Your thoughts about food at parks

Friday, September 23, 2005 2:43 PM
Most parks have extremely overpriced food so I have a few questions.

1. Wouldn't it be worth it for more parks to offer free soft drinks like Holiday World and make customers be happy and come back than charge $2.59 for a 16 oz soda? I think that the 5 cent per drink that they end up spending is much more of a gain than a loss in the long run. Sure people will be it for $2.59, but wouldn't it be better to have them save there but pay another $30 to come back again because they were happy?

2. Water. Does your home park give out glasses of water? I know at SFDL they give you a cup and make you go to the water fountain, which had all sorts of stuff in it so I didn't drink it. I realize that there isn't a water button on the fountains but theres got to be some running water in the food outlets somewhere. Cedar Point and Hershey Park both offer cups of nice cold water for free which is nice.

3. Bringing in food. Do most parks let you do this? At SFDL, they do let you bring in food+drinks as long as it's not in coolers. I think that this is nice of them, but if they are going to do this, why not just lower the prices a bit, that less people would bring their own food because it's not a huge deal to them to pay a little bit for lunch. It's just that the high prices,and letting you bring in your own food, doesn't work together too well IMO.

4. Food prices themselves. No one likes to pay $4.00 for a pretzel or $3.00 for a 20 oz Pepsi. Personally I think it's completely ridiculous. But will people pay it? Sure. I'm not trying to make an argument over whether it's ridiculous or acceptable for a park, but wouldn't they make more money in the long run by charging $1.50 or $1.75 for a soda and having lots more people buy it? I wouldn't mind paying that for a soda, and I'd do that instead of wasting their paper cups and water at the food stands. They'd still make money off of it, I think more in the long run.

Any comments or ideas?

Friday, September 23, 2005 2:50 PM
The deplorable food situation is just one of many reasons I tend to avoid the large theme parks. Many of the smaller parks over much better food at very reasonable prices.

I will not pay $2.59 for a drink or $4.00 for a pretzel. I just won't. I do the "cooler in the trunk" method if I'm really organized or the "stop and get take-out" method.

Parks ought to offer water. It is pretty easy to get dehydrated when you're out in the hot sun all day and dehydration sickness is NOT fun at all.

Friday, September 23, 2005 3:01 PM
I dunno. I don't generally have a problem with it. I think it's just part of visiting an amusement park.

You go there knowing you're going to get financially raped - same as any special event or leisure pursuit.

You either factor it in or you work around it.

I doubt the game is going to change anytime soon. My guess is parks make more money be selling less volume at higher profit margins. So while free drinks or lower price drinks sound nice and all, if it was truly a benefit to the park, they'd already be doing it (HW & LC) - and besides they factor that cost into your ticket price.

The ultimate would be for a park that has a relatively low gate already (like GL or KW) to bump the ticket price up $10) - still keeping easily under $40 and calling it free parking and free drinks. People would eat that up.

EDIT - now I'm misspelling abbreviations!

*** Edited 9/23/2005 7:06:40 PM UTC by Lord Gonchar***

Friday, September 23, 2005 3:33 PM
In a word-no. Theme parks probably make more money off of food sales than any other component of their business. Let's say that you have 3 million guests at a park over the course of a year, and each one of them buys 3 drinks on average. Each one of those drinks is probably $2.50 of profit. That's 21 million dollars a year. If average park admission is $40, then it would take an additional 525,000 full price guests at the door to make up for it. That doesn't even begin to factor in food costs.

It's a simple matter of supply and demand. If food pricing at a park were responsible for keeping an extra 500k people home every year, then the parks would lower prices. But, they aren't, so they won't.

Friday, September 23, 2005 3:58 PM
Has anyone tried the Disney World prepaid food vouchers? I am going in December and I am thinking about buying the prepaid vouchers.
Friday, September 23, 2005 7:03 PM
1.HW has free drinks
2.HW has water on their free fountains and bottled water for a minimal cost.
3.HW does not allow you to bring in food, but...
4. Their food pricing is comparable to McDonald's
Friday, September 23, 2005 7:05 PM
Yeah its really crazy how much parks actually make off their food items. I know for a fact that where I work we charge anywhere from 300-400% above what our cost is. And our cost means everything that goes into the food item, from the food, to the little paper things it goes in. And I actually think that our food is reasonable compared to other parks, but we also allow coolers and beverages to be brought into the park. So the bigger park chains who have millions of guests per year are making a killing on food, because they have to buy more so they get an even bigger discount then we do. You'd also really be surprised at how discounted things are when you buy in bulk. So I can't even imagine what the percent above cost is for them. My park is generally small with an annual attendance of around 300,000
Friday, September 23, 2005 7:50 PM
I can see smaller parks offering free soft drinks. I can't see a large park doing the same, though. It will never happen.

I agree with Gonch, going to a park is all about the whole experience, which includes food. From my experience smaller parks offer the best (usually homemade) foods at very reasonable prices. There are some parks that I look forward to eating at including Dollywood and Kennywood.

However I will eat at the large parks (like CP) since I DO love thier food. I may ***** about the high prices in my head, but it hasn't stopped me yet. ;-) I do make an effort to not overdue it, but what the hey. You only live once. ;-)

The absolute BEST deal I have ever seen at a chain park was at Universal Studios Hollywood. You paid $20 or $21 for a wristband where it was "all-you-could-eat" at three of their best restaurants. I can't remember all the exact names but one was a chinese place, the other was a pizza place (Louie's?) and one of the diners.

You could eat at either three ALL day long, as much as you wanted. Gator and I DID just that, and made the $20 WELL worth it. We PIGGED out all day. :-D

Considering an average meal there was about $9-$12, it was a DEAL!

AWESOME food, too, especially the chicken strip basket. :-P

As far as parks letting you bring in your own food, I haven't really tried except for what I had with me, like a soda. From what I have seen you can only go to the picnic areas without having to go into the park.

Stricker's, however, will let you bring what you want, as long as it's in coolers. I think Waldameer was the same if I am not mistaken, or any park where there is no "general admission."


Friday, September 23, 2005 9:34 PM
1. No (see below)

2. Yes, and there is a "button" on the soda machines - actually a little lever on the side of the Iced Tea or Fruit Punch nozzles. :)

3. Dorney doesn't allow you to bring food in BUT they do offer a huge, shaded picnic pavilion outside the park gates in which you can eat a lunch/dinner that you've brought and left in your car. Just get a hand stamp on your way out to eat it and you're good to go.

4. I think money is only one of the factors. Another big factor is line control. It's the whole supply and demand concept. Let's say that on a busy day a park gets 30,000 people. That's 30,000 mouths to feed.

Which scenario is better:
-30,000 people buying $1 hotdogs and $.50 sodas waiting an hour in line
-5,000 people buying $6 hotdogs and $3 sodas waiting 10 minutes in line

simple math is still $45,000 either way (yeah, I know I'm probably way off on the actual dollar amount, but you get the idea). Actually, the higher prices would be more profit as well because the gross receipts would be the same with obviously far lower food costs... but I digress..

By raising the prices, you encourage the surrepetitious smuggling of outside food/beverages, thus controlling the lines at your food stands. The people who "get away with it" are happy that they saved money. The people spending the big bucks aren't waiting in line longer for food than they do for the attractions, and thus are much happier in the long run.

Friday, September 23, 2005 10:20 PM
I may stand alone, but I/we generally try to eat a good breakfast that morning, and have a time about mid-day where we get a "hold-you-over-until-dinner" snack, and that's about it. HW is always the exception to the rule, but even at PKI, we got the season passholder cups this year, (which got you $.99 refills all season), and those were great to have. Then we'd go to the Stunt Grill in Action Zone and get a couple bowls of Mac-n-Cheese, and all four of us ate off of it.

My wife gets edgy about prices, and I'm the food quality police at the parks. And believe it or not, at BGW, I was not impressed with most of their food. For a park that wins so many awards for their food, they didn't seem to beat anybody else out in any major ways. The sweet stuff/desserts were good, but other than that...not that great IMO. A few places I would like to try are Kennywood, Knoebel's, and Silver Dollar City, I've heard good things about all of their eats.

Friday, September 23, 2005 11:14 PM
Well, I could spend a half hour to an hour walking out from wherever I am to my car and back, or I could just plunk down the cost of a double latte at Espresso Roylale and get myself a beverage.

Not a hard call, considering the value of my time. Not difficult at all.

I do tend to bring a snackish breakfast, but that's more to save time (and get into the park right when it opens for an hour's worth of short lines) than to save money.

Visiting the park is so inexpensive ($20-30 per person per visit? Hell, that's not even 2-3x the cost of a two hour movie!) that I don't worry about it.

Saturday, September 24, 2005 11:07 AM
I do think that some places have crossed the line. I can understand *higher* prices at the larger parks to increase profit margin, but there's a line where the percieved value of what you're getting, no matter how much you want/need it is a little out of control.

I realize you have a captive audience, but $3 for a drink? That's absolutely ridiculous. Bring it down to $2.50 and people will pay it, that's only $1.00 more than a restaurant which doesn't seem like a lot. But toss in that extra $.50 and all of a sudden you're double a restraurant. Now, I realize that it's only $.50, but ask someone about any product, no matter how cheap it is, and they'll prefer to spend $1.00 more than double every time, even if double in some cases is a negligible difference.

I think a lot of the same theories apply to games ... you can't tell me that a park like Kennywood with people crowded around games booths at $1 a "toss" (using toss as a term for all single-plays) is making less money on games than Cedar Point with their $5 per "toss" games that no one plays. Not to mention the additional cost of loudspeakers, maintenance on loudspeakers, and general guest annoyance with the loudspeakers which are all a direct result of the ridiculously high priced games which don't attract people.

That's one thing that Cedar Point is consistantly awful about in my opinion, is recognizing that line between high priced and excessively priced.

Personally, I always eat a big breakfast before I leave the house, or stay at Hampton Inns where the breakfast is included and is all you can eat, then I'm not hungry until real late in the day. If I buy a pretzel at a park, that's a rarity. Can probably count on two hands the number of foodstuff items I've bought at parks this year.

Saturday, September 24, 2005 1:12 PM
wow,kennywood's prices are cheaper. 4 dollars for a pretzel thats toooo much. for 4 dollars i can get a big slice of pizza and a drink at kennywood. for 4 dollars i can get 2 boxes of pop corn and play a game. Heck, at kennywood i can bring my own picnic basket and eat for free. Or i could go to McDonalds across the street and come back in. *** Edited 9/24/2005 5:15:13 PM UTC by PGH_Steeler***
Saturday, September 24, 2005 1:23 PM
Strickers food is so damn good why would you WANT to bring anything? ;)
Monday, September 26, 2005 10:23 PM
I wonder how many people at PKD buy medium drinks ($2.95) vs. large drinks ($3.05). And then when I saw Yueng selling there for $4.95 a glass, I immediately turned into my parents and said to myself "I can buy a whole 6-pack for that price at home."

Should we wonder how places like Knoebel's do it, or wonder why other places don't?

The cooler in the trunk idea is good, until you realize that you're paying 8-9 dollars to rent the space that cooler is sitting in. But that's a whole other topic.

Monday, September 26, 2005 10:45 PM

Should we wonder how places like Knoebel's do it, or wonder why other places don't?


The money for those multi-million dollar additions has to come from somewhere - Knoebels doesn't exactly drop that kind of money every year or every couple of years.

Would people complain more if nothing new was ever added to a park or complain more because of the prices once they're in the park?

Monday, September 26, 2005 11:12 PM
I think the food prices in parks are usually horrible especially the soda prices. I was at Dorney last week and a 20 oz soda was $2.75. Outside of the park, it's $0.75 - $1.25 (in most stores). I know you are being ripped off when you are in a park but I think if they charged $1.75 or $2.00, they would get a lot more sales. Great Adventure was the worst. I think it was $3 there which is ridiculous.

At both Hershey and Dorney, a 6" Subway hoagie was almost $5. By the time you add a soda and a bag of chips it's close to $8. Again, if they charged a few dollars less I know I would be more willing to buy food in the park.

What I do now is usually eat lunch at a fast food place outside of the park for $3 or $4 and either get a snack in the park or eat dinner there if I'm really hungry and don't want to leave.

Monday, September 26, 2005 11:13 PM
Well some parks (read SDC) have really good food and the meals they offer are definitely worth the price considering what you get. Also they have the refill mugs that are extremely cheap to refill and they are good forever (not just one year).
Monday, September 26, 2005 11:50 PM

Lord Gonchar said:

The money for those multi-million dollar additions has to come from somewhere

How about the parking? I can't see less than 6 of the 8 or 9 dollars parks are charging being profit. Figure a park with attendance of 1.5 million sees about 0.5 million cars, assuming 3 people per car. At 8 bucks a pop that's 4 million dollars. A park with 3 million would see about a million cars and collect 8 million in parking fees. The cost of attendants can't be that high, and parks certainly don't repave their lots every year.

Your point is valid Gonch. Are we just assuming that parks have done studies and determined it's more profitable for them to
maximize the price and serve a certain percentage of parkgoers as opposed to lowering prices somewhat and serving more people?

Given the parks' ongoing problems with attendance and other things, I wouldn't assume they have all the answers on how to make their food service the most profitable either.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005 12:08 AM
The thing with parking is all in the way the park chooses to word it. I'm a firm believer in that.

I'm sure some of it may be justified in parking lot maintenance, but yes, parking prices are high.

Here's the thing though - are you really paying that much to park or is it a different way to up ticket prices without just saying it?

To go to any given park and just get in the gate you pay the ticket price and a parking fee.

Does it really matter if they word it as $20 gate price and $5 to park or if they word it $24 gate price and $1 to park or if they word it $18 gate price and $7 parking...and so on.

The bottom line is a single person pulling into the park pays $25 to get it.

But the variable is how many people you have in your vehicle. That solo visitor is paying $25 a head, but my family of four is paying just $21.25 a head.

Me personally, I'd like to see $70 parking and free admission. ;)

I think Dave (Rideman) was the first one I saw toss the idea out there about including parking in the ticket price and giving a perceived value to customers.

The ida is that the imaginary park I used in the previous example bumps their ticket price from $20 to $24 and starts advertising 'free' parking.

Now you as a solo visitor are actually saving $1 and in a better frame of mind because you just didn't get ripped off to park your car. Me with a family of four now pays $96 (a whole $11 more) and still have that warm, fuzzy free parking feeling.

The same idea applies to the parks that give away 'free' drinks. The numbers are crunched and they know exactly where to put that money - bump tickets by a buck or two and parking by the same, but then turn around and advertise the hell out of the new "free soda" deal you offer. In the end they get all the cash from you that they would've in the first place, but you walk away with a better impression of the park.

I guess in the end, this is exactly why I don't have a problem with things like food/drink prices or parking fees. They're going to get it from you one way or another - it's just the cost of visiting a park.


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