Kinzel: "People have to eat"

Thursday, August 7, 2008 8:46 AM
Could the food situation be one of the factors that brought an end to Geauga Lake?

GL had Cedar Fair prices for food that was generally mediocre. Meanwhile, another park in an adjacent state whose name I need not mention was offering promotions to people in the eastern Ohio with deep discounts on admission. People went to that park, liked what was there (including good, reasonably priced food) and decided that the park was worth returning to even with the cost of gas and tolls.

Maybe the same thing is starting to happen with Dorney. There's that park in the middle of nowhere that draws over a million visitors a year by doing the right thing with food, not to mention having a charming atmosphere and a family friendly environment. *** Edited 8/7/2008 12:48:07 PM UTC by Arthur Bahl***

Arthur Bahl

Thursday, August 7, 2008 8:54 AM
I wouldn't say that Dorney Park is in the middle of nowhere. Eastern PA is quiet heavily populated and the park isn't far from the NYC and Philly metro areas. However, I see what you're saying. I think a lot of businesses (not just amusement parks) underestimate the value of things they think/hope people don't notice.
Thursday, August 7, 2008 9:12 AM
My kids' Snoopy lunch boxes survived the day at the park and a 3 hour flight home in a suitcase in the cargo hold of a plane. I think right now they are using them to carry puzzle pieces around the house. Oh, and everyone at the table loved their "star fries".

That said...$8 is high for peanut butter and jelly, no doubt.

Jeff has said it over and over is about value. And, the perception right now is that Cedar Point is not a good value, particularly for families. Is that the truth? Well, that is subjective. But, as long as the perception is there that is not good news for the powers that be.

I continue to give Mr. Kinzel credit. He grew Cedar Fair from two parks to one of the major players in the amusement industry. Some of that was skill, some of that was good fortune, but there is no doubt he deserves that credit.

But, nothing he has done over the past year or two gives me any assurance that he is the guy who should be leading the company now. And, from the rumblings behind the scenes it seems that quite a few of those who were committed to the company for decades are feeling the same way.

I am of the belief that he should have stuck with his original retirement date. Now he is taking on a Michael Jordan quality. Sure, he will be remembered for the good but people will also remember his foray into baseball (embarassing) and his not so glorious comebacks.

The difference? Jordan really only hurt himself by sticking around too long.

Thursday, August 7, 2008 9:17 AM
I wasn't referring to Dorney as being in the middle of nowhere. Read my post carefully. That park in the middle of nowhere is one of their competitors and a favorite park for many of us.

Arthur Bahl

Thursday, August 7, 2008 9:36 AM
Sorry Arthur, I read your post before I had my morning coffee. Not that I'm any more awake now than I was, but that's beside the point ;)
Thursday, August 7, 2008 9:42 AM
eightdotthree's avatar Stop beating around the bush Arthur. What park are you talking about?

The only food I buy in the park is doughnuts and coffee from donut time and maybe a beer. We eat at Friday's otherwise, which is more expensive than outside the park, but at least its good.

I would like to see them lower the cost of food to Disney level and stick with it to let the word get out. Raise the gate price if need be, in Cedar Point's case the gate is way too low. You get over the gate price as soon as you get off the first ride.

Thursday, August 7, 2008 10:03 AM
Most of you know, I live smack dab in the middle of BGE and KD. I live 25 mins from KD and about 40 from BGE. (Ok, ALMOST smack dab) haha.

Anyway, when I go to BGE, I almost ALWAYS eat a meal there. They operate full capacity most of the time and the park is presentable and has lots of employees everywhere.

When I go to KD, I NEVER eat, I have not paid for food in that park in well over 3 years, not since Jungle Jims closed... But they do NOT operate to capacity, they do NOT have the park presentable and they do NOT have enough employees working. I will NOT reward them with money, I don't buy merchandise, food, play games, nothing. They get my season pass money and that is it. Six miles south, on the way to the park or on the way home from the park is the Ashland exit off of I-95 with just about every kind of eating establishment you could want.

Besides all of that, the food at KD stinks, I don't know if its really that bad, or if you get spoiled by BGE food... 50% of KDs food is from outside, Subway, Chic Filet and so on, and its way over priced. The food they actually make sucks.

Willh51 said:
It's nervy but it doesn't mean it isn't true, in some respect. But like you said, it gives a good sense of his take on people relations vs. business.

At least at some of their parks it's easy to get food elsewhere. I don't eat inside the park at Kings Dominion, I hop right over to the Burger King across the street. So he can shove those $10 burgers anywhere he wants to! Dorney also has some stuff nearby, as does Carowinds. Cedar Point though it was Chik-Fil-A near Maverick or bust.

It's easier for me to bypass all the soda and ice cream because I just don't want it at the park, but I agree that such a blatant stance on what people will and won't do is annoying. But then again, you don't have to have the $5 soda at the theater either...

Wow some of my first reply did not make sense...
*** Edited 8/6/2008 8:21:16 PM UTC by Willh51*** *** Edited 8/6/2008 8:23:27 PM UTC by Willh51***

Danny Biggerstaff CoAsTeRDaN
Thursday, August 7, 2008 10:04 AM
^In a way that is a good idea by CP. Let people in for a cheap price and then rip them off when they get in the park.
Thursday, August 7, 2008 10:04 AM
OK, the parks are Kennywood and Knoebels.

I would agree that the food pricing in some of the destination parks would be a better pricing level for parks like the Six Flags and Cedar Fair parks. The parks need an adequate profit margin on food to pay for those big attractions but they have to realize that outrageous pricing can hurt in the long run. Also, improve the quality. Many visitors only eat one meal in the park but if the prices were somewhat reasonable and the quality better, they would be much more likely eat a second meal instead of waiting until they leave the park. They would also be likely to visit the park more often as well. Then there's the case of HW. Including drinks with admission allowed them to raise the admission price almost to the level of Cedar Point and people ate more meals in the park because they didn't have to pay extra for the drinks. The result: higher per caps.

Why do the big chains continue to do what they do? Short term profit and in many cases, lack of competition. In most places your only choice if you want a lot of big coasters is a Cedar Fair or Six Flags park. As for the smaller CF parks like Michigan's Adventure and Worlds of Fun, there isn't much else around. As for the short term profit hangup, isn't that the way it is with many other corporations as well? Just as one example, look at what some airlines are doing with baggage fees.

Arthur Bahl

Thursday, August 7, 2008 11:13 AM

Paris said:
Some of you with fresher legs have no problem leaving the park for a local restaurant. The BK across the street from KD -- or even the Denny's which is closer at the Best Western -- may seem like a good way to save a few bucks, but most people don't think like that.

If someone pays $40 for 8 hours at a park, taking an hour off to trek out, grab a $4 value meal, and come back ate up an hour (or $5) of the time you paid to be in the park. The math is better for season passholders, but that is why most regional parks offer food discounts to passholders.

The BK, Mcdonald's, or Taco Bell won't take an hour for you to eat going away from the park. I'm the type of person that feels I want to get away, and come back later. The reason is because the crowds are very high during the middle of the day, and plus you have the weather with the sun beating down on you.

I may leave for even an hour going to a sit-down restaurant like Big Boy's at Kings Island, or Red Lobster at Cedar Point, but the fact of the matter is most people probably eat in the park, and don't stay till closing time, or they get to the park later than when it opens. The only time I usually eat in the park is when the park closes early like Magic Mountain did (Not my homepark), or for stuff like the nuts, and funnel cakes.

They were only open from 10:00 am - 6:00 pm, and this was a non-crowded day. One day I had some pizza in the park, and the other day I got Wendy's to go. I ate it fast, and went back in the park. Remember, that you also spend time in some of these lines at these places for food at the park as most of them take forever.

Get Ready. Get Set. Spinout! Six Flags America: The Park that is Full of Disappointments
Thursday, August 7, 2008 11:20 AM
I have to fall in line with the masses of the driven away by high food prices. My most recent trip to the point was with my roommate, who is a fellow SP holder and is used to the 'routine' of when & how we eat to not pay the ridiculous prices, and my young cousins (10 & 11) and young-20something brother Jason, all of whom visit CP once a year. I think it's a pretty decent example of how CP is losing money on this deal.

Shortly before our trip, I emailed my brother and gingerly suggested the idea of packing a cooler. This is very anti-Jason; he's much more the 'no hassle, do it there' kind of person. But when I explained that it was somewhere in the ballpark of $12 for a 6-inch meal at Subway, he asked if he could pick anything up at the store for me, LOL. We arranged the day so that we ended up in the vicinity of our car midday, had our lunch (sandwich + chips + fruit + treat + drinks of course for probably $20 for the group,) and then returned to the park. My younger cousin rejected his sandwich, and so (very much against my 'I only make one meal' grain) I got him a corn dog. As I shelled over my cash, it didn't take a single word for every adult in the group to be reallllllly thankful we'd packed our lunches, LOL.

We had gotten the $25 tickets, so grand total for the day was probably $100 for five people ($20 avg ea.) This is slightly skewed, due to passes, but even if we'd gotten tickets too -- $150 over five people is $30/person, admission included. We also got probably a half-dozen glasses of ice water each during the day, maybe more, for free; I promised the kids ice cream ($15 for three of us; would have gotten Tofts and probably spent more but the line was too dang long) and my roommate spent I'd guess about $5 on Skeeball.

Compare this to the beginning of the month, when I went on a parks road trip, and ate in park at HW, IB, Waldameer, Knoebels, Lakemont, and Kennywood. I spent money freely there, and felt like I was getting decent eats (& treats) for what I spent. I'm certain I spent more at almost every single one of those parks, as opposed to KI & CP on the same trip, where I spent as skimpily as possible.

I'm not opposed to spending inpark... I'm opposed to taking it up the rump when doing so. LOL. Simply put: Cedar Fair would get MORE of my money if they charged me a reasonable price for the product. Not even less... just reasonable... although less would help too. I'm more inclined to buy three or four $1-2 items than I am to buy a single $8 item, even if it's a combo meal -- that way I can control what I want, and how much I get, when. Especially in a park, where I'm hesitant to eat a single 'large' meal after which I have to wait half an hour or an hour before I ride anything, LOL. I'd rather snack as I go.

So, bearing in mind our end product $20 food expense, let's look at the sum if food was reasonable:

*$5 for 6-inch sub & chips (5x5 = $25)
*$1.50 for small drink (1.5x20 drinks over course of day = $30)
*$3.50 ice cream for all five of us (3.5x5 = $17.50)
*$4 Funnel cake, two to share (4x2 = $8)

So, $25 + 30 + 17.50 + 8 = $80.50. Plus our $75 gate, and still with that $5 Skeeball, we're now at $160 for the day... $32/person instead of $20. Or, if we take admission out of the equation altogether, we spent $85.50 instead of $20, so $17 and change instead of $4/head. The kids also may have talked me into a couple of games, if they weren't insanely priced. Perhaps their profit margin would have been a smaller %, but right now, on MOST trips, their profit margin on me is 0%.

Anyways... I didn't track how much I spent at the smaller parks I visited, but I do know that I ate when I was hungry, instead of scheduling my day around when to leave and get food, or waiting to eat until I'd left the park for the day.

I'm getting into redundant ramblings, so I'll wrap it here. It just seems to me that a more affordable trip = a more pleasant trip = a more frequent trip, and none of that is bad for the company. I know I'm looking forward to visiting those smaller parks again, and it wasn't for the distance factor, I'd pick them over CP/KI most of the time.

Thursday, August 7, 2008 11:30 AM

matt. said:

LostKause said:High quality isn't cheap

You know, really this is the sort of thing that blows my mind sometimes - high quality actually *can* be pretty cheap if you know what you're doing. Some of the best meals of my life consisted of $2 tacos, $1 handmade dumplings, fresh cut fries which were $3 for a big cup-full, some of the best burgers I've ever had were less than $5. I can think of all sorts of tasty things I've had that have been dirt, dirt cheap. Serving good food at reasonable prices to a captive audience for profit just shouldn't be all that hard.

I know what you mean by the fact that you can get some really great, quality food on the cheap. The examples you list sound like some really tasty street cart, or small ethnic shop food that I also really enjoy. But probbaly not fair to compare that to the food service in a theme park operation with a much bigger overhead and volume.

Anyone expects to pay out the nose somewhat for food in a park. It's frustrating to pay out the nose for barely edible food that takes a long time to get served because someone assumes you'll eat whatever the feel like slopping up because you're a captive audience. I really wouldn't mind paying out the nose occasionally for something that's not great but at least decent.

I can't imagine aiming for "decent" or "pretty good" is out of line, but knowing you can get away with serving 'awful" and doing it because you can sucks.

Thursday, August 7, 2008 12:43 PM
rollergator's avatar Two quick notes (since I'm getting the "you better get some work done" look).

First, CarrieR's points are very valid....and those parks that charge less do get more repeat action (multiple chances to get in your wallet per day, and oftentimes multiple days over the course of the season). Matt's been to KG six times this season (I hate you Matt), and I'm sure that by being both reasonable AND tasty, the park that charge less and serves better food has made considerably more money than a "one and done" format (in terms of meals per visit, and visits per season) as most frequently happens at the big corporates that charge an arm-and-a-leg.

Second, GOOD food doesn't have to cost much more than crap. After watching Fast Food nation, there was a blurb about a school lunch program featuring HEALTHY and tasty food. Same rule applies. Natural Ovens - Manitowoc, WI, in conjunction with the Appleton school district, set up this program over ten years ago. Tasty, fresh, healthy, and important to note: Virtually the same cost.

Thursday, August 7, 2008 1:19 PM
alfundo's avatar

LostKause said:

High quality isn't cheap

it is at Knoebels.

I am one the people Arthur is referring to. I had a season pass at Dorney for 12 years until I grew tired of combating the corporate America I found at the park. Now I go to Knoebels about every 2 weeks and in the long run spending a lot more to do so. The difference is when it's all said and done I don't feel like I've just been @ss raped.

Thursday, August 7, 2008 1:24 PM
birdhombre's avatar

CarrieR said:
Simply put: Cedar Fair would get MORE of my money if they charged me a reasonable price for the product. Not even less... just reasonable... although less would help too. I'm more inclined to buy three or four $1-2 items than I am to buy a single $8 item, even if it's a combo meal -- that way I can control what I want, and how much I get, when.

Absolutely. Another thing is portion size. If funnel cakes and elephant ears were made for one person to eat, I would probably get one every time I visit. But since I know it's going to be huge and take forever to eat, I can only get one when someone else wants to share it.

I love CP's corndogs, but I won't just get one as a snack; to feel like I'm getting my money's worth, I'll only buy one when I'm having it as part of a meal. And since I almost always eat a meal before or after visiting the park, that cuts my corndog consumption to 2-3 times a year. I've started asking for the free cup of water instead of buying a soda, too.

Maybe they're just looking out for my health. :) *** Edited 8/7/2008 5:25:59 PM UTC by birdhombre***

Thursday, August 7, 2008 1:43 PM
matt.'s avatar

Cropsey said:
But probbaly not fair to compare that to the food service in a theme park operation with a much bigger overhead and volume.

It's not fair but the other way around - that guy selling $2 tacos doesn't have an ounce of the buying power and volume that Cedar Fair does. If anything CF should be able to sell it for even less at the same profit margin. I'm not saying that's likely or reasonable at all, I'm just saying that good quality food is not at all expensive, or at least doesn't have to be.

Actually, I'd make the argument that many times good quality food is even cheaper. It would be fun to see a park make direct farm--->park relationships with local food producers and growers and put an emphasis on locally grown, seasonal foods at some of their eateries but that's so pie-in-the-sky I'm rolling my eyes at my own idealism as I type. Good idea for Charmland I guess.

Thursday, August 7, 2008 2:56 PM

Jeff said:
God forbid the mainstream media should ever grab that quote.

You know, I'm not sure that there would really be the backlash that one might expect. I remember a couple of years ago there was some ad talking about making a difference in business or some such nonsense. In the ad one of the workers suggested putting like 3 less pickles into their jars. It apparently saved the company millions and the worker was crowned as a hero.

My first thought was "Hey! Their shorting their customers!" But it seems like I was one of the few.
PlaceHolder for Castor & Pollux

Thursday, August 7, 2008 3:47 PM
Hostyl, I think I heard something like that a few years ago, except it was some airline puttle one less olive in their salads (when air actualyy SERVED food!) and saved the company $6 million a year.

Coaster Junkie from NH
I drive in & out of Boston, so I ride coasters to relax!

Thursday, August 7, 2008 4:12 PM
Lord Gonchar's avatar

john peck said:
Once Will Koch decided to include the drinks in the admission structure, his food sales went up 75%.

kpjb said:
REALLY? Holy crap. Is that a statistic or an educated guess?

Jeff said:
I'm pretty sure he said that in one of our podcasts.

Did he really say that? The number I've seen in print says food per caps went up 20% from 1999 (the last year they sold drinks) to 2006.

For the record, inflation over the same time period was a little over 22%.

Thursday, August 7, 2008 4:25 PM
per-caps count more than food though.

At CP, the food is extremely expensive, and generally pretty bad. The quality has gone down in the past few years. For example, the chicken strips used to be actual white-meat chunks of chicken, but a year or two ago switched to something processed much more heavily.

We generally eat one counter service meal in the park, because as he says, we've gotta eat. But, we generally get two baskets plus two extra sandwiches for the four of us, and we always get water, not soda. Still, it comes to about $30 for the four of us.

I'm in the Wisconsin Dells right now. Yesterday at Mt. Olympus, I fed all four of us decent burgers, a good fish sandwich, and decent pizza, plus drinks and fries, for about $35. Quality was good (swiss mushroom burger! yum!) and the price was reasonable for what we got. They forgot to start the pizza with the rest of our order, and gave me an extra slice for having to wait an extra 10 minutes or so.

Edited to add: it's August already, and we've only been to CP twice so far this year. Most years we'd've been there 4-5 times by now. Granted, we've done other things: a visit to MIA (where the food was more reasonable) and this week at the Dells. But, still---we haven't felt the need to be there this year as we have in years past. Partly because my kids are busier this summer, partly because we've got more to do around the house. But, still.

*** Edited 8/7/2008 8:27:29 PM UTC by Brian Noble***


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