What would you do? Creating a new restaurant for the Six Flags theme parks
How do you increase guest spending inside a theme park, without those visitors feeling fleeced? That's one of the great challenges in the theme park industry. Obtaining a new customer for your park can be incredibly expensive - so maximizing the amount of money you make from each guest who does walk through the front gate is often the most cost-effective way to build a park's income.
Food? Drinks? Games? Souvenirs? Guided tours? Ride reservations? Pay-per-use attractions, such as rock-wall climbs and bungees? You've probably lightened your wallet (or fattened your credit card statement) with many of these in-park revenue options over the years.
Today, I'm going to talk about the Six Flags theme parks and suggest one way that it can increase its in-park guest spending, which averaged $36.72 in 2009, according to U.S. federal SEC documents.
Of all the stuff for which people spend money in a theme park, food might be the most popular. Many folks can pass by the souvenirs, skip paid reservations or tours and stay away from the "not free" attractions. But almost everyone buys something to eat or drink inside the park.
So offering a more expensive food option can be a powerful way to earn more money from each visitor. But how to do that without leaving people feeling fleeced? You've got to offer a more expensive dining option that delivers even more value - a truly unique experience that people want, as opposed to a food option that people merely endure to fuel up in the middle of the day.
Think Disneyland's Blue Bayou. Epcot's restaurants. Or even Miss Lillian's fried chicken at Dollywood. Other theme parks can get visitors to pay a higher per-ticket meal cost by offering unique meals in unique environments. How could Six Flags create a new option to do that?
Miss Lillian, welcoming diners at "her" fried chicken buffet at Dollywood. Could Six Flags do something new like this to increase guest spending in its parks?
This is our "What would you do?" challenge for the week: What new restaurant should Six Flags introduce?
Most food options at Six Flags parks could be found outside the parks - Papa John's pizza, Panda Express. Even the park's sit-down burger place, Johnny Rockets, is a chain widely available in visitors' home towns. A few parks offer a Mooseburger Lodge restaurant/buffet, but we need an option that will increase current average guest spending - something that's going to rise above that standard.
Now, you might make the argument that Six Flags' clientele isn't interested in a premium dining experince - that the chain appeals to younger visitors and roller coaster fans for whom a restaurant meal means sitting down in the McDonald's instead of using the drive-through.
I'm going to take Six Flags CEO Mark Shapiro at his words here, though, and proceed under the assumption that the chain is trying to draw more families, the type of visitors who also consider Disney and SeaWorld parks, and who would jump at the chance to splurge for a sit-down meal in one of those parks, if they could get the reservation.
In envisioning such a restaurant, we need two things:
- A unique setting, that fits within the theme of its location within the park
- At least one signature food item which can't easily be found outside the park.
Remember that Monte Cristo picture I posted yesterday? That's the go-to signature item at Disneyland's Blue Bayou. How many restaurants have you seen outside Disneyland which offer a Monte Cristo like that?
Or consider the risottos at Mythos in Universal's Islands of Adventure. Sure, you can find risotto at fine-dining Italian restaurants in bigger cities, but it's a rare find at the chain sit-down restaurants that most consumers frequent.
As for theme, Six Flags continues to develop its children's play areas, with Thomas the Tank Engine and Wiggles themes, in addition to Bugs Bunny and the Looney Tunes. But, long term, I think the company does best by developing a theme that's not licensed from another. While its "premium" restaurant should be family-friendly, it shouldn't be exclusively focused to children, either. (None of Disney's table-service restaurants are, for example.)
How about a Roller Coaster Cafe, built around a coaster track, so that the trains run through the restaurant itself? (I'm thinking the coaster runs through a clear tube, or above diners' heads along a wall, for safety and sound reasons.) Or maybe Six Flags needs to develop its own character, like Dollywood's Miss Lillian, and build the concept around that.
Now, let's think fun comfort foods that you don't find in places like Olive Garden or Applebee's - I'm thinking fancy grilled cheeses, souffles, fondues. Help me out here, folks. (Cheese doesn't have to be a primary ingredient, of course, but I do have that Monte Cristo stuck in my mind right now....)
Ultimately, the concept, the setting and the food have to provide enough to make you - Six Flags' prime audience - want to come to a Six Flags park, make a reservation and sit down for a meal in the middle of the day.
What would do that for you? Let's hear your ideas, in the comments.
Previously on "What would you do?"
I think they ought to develop something based on their WB license - a Batman or Superman themed restaurant would surely draw patrons of all ages.
Before creating these restaurants, Six Flags first has to care about their food. Waaay too many Six Flags trip reports I've read over the years from all over the country contain the words. "We left the park to go to lunch/dinner..etc" That shouldn't be acceptable. Providing the guest with suitable dining experiences should be near the top of the list of improvements to Six Flags.
I like the idea of a coaster doing a loop around or over a part of the restaurant, but enclosed of course for safety and sound reasons. Or a corkscrew around a section or something. Maybe even dueling loops.
A few thoughts here. One partner with the Landry's Restaurant group. This group owns over 25 restaurant brands including, Rainforest, Aquarium, T-Rex and several others. I believe they also have a partnership with the creative talent behind Rainforest and T-Rex. Work with these guys to create a restaurant brand that would be unique for the Six Flags parks. Call it the Big 6, or Sixes or Mr Sixes or something along those lines.
I like the Batman theme idea. Have any of you heard of the Safehouse in Milwaukee? Very spied themed, very entertaining. Secret paths and secret messages. http://www.safe-house.com/ I think flipping this theme onto the villains or I guess the heroes. Like a Hard Rock Restaurant, take a ton of memorabilia and plaster it EVERYWHERE.
I would create some kind of DC Comics Cafe where all of the Superheros are and a highly themed setting with different superhero-themed entrees.
My experiences at sit-down restaurants in parks haven't been the best. Even the vaunted Mythos at Islands of Adventure. While the food was good, especially for a theme park, it wasn't better than what I could find at most good restaurants outside of parks. It was also pricey and the service was overtaxed and slow. I think my local park, King's Island, really does it right when it comes to food. They server the local favorites, Cincinnati style chili and the local pizza chain, LaRosas. Granted, these are not particularly well executed versions of these favorites, but it is some of the best food in the park. The lines at the LaRosas or chili stands are often the longest in the park. When I'm at a Six Flags park, I'm not interested in eating at Subway, or anything safe or boring. If something unique and well executed is offered, then I will buy it immediately.
I have to say, I thought the LaRosa's at Kings Island was one of the worst pieces of pizza I've ever had at a theme park. If that's what people in Cincinnati consider good pizza, drive over to Bloomington, Indiana and get a Mother Bear's sometime.
Why not create restaurants representing the six "nations" that Six Flags was named for? France, Spain, Mexico, Republic of Texas, Confederate States of America, and United States of America. Maybe the last two are a bit touchy, but the first four could easily fit within the parks' themes.
Since it is 6 flags over Texas, take your theme from one of the flags that flew over Texas. For example build an Alamo and have Mexican and Tex Mex food .
I'm surprised you chose Six Flags as the park chain to develop a new restaurant theme for. I would have expected it to be for Cedar Point, since it is always being blasted for having bad food. Robert, can we stray from the Six Flags concept, or should it be in another thread?
I have only been to SFMM so I have limited knowledge of dining experiences within the Six Flags chain. I do remember that Panda Express was popular and there were no real restaurants. That said, what would be the theming? Coasters is a must, but how to incorporate them. How about doing a restaurant themed to each section of the park. A Gotham uptown dark restaurant, a Marvel Universe Superhero "Healty" restaurant. What about the Looney Tunes? Would you do a Porky Pig Pulled Pork Emporium? A Donald "Peking" Duck Chinese fare? How about a vegitarian option in a Bugs Bunny Beanery?
That was an interesting article about creating a new restaurant for Six Flags parks.
Well, I know its a problem at Great America since there are the following places not more than a mile away from the SFGA's Gate:
Hey what about a good idea if they made a haunted theme to a resturant. There is a manhatten resturant called jeklyn high which is a haunted resturant based on the book. So what if sixflags made a haunted resturant based on the dark night coaster. obviously this would only be at the themeparks with this ride. But there is no reason why they couldnot incorporate what the other reader wanted with a superhero theme. This resturant would probably be more teenager freindly since it is scary. THey could have munchies and fingerfood. The resturant would be located in the batman section of the park by the rollercoaster.
Add my name to the list of folks who totally agree with Derek's post. Forget the theming because Six Flags is no good at it. Instead, focus on the quality of your food offerings and on local flavors that are unique to the area and unique to each park. Enlist local entrepreneurs in getting new and exciting restaurants into the park. Heck, who knows, maybe Six Flags will strike gold and Guy Fieri will stop in with his Triple D team and do a feature on the delicious foods of Six Flags. Now, wouldn't that be something special?!
Cedar Fair parks are hit and miss with food, but there are pretty good places to relax and eat at Kings Island. Robert mentioned LaRosa's pizza, which is a local Cincinnati chain. I still like LaRosas, but it hasn't seemed that great the last couple of times I've had it. I kind of wonder if they haven't switched to cheaper ingredients. It's still ok pizza, but the pizza joints in my town are much better. Regardless of what I think, people eat it up at Kings Island. There are some other local flavors like Montgomery Inn ribs at Rivertown Junction, Graeters Ice Cream (yum) and Skyline Chili, which is a love it or hate it kind of place among people who like chili. Kings Island seems to do really well with food. I think it has a lot to do with the local flavors that they provide inside the park, hence my idea for incorporating local favorites inside the Six Flags parks.
One more thought just occurred to me...
I like the 2 ideas of food from the 6 countries of 6 Flags and the local favorites. Maybe they can even find a great local restaurant that would relocate into the park (with off-hours access somehow).
Thinking about this over breakfast before my weekend trip to Anaheim, I'd definitely agree with dropping themed food places for Six Flags.
This may sound a little odd but I don't know of any other theme park that does this. Why not open early for people if they want to eat breakfast or brunch? Do any other theme parks do this? The park could open at 7 or 8:00am and serve breakfast till 10ish. Then on Sunday they could have a brunch. If the breakfast is good enough then patrons might stay in the park longer. Just a thought.
A McDonalds would really class up those parks.. hahahah
I'm thinking it should be something that's local to the area and would therefore also make it different to each of their parks. How about a tie in with a local sports team. Of course, the MLB would be the best fit for the so many seasonal parks. It's hard to start from scratch and it takes much longer to see the return on investment, so I doubt Six Flags will want to try from scratch. Go with a tie in.
Forget it -- they tried it, and found that in-house food service was more expensive than out-sourcing it to established franchises. Busch, Universal and Disney get away with it by economies of scale and centralized warehousing, something Six Flags can't do because of their geographically widespread distribution.
Not bad, Larry. I mean, the puns are terrible, but I like the idea of a mining restaurant.
Larry, you are on to something!
Tiny parks, such as Legoland, Holiday World and Dollywood, do an outstanding job with food service, so super-large, Disney-like scale is not necessary to provide better, higher-ticket dining options in a theme park.
Pricing: Keep in mind a family of six, food is quite expensive so when meal time comes around they go back to their car and eat. With parking fees so overpriced, it cuts into the spending.
You're right, Robert, but you must have park execs who really care about the guest experience and who understand that their core business is entertainment, not just packing butts in coaster seats. If Six Flags could economically outsource their food service to China, I'm sure we'd see it happen. Then again, with Panda Express as one of their concessions, maybe it already HAS!!! ;)
Like Anthony, I am most familiar with Great America. I've actually found that two adults can eat some of the portions served there, so I don't necessarily have an issue with price if the meal is shared.
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