Kinzel: "People have to eat"

Thursday, August 7, 2008 4:53 PM
LostKause's avatar When I said that "High quality isn't cheap", I was thinking about the choice that the park would have while "shopping" for the food.

Let's imagine that they look at items to add to the menu, like chicken fingers. They have a choice between buying so many cases of the more expensive chicken fingers or the cheaper ones. If they choose the cheaper chicken fingers (or pretzels, or pizza ingredients), then they may end up not making as much money in the long run because people who have tried the food once may not buy it again the next time around.

But a lot of you have made some very interesting points about good quality for a good price...and I'll agree in those circumstances. Parks could get a little more creative when designing food menus.

Home cooked fries is something even CF can get right, but why aren't they as good as Kennywood's fires? Maybe it's the quality of the ingredients or length of prep?

I do know from experience that KI has had pretty good home fries in the past (Rivertown), and the secret to making them was a lengthy process (I was told by a friend who worked at the fry stand). First they would deep fry them slowly at a very low temp for a few hours, then they would put them in a cooler to lower their temperature, then they would deep fry them at a high temperature when they were ready to serve them.

It took a little more man-hours to prepare them, but they were very good. I don't know if this is how they are still made now that CF has taken over.

(Ever since I heard how they were made, i sometimes make my fries this way too. It takes way too long and is a hassle, but they always turn out very good.)

I'm just

Thursday, August 7, 2008 5:08 PM
At Cedar Point's Subway stand, the $6.00 combo upgrade dropped a penny to $5.99 halfway through the season. That's how stupid they think we are.
Thursday, August 7, 2008 6:04 PM
Another real-world example from the favored whipping-boy, Cedar Point...

At the end of the main midway, there is a little concrete stand that is either hexagonal or octagonal (I forget which, OK?) which sells pretzels.

When they first started using that stand to sell pretzels, it was a Pretzel Time franchise. There, they rolled out a pre-made, refrigerated dough ball, cut strips from it, formed the strips into the familiar pretzel shape, dropped them onto baking sheets, and baked them.

A few years ago, they switched to Pretzel Gourmet, and now they take a pre-made, partially baked frozen, thawed, and refrigerated pretzel, drop it into a conveyor oven, and finish the baking that way.

It is a fairly subtle difference. The product is more consistent than it was as Pretzel Time. It's still significantly better than the prebaked, frozen, then reheated "SuperPretzel" product available elsewhere in the park. And I'm sure it takes less labor to produce, and overall probably costs the park less to sell.

But the new pretzels are a distinctly inferior product to the ones they replaced. It is a noticeable difference in quality, and the fact that they now charge about twice as much as they did for the better pretzel means that I haven't had one yet this season.

There's that value thing again. And do you know what the worst thing about the park destroying value in the name of boosting per-cap revenue is?

The effect will not show up on this year's balance sheet.

It shows up on next year's balance sheet when attendance is declining and per-caps are dropping. The park reacts by hiking prices again, and the end result is that a year later, attendance declines and per-caps drop. This isn't a theory, folks, this is what has been happening over the past few years at Cedar Point. They've set fire to the lot, and so far I don't see anybody doing anything to put it out. It's something that needs to be handled very carefully, lest they put themselves into a death spiral.

What's saving them right now is their main product: their collection of rides and their park operations. Instead of not going to the park, people make shorter visits and don't eat the overpriced food and don't play the overpriced games. But they have to be careful. If operations starts to go, instead of coming for shorter visits, people simply won't visit at all.

--Dave Althoff, Jr.

Thursday, August 7, 2008 6:14 PM
^Which is a much more elaborate and eloquent way of saying what I've been saying for several years now:

The "positive" reports of attendance down but per caps up is a mirage. Why he hasn't been called on it yet by his board (who is beholden to him) or more importantly...institutional investors is beyond me.

I suspect the reason is the annual distribution which people seem satisfied with. Well sure...getting X back is nice. But...get X back +++ would be nicer and it should be so.

Thursday, August 7, 2008 6:22 PM
LostKause's avatar In '06, when I worked there, I only got the Pretzel at that stand once. You can tell fresh baked compared to partially frozen.

Frozen pretzels give pretzels a bad name.

I have heard many people in my lifetime say something like "We've got to get that! The last time I had one here they were really good!" People DO take into consideration the quality of a product when they are deciding to buy if they have that information available.

Thursday, August 7, 2008 6:59 PM
I don't really get the issue here. Has no one been to a sporting even or concert lately? $4.50 hot dogs, $8 beers, what exactly do you expect to pay? For how much 'stuff' is in an amusement park for the price of a ticket ($40 is not that bad for an entire day's worth of entertainment), the park has to make up some of that money
Thursday, August 7, 2008 7:26 PM
Something that always occurs to me when people are bothered by the food prices is that if they didn't get the money from food, they'd have to just raise admission prices.

While I love Holiday World and their free drinks and affordable food, they're expenses are way lower, and they're privately held.

Amount spent building coasters since 2000:
HW - $9.5 million
CP - $80 million

I think the trade off for not paying a lot for food is not riding 400 ft tall $25 million coasters.

Thursday, August 7, 2008 7:36 PM
^Thats a load of crap mace, there are other ways to make money besides overcharging for bad food including:

-upping the gate price and season pass price
-overcharging for good food
-droping food prices and making it up on volume
-creating a meal plan ala Disney charging a fair price for the convenience of paying for 2 meals at the same time, and then raking in the dough since most of the time no one actually eats two full meals in the park

I could go on and on

2020 Trips: Canceled by Corona

Thursday, August 7, 2008 8:43 PM
New question -> Does the quantity of money you pay have an impact on the quality you perceive?

I've been to several parks this summer and can't recall a counter-service meal that was any better than adequate.

A few years ago, I would avoid the chains that pop up in parks like the plague. Blasphemy! Now, I find myself looking forward to hitting the Panda Express, Skyline Chili, Subway, and Johnny Rockets when hunger strikes. I'm a sellout, but my gut got sick of the bland counter-service grub being prepared as tasteless as possible so no finicky toddler objects.

Thursday, August 7, 2008 9:04 PM
Parks with surprisingly good food at surprisingly reasonable prices:

The Disney parks

Busch Gardens Williamsburg


Sea World Florida


Opryland (when it was still in existence) is possible. And yes...I do think the quantity of the money you pay has an impact on the perceived quality. I have no problem laying down $100 or more for a meal when it is a meal worthy of $100. But, I have a real problem laying down $100 for a meal that wasn't worth $50.

I ate at Damon's last week. Got ribs/shrimp combo and the shrimp wasn't all that good. I told the waitress...she offered something else but I knew I probably couldn't eat it anyway and declined. The manager came right out...asked if SHE could get me anything else...again I thanked her but declined.

When I got the bill they unexpectedly took $8 off the total price of the meal to make up for the shrimp. I didn't ask for it but the perceived value of that night...and my perception of the customer service at Damon's rose immeasurably that evening and now I'm telling people on the internet that story.

Which way is better for the future of your business? Kinzel's way....or Damons' way?

Thursday, August 7, 2008 10:09 PM
Lord Gonchar's avatar

wahoo skipper said:
Which way is better for the future of your business? Kinzel's way....or Damons' way?

That'd be a fair comparison if CF ran a chain of restaurants.

They run amusement parks.

I've purposely stayed out of this, but my opinion is that this thread is greatly overestimating the effect, importance and public perception of the whole food situation.

It's overpriced, crap amusement park food just like the overpriced, crap amusement park food found and nearly all amusement parks. The food not going to make or break their amusement park business.

Thursday, August 7, 2008 10:18 PM
I think it is far from an oversimplification. I think the way Cedar Fair (D.K.) is handling their food service is one of many examples of what is going wrong with the company. No, of course it isn't the only thing.

And, the sentiment he used that started this thread speaks more to Dick's mindset than it does to how he feels about my opinion.

Will the food service make or break their business? No. But, overpriced food, the perception of low quality food (which I would say is not completely fair...but there are plenty of examples of such), the high priced games, the increase of the gate price in the middle of the season, the indirect way the less than exciting quarterly reports are coming, the way he is handling the full time staff, the way he is handling the Paramount Parks transition, the way Geauga Lake met its end, the handling of at least one of his own family members in his company...need I go on?

All of that leads me to think his time has come...and gone. It is about way more than the "people have to eat comment"...but this thread happens to be about that comment.

Thursday, August 7, 2008 10:28 PM

Paris said:
New question -> Does the quantity of money you pay have an impact on the quality you perceive?

Without question.

In my story above, I would have been less miffed if I'd paid $2 for that nasty corn dog. (The thing really was disgusting... we had to get my cousin several extra napkins because it was dripping, ewwww...) It still would have been nasty, but at least I didn't pay an arm and a leg for it. I may have deemed it "decent... after all, it was only $2."

To answer some points on Disney -- a couple of years ago (2006 I think,) a friend and I ended up there for a day on a serious budget. Due to some odd banking snafus, we ended up in the park with $10 to spend for the day. Totally unsure of how we were going to manage it, we figured we'd split fries & pretzels as our meals or similar. Much to our surprise, we were able to each get an egg roll for lunch, share a pretzel later in the day, and end the night with an ice cream/juice float each. (We'd carried in bottles of water and filled them at fountains throughout the day.) Do that at CP? It cost me $15 for three ice creams, so I'm gonna go with not.

Thursday, August 7, 2008 10:30 PM
rollergator's avatar ^Have to agree that inmthe grand scheme of things, it's more about the "screw 'em" attitude than the food itself. But this thread was more specifically about the food, so that's kind of the direction the conversation went.

When was Dick initially supposed to retire? Probably shoulda left then, IMO...I for one see wahoo's comments as immensely clear-headed thinking. BEC, HFEC, Disney - I feel like my business is *appreciated*. The food plays a part in that...why is DK following the failed business model of SF, when other chains provide such a detailed roadmap to success?

Thursday, August 7, 2008 10:35 PM
Lord Gonchar's avatar Fair enough. As a jumping off point for all that is wrong, this thread remains valid. :)

Thursday, August 7, 2008 10:39 PM
You know what this whole situation reminds me of? One Michael Eisner. The facts are not quite the same but the end result...he stayed on longer than he should have, largely because of his control of his very similar.

And I would say the same thing about Eisner as I say about Kinzel. I think they are both largely responsible for the success their companies now enjoy today. Yes, Kinzel brought Cedar Fair to the pinnacle of the industry. But, how long does he get to ride on that wave when the riptides are heading in the other direction?

Thursday, August 7, 2008 11:42 PM
Jeff's avatar Ever stay at a Ritz-Carlton, or eat there? It's expensive as hell. As a matter of policy, they'll comp virtually anything you're dissatisfied with. As a result of that policy, you bet your ass that they're going to do whatever they can to make sure that you're getting what you pay for.

If I go to fast food joint (and for the record, I don't unless it's Chipotle now and then, which is a step above fast food), and order something from the dollar menu, I don't expect the food to be anything more than edible, nor do I expect the service to be good. So if you're going to ask me to fork over five times that for essentially the same food, yeah, that's a problem. It will always come back to the value proposition, and when there's a gap between price and the expectation associated with it, there will be dissatisfaction.

And it's silly to keep comparing parks to pro sports or concerts. You don't spend nine hours at those things with your family, walking around all day and eating several times.

Dave is right that the net effect of the pricing, service and attitude is not reflected in the same year, but I'm willing to bet it's one of the reasons that per cap is at or below inflation while attendance continues to slide.

Jeff - Editor - - My Blog - Silly Nonsense

Thursday, August 7, 2008 11:53 PM
Carrie M.'s avatar I think the comparisons to restaurant values are not equitable because when you go to a restaurant you go there specifically to eat. The entire basis of the visit is wrapped up in the food and therefore the value associated with it.

That isn't so at an amusement park. There is truth to the notion that many, if not most, go to an amusement park for reasons other than eating. That makes the food a secondary interest and therefore the value associated with it less of an issue on average.

"If passion drives you, let reason hold the reins." --- Benjamin Franklin

Friday, August 8, 2008 12:04 AM
kpjb's avatar

Lord Gonchar said:

wahoo skipper said:
Which way is better for the future of your business? Kinzel's way....or Damons' way?

That'd be a fair comparison if CF ran a chain of restaurants.

They run amusement parks.

Okay, then... since it's their primary business and the reason people go there, do you think they'll give everyone $5 back if Dragster is down all day? :)

Honestly, I don't think that the skip's comparison is that unfair. It's still all in the hospitality industry, the same theory applies to any arm of it.

Last time I was in Rome, I stayed here. At the time it was the equivalent of around $350/night. For that hotel, it was well worth it. For a Hampton Inn, it would have been excessively overpriced. For a Super-8, it would have been totally friggin' ridiculous.

It still comes down to service and value to me, not price. If it takes forever to get a bad meal and it's expensive, that's three strikes. Bad meal cheap, okay. Expensive meal good, okay. Mediocre meal with exceptional customer service, okay. Cedar Fair is offering nothing.

*** Edited 8/8/2008 4:06:05 AM UTC by kpjb***


Friday, August 8, 2008 12:06 AM
Lord Gonchar's avatar

Dave is right that the net effect of the pricing, service and attitude is not reflected in the same year, but I'm willing to bet it's one of the reasons that per cap is at or below inflation while attendance continues to slide.

The only problem is that the year they dropped pricing throughout the park it didn't appear to have any effect. It was quietly bumped back up the following season.

Cedar Point is the perfect subject to study. They've tried dropping prices and they've tried raising them in just the past few years. I don't think either significantly helped or hurt the park.

But in the face of declining attendance (which I don't believe is the effect of the food situation inside the park) I don't see the problem in squeezing a little more revenue out of guests in a place that, like Dickey K. says, is practically a mandatory purchase.

Carrie M. said:
That isn't so at an amusement park. There is truth to the notion that many, if not most, go to an amusement park for reasons other than eating. That makes the food a secondary interest and therefore the value associated with it less of an issue on average.


I'm with y'all - the food sucks and is overpriced.

Where you lose me is in thinking it matters as much as everyone seems to.


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