Cedar Fair Loses All Integrity

Seriously. I listened in on the Quarterly Conference Call today and both Ouimet and Kinzel referenced the "Four Cornerstones" of Safety, Courtesy, Cleanliness and Service without referring to the "5th" cornerstone: Integrity. When it was introduced it seemed like a stretch and I never really embraced it. Maybe they are throwing in the towel on that one.

Other thoughts on the call: glad things are looking up this season and I hope it continues. I was in Sandusky last week and was impressed with the lines of traffic heading into the park, even on the weekdays.

Kinzel made his remarks but I was more interested in hearing from Ouimet. He did specifically address what I've been saying for years: the family demographic provides "greater profitability" than the thrillseeking demographic and with those comments I would expect that they will do more than provide lipservice to that demographic in the years ahead.

On the issue of the landgrab in Charlotte, he did mention something I did not think of. They now have an opportunity for better signage that will be seen from the interstate...and that is certainly a plus. (I noticed the video screen just north of 1st street in Sandusky. Don't know how long that has been there but it was a nice touch. I assume they flash information about hotel availability on there throughout the day.)

They mentioned that the new DQ set a record for sales on opening weekend for the entire DQ system. Pretty impressive. Kudos to the management team on that one.

It was interesting hearing Ouimet using language you could bet would not come out of Kinzel's mouth. The opportunity to "Tweet" to their customer base, for instance. And, this may be reading too much into it but when asked for the price tag of the land buy in Charlotte Kinzel first stated it was 61 million...before being corrected that it was 2.6 million for the 61 acres. Easy mistake, I'm sure, but one I would not have expected Kinzel to make 10 years ago.

They seem genuinely excited about the impact the Dinosaur attraction has made on KI. I was skeptical of that one but they seem to have found a winner. I thought Dinosaurs might just be a fad but that is based really only on my kid's disinterest in them.

One thing they were asked to provide (by one of the institutional investors) was a customer segment breakdown. Kinzel responded that it was something they didn't have. Now, I don't know if they just didn't have it at that point in the meeting or if he was implying they simply don't have one at all. I'd be stunned if that were the case, but if indeed it is true then there is some work to be done in that regard. I can't believe they wouldn't want (or already have) that data. It might be another symptom of Dick's lack of embracing technology.

All in all, good call and an affirmation that I think the Ouimet hire was a an excellent choice. Plus one for the Board of Directors, of whom I am often quite critical.

Jeff's avatar

Hyperbolic title is filled with hyperbole. ;)

Thanks for the run down. I don't have the patience to listen to those calls!

Jeff - Editor - CoasterBuzz.com - My Blog

The best part Jeff? This is a company that stopped it's annual distribution and was on the verge of a buyout/merger just a matter of months ago and they are now anitcipating a $2 dividiend by 2013. What a fantastic waste of time and money that entire thing was.

I will admit, I only half listened to most of it while I was working...but Ouimet's comments deserved some attention.

What about the thrill seeking family demographic?

The family demo talk always scares me. The wife and I are definitely thrill seekers. Build them big, fast and twisty and we're happy.

OhioStater's avatar

Call Q and ask them to write a letter about that.

Jeff's avatar

No, ask Q to sue them about that. That's how they roll.

Jeff - Editor - CoasterBuzz.com - My Blog

OhioStater's avatar

Very true.

^^ The family demo talk scares you? We're not evil people, really. Reproduce, and then you will see the beauty of the family demo talk.

Seriously, I think there is some room at Cedar Point, for example, for a teeny weeny bit more focus on the family demo. I love 'em big fast and twisty too, but there has to be balance.

It's been said before, but Ouimet sounds fantastic; definitely saying all the right things IMO.

Q's tactics might have been questionable and their style was certainly bad but I firmly believe many of the positive things we are seeing are as a result of them playing the watchdog and annoying mosquito...if you will. I think the only way the BoD starts listening to the criticism (which really wasn't much different than the criticism of individual unitholders and those who followed the company closely over the last couple of decades) was to have that criticism leveled by some well financed outside agitator.

That isn't to say they were all good...Q...but they weren't all bad either. The Board has been shaken up for the better, the new CEO is likely a better situation than any of us imagined, the company is back on track toward some financial health. Sometimes you have to burn a forest to make it healthy in the long term.

Pagoda Gift Shop's avatar

Dinosaurs...coming to a Cedar Fair park near you!

I'm not anti family and I can certainly understand the business sense that it makes to cater to the breeding types. I would just hate to see the thrill ride additions scaled back.

Not that I see that as a real possibility right now.

Cedar Point already has one dinosaur living on the peninsula. <Rim Shot>

Just kidding...he is the veggiesauraus...you know...the lovable kind.

But Pagoda...if you are a business and you want to make money...why would you continue to cater to the demographic that spends the least amount of money at your business? Does that make any sense?

I'm not saying they should give up on the thrill rides...but they do need to do a better job of catering to the spenders.

DaveStroem's avatar

Being a family guy, I would spend more in the parks if I felt like I got some value for what I am spending.

We recently went to Silver Dollar City. We purchased 2 meals in the park and even splurged for Rootbeer Floats. I almost bought a funnelcake too, till my daughter started kidding me about not fitting on coasters.

Now we could have left the FREE parking lot and run down to the nearest fast food joint, but they offered a pizza buffet for $9.95. It had salad, pizza, mac-cheese and freshly made potato chips. For dinner we split 3 skillets between the 4 of us and could have easily just gotten 2 of them. They were 20% off after 5 PM. The rootbeer floats were also on special for $2 each. I felt like I was getting a good deal and happily spent the $$$.

My point is that if your going after the family dynamic you have to remember that the expenses are multiplied by the number of people in the family. At Cedar Point lunch is over $50 and getting a frozen custard for the family costs over $20. This is why we pack a cooler most times.

Before you can be older and wiser you first have to be young and stupid.

Jeff's avatar

I don't think people mind spending that money on food if they feel like they get something for it. I'm prepared to spend more on food in amusement/theme parks, but I also expect to get what I pay for. I feel that I get that at Holiday World, Disney and Universal. I don't feel that way about any of the Cedar Fair parks. I guess my point is that pricing sensitivity is important, but the quality is just as important.

Jeff - Editor - CoasterBuzz.com - My Blog

I used to feel the same way about CF food quality but it seems like the quality has been on the upswing the last couple of years.

I do however still believe that the pricing is a bit high for what you get.

Cedar Fair has a long way to go on their foodservice operations. I used to work at Cedar Point in college, and 20 years ago I thought the food was good, the bbq next to the Giant Wheel, Lusty Lil's western bbq, even their fries. I have to accept that now, I need to leave the park, like go to the Breakers to eat a decent meal. I never tried the buffet, so it may be feasible. Dorney Park, nothing stands out. The Game Day Grill is all fried, and the tv's help it get to edible, maybe.

Our park is a heavy foodservice operation, with several sit-down locations, bar service, and our waterpark counterservice is probably the best in the industry. We believe in charging top dollar, or rather what the market will bear, but the guest has to get a great looking plate in front of them, that taste's great. Cedar Point, for example, has all the resources, ie..warehousing, full time staff, and consistent business not to have good counter food. Its terrible to keep reading about all the issues they have. People are on vacation, and they have to eat. Putting a Johnnu Rockets, Papa John's, Subway, its all mediocre at best, and everyone deserves better. If they fix the food, they will fix their in park spending.

wahoo skipper said:
I listened in on the Quarterly Conference Call today and both Ouimet and Kinzel referenced the "Four Cornerstones" of Safety, Courtesy, Cleanliness and Service without referring to the "5th" cornerstone: Integrity.

Could it be that they are displaying integrity by tacitly acknowledging they don't have any?

My author website: mgrantroberts.com

I've been planning to post something about this ever since my poor experience at Pink's on 7/4 and a subsequent experience at Friday's at the Breakers.

The bottom line is this: It is OK to be expensive.

But if you are going to be expensive, it is NOT OK to be "cheap".

Let me explain: The best example is probably Charlie Brown's Cookout, assuming it even operates anymore. Last time I ate there, the burger cost around $5 for the burger alone. That is expensive. It was a 6 ounce beef patty, flame grilled to order by an Eastern European cook and served on a nice kaiser roll. It was expensive, but it was also good, and the combination of a good product and the in-park location meant it really was not that unreasonable to pay a premium for that burger.

But I wanted lettuce, tomato and onion for my burger. That seems reasonable enough...

...but charging an extra $0.50 for a paper thin slice of under ripe tomato, a tiny piece of a lettuce leaf, two dill pickle chips, and a couple of pieces of onion is not reasonable at all. In fact, it is CHEAP. That extra $0.50 isn't a lot of money, but it very quickly made me resent being asked to pay the $5 for the rest of the burger.

It's that kind of thing. Or the situation we encountered in the restaurant under Raptor (I don't remember whether it was Game Day or Silver Dollar at the time). Cedar Point serves three or four different kinds of French fries in the park, and at this restaurant, EVERY menu item was served with a side of the worst variety of fries available in the park. The restaurant served other sides as well, but absolutely REFUSED to substitute anything for the crappy food-service fries that nobody in the group wanted. They could "hold" the fries, but then there was no discount for not getting them, plus we still had to pay fugal price for the alternative side we really wanted. Again, it's enforced cheapness. I would have happily paid an upcharge on the entree to get the onion rings instead of the fries, but because of their insistence, I ended up not ordering the rings at all, throwing out the fries, and complaining about the quality and expense of my meal.

This is the kind of basic crap that makes people not want to spend money. I haven't been back to that restaurant in years because of basic nonsense. Last time I ate there, they ended up with a smaller sale, my server got a smaller tip, and I have not been back. This is what happens when you as an institution are Doing It Wrong.

Johnson is right. I like to put it this way: The park's job is to make me WANT TO give them my money. The techniques for doing that are well documented, they don't cost a lot to implement, and that doesn't matter anyway because they pay for themselves many times over. It is a simple matter of getting the price and the value to line up correctly, then not doing anything in execution to mess up that balance.

--Dave Althoff, Jr.

    /X\        _      *** Respect rides. They do not respect you. ***
/XXX\ /X\ /X\_ _ /X\__ _ _ _____

Ensign Smith said:

wahoo skipper said:
I listened in on the Quarterly Conference Call today and both Ouimet and Kinzel referenced the "Four Cornerstones" of Safety, Courtesy, Cleanliness and Service without referring to the "5th" cornerstone: Integrity.

Could it be that they are displaying integrity by tacitly acknowledging they don't have any?

Maybe they finally realized that 72-degree blocks are hard to source? Maybe they were getting them from that landscape company they had to sue...

--Dave Althoff, Jr.

    /X\        _      *** Respect rides. They do not respect you. ***
/XXX\ /X\ /X\_ _ /X\__ _ _ _____

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