Profile: Cedar Fair CFO Brian Witherow

Posted Monday, December 3, 2012 10:03 AM | Contributed by Jeff

Imagine you’re the CFO of a publicly traded, $1 billion company that makes all of its money in about 130 days of the year. Even within that short span, in no two months do financial results resemble each other. And you won’t be able to tell whether your $100 million annual capital budget has been well spent until the year is over. Welcome to the world of Brian Witherow, finance chief at Cedar Fair, which owns and operates 11 amusement parks, six water parks, and five hotels. It’s largely a summer business, except for some Halloween-themed events in October.

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Monday, December 3, 2012 10:22 AM

Is that Janice's husband? I'm not sure she's still with them. She helped me out back when I made my first visits to CP and was one of the nicest people I've ever dealt with from a park.

The amusement park rises bold and are huddled on the beach in a mist

Monday, December 3, 2012 1:46 PM
Jeff's avatar

Yep. She still has the park "in the family," so to speak, even if she's not working there.

Jeff - Editor - - My Blog - Phrazy

Monday, December 3, 2012 2:31 PM

Proof of the Kinzel effect: trying to build an in house POS (on the cheap) and realizing 20% gains versus going outside to something tried and true (good enough for Disney) and realizing 35% gains.

I was also interested in the comments about building new attractions that might be too narrowly focused. I think we can find plenty of examples of that over the last decade.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012 1:59 AM

Personally, I found the current e-commerce platform annoying with the $5 processing fee for every transaction, and I think they either need to pay that fee themselves or come up with something better.

When I'm serving myself, reducing the resources required to process my season pass renewal in person, I expect to pay the same price or even receive a discount. It annoyed me to pay $5 extra for a self-serve pass renewal.

A couple years back...maybe even last year, you simply entered your season pass number in a box, checked out with Paypal, and you were billed the in-park renewal price. If we're going to call that Kinzel's system, I found it simple and least for a pass renewal.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012 3:38 AM

Agreed, I've also been annoyed with the new system the couple of times I have used it. The $5 fee is the biggest annoyance, but certainly not the only one. I preferred the old e-commerce system.

And then one day you find ten years have got behind you
No one told you when to run, you missed the starting gun

Tuesday, December 4, 2012 5:39 AM

But although I didn't like Cedar Fair's new e-commerce system, I was very happy with CP's in-park POS update.

I actually feel like I contributed to that update. Brian Witherow mentioned how people have little patience waiting in a long line for a soft pretzel in that article...

Well, I just happened to write the park my frustrating story of waiting in line 30 minutes for some soft pretzels at CP on a moderately busy day, only to be told that my window didn't accept credit cards, and I'd have to get back in the long line a window over that had a credit card reader. Fortunately, I had some back-up cash (I hate dealing with change in amusement parks), but I was in disbelief that the park was handling transactions like this in 2009 or so.

I got a response from someone within CP that my experience was unacceptable, and they were looking into it. The next season I returned, that same pretzel stand and all the other stands around the park accepted credit cards on all windows and had the new POS system. Maybe it was just a coincidence, but I was very proud of the park for listening.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012 9:59 AM
Jeff's avatar

The online system is awful. Using Flash for it is a sin as well considering the amount of traffic to it that is undoubtedly mobile. It's terrible.

It was nice to come back to CP this year and use plastic everywhere. I hate handling cash. I don't like remembering to hit an ATM or having the bulk in my wallet. Apparently they can do room charges, but I'm not sure. While at Disney World last week, all I carried was my room key. It was all I needed, everywhere on the property.

Jeff - Editor - - My Blog - Phrazy

Tuesday, December 4, 2012 2:19 PM
kpjb's avatar

When we stayed at Breakers Express in September, we were told that we could do room charges. Since my room was a package and paid for upfront, I didn't bother.



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