruise, I'm taken by how dedicated the international crew is to not only deliver the best work they can, but do it for years, away from their families. Sure, they make good money relative to what may be available where they live, but they don't make anything near what Americans consider minimum. Not sure what my point is, other than I think the problem is partly cultural.

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