What would you do? Creating a new restaurant for the Six Flags theme parks
Written by Robert Niles
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.Tweet
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:
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?"
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