Here's a solution for the type of food. Every town has a non-corporate local flavor that is beloved. In my particular town, there's a little hole in the wall bar/pizza joint called Jerry's. You wouldn't think to look at the place, but it serves some of the best pizza I've ever tasted. People who leave town and come back to visit, always have to get Jerry's. Coming from a guy that has traveled all over the country and had all kinds of pizza, it says something about my local pizza joint. I've often thought of buying the place and expanding it, because it's nothing more than a house with some tables and a few small counters, but man do they sell a lot of pizza.
My idea, find those local places in each Six Flags town. Most of the parks are around large cities, so I know that these little restaurants exist. It doesn't even have to be pizza. It could be American fare, Mexican, ribs, chicken, steak, seafood, deli, whatever. Find those places and make a deal with them, and use their name to help with the local clientele. If you want to put a theme around them, then do it, but at least serve food that customers are going to hold in higher regard than McDonalds. Use the coaster theme, an english pub theme, a beach theme, futuristic theme, or simply make it a nice restaurant setting. Bottom line, make people want to go to lunch and dinner in the park. Six Flags, you are missing out on a lot of revenue. Up the ante on your food offerings.
But if people are leaving Six Flags for food, I think it definitely has to do with quality and offering something that can't be found outside of the park.
Kinda like how Disney has a great Dole Whip. Love it... I think you can only find that same thing in maybe one frozen yogurt place in the middle of Gardena, CA (a pretty bad neighborhood where you don't wanna get get stuck or even drive through after the sun sets)
I get that some people will still go eat elsewhere to get away from the fast paced park, but maybe offer something like Downtown Disney or Universal City Walk? Magic Mountain is pretty far away from major cities though, so that may not be feaseable.
The second thought would be to partner with Hard Rock and build these in their parks. This brand has stood the test of time and the atmosphere would seem to fit well with the crowd that generally visits Six Flags parks.
Finally, build their own brand, call it High Thrill, or Intense, or Mega Screams or something that would convey the feeling of high intensity like their best rides. The food could include BBQ, Ribs, Pork, Beef, Sausage and sides all brought to your table, family style. Or they could make it an all you can eat buffet. Sides would include biscuits and corn bread, corn on the cob, coleslaw, potato salad, macaroni and cheese, and for dessert apple, blueberry and peach cobbler with vanilla ice cream.These kinds of family style meals seem to work well at Disney, so why not at Six Flags.
French food is a bit of a delicacy to do properly in a theme park, though some of the dishes could be integrated nicely. It would be really nice to see authentic (none of that taco/burrito crap) Spanish and Mexican food at the southern parks. The Mexican food I've had in California is phenomenal, but still in a casual/semi-formal atmosphere. Likewise, I've had delicious soul food in the south served in comfortable settings.
I agree with Derek's suggestion, too. Every cool city and/or college town always has a hip yet comfortable microbrewery/restaurant joint, typically with stone walls, stained glass windows, and dark wood trims. The beer is always excellent, the setting is cool and relaxing, and the servers are professional yet fun. It's the perfect way to unwind after a sensory overload at the parks. The food is typically simple, pizza or pub fare, but with fresh, local ingredients and a bit of flair. For example, we went to a pizza joint in D.C. recently that didn't serve any pepperoni and cheddar cheese, but rather tomato, egg, garlic, parsley, Parmesan, and bottarga. Top that off with a Dogfish Head ale and you're in gourmet heaven.
The Fluer de leis flag flew over Texas at one time. Find out the history of that and have a French cuisine.
Use the Texas flag and go with the Texas Rangers. Have the serving staff dress like Texas Rangers. Give children a Texas Ranger star badge when they eat there.
Actually, Great America used to have places like you talk about, but have changed it over the years. Taking that thought to the rest of the parks, I think SF has the space, but just have to make the food better. I will use Great America as my ideas of changes because I am most familiar.
Aunt Martha's Chicken- Make it more like Knotts (and the picture)
Crazy Buffalo Saloon- Used to be BBQ and a place to drink up on some booze. Characters used to come around
Mooseburger Lodge. Make premium, but large burgers.
I would like to see a Chicago Style Resturant at County Fair area or a Cajun (perhaps a blue bayou) style place in Mardi Gras.
A themed resturant would be nice! I think it would be dependant on the lands at the Six Flags parks.
You are quite right. People will spend money for drinks and food...if only to prevent dehydration and hypoglycemic reactions that creep up while you are having fun on a sunny day.
We lived in Florida for 5 yrs, and purchased a Floridians pass to Sea World, our favorite spot, and visited weekly someitmes. We found the food sold by the Busch Hospitatlity Ctr, which we heard "is no more", was VERY reasonable compared to other parks, and the SMokey Creek, where they had ribs, beef & chicken was good too. The servings were quite genrous and my husband and I (not endowed with endless pockets of the bucks) could often share a lunch in either spot, and purchsed our drinks separately. Sad to say, when you went to Disney or Universal, or any other spot it was as, my hubby the comedian, said "YOu have to take out a loan even to eat at McDonald's at Disney!!
Sas to say, there are many tourists that save up for the "big drive down 95" to Florida for a yearly visit to one.... .yes ONE them park, because that is all they can afford. We have been there, done that!! I remember the days when in the spring we walked and walked all over the country side collecting returnable bottles.(A green thing to do nowadays!) and turned them in to save for our 10 day vacation to Florida by car!!We turned them in for cash and called it the "toll savings". We bronw bagged it all t he way to Floirda, taking turns driving and sleeping becasue we could not afford a motel/hotel...but when we arrived at our cousin's house it was a bit of heaven..Sea World became a bit of heaven too, with their 2nd day free pass..yes even offered to non-Floridians!!! We need this type of break ...fresh air for today!
We have also "just eaten snack crackers from our pockets andand drank water" because the food was just too darned expensive. (At those times you made SACRIFICES just to afford the theme park TICKETS.....and sad to say, during THESE times we, and many ohters will do so too!)
A reasonably priced lunch is going to be a very important strategy for THESE ECONOMIC TIMES. For all the tourists that are not well endowed in the purse, it will be the ultimate method of hospitality that any theme park can offer.
YES! It would be refreshing to see food more reasonably priced! That would be the guide to follow in creating a new reataurant in the Six Flag theme parks and in ANY theme park!
Just my 2 cents worth!!
Glenda for New England
Joe's Crab ShackRainforest CafeIHOPIrish PubOlive GardenCrackel BarrelRuby Tuesday'sLone StarSteak and Shake
To name a few!
Another idea could be a family oriented theme that would serve some what fanceyer food. Now people do not want to ride rides after eating a big meal so what if they made a section of the parking lot of every park a place to park and have dinner included. so make the resturant almost liek a fifties themed place were you can have the tray atached to the car and have the waiters rollerskate to the car and serve you. THis place could serve pizza burgers and fancy sandwiches. Also if you did not want to do this make it at the end of the safari and have a exclusive backstage pass to the safari were you could see the feeding of the animals and see things that are not displayed. this could be called mealtime with the animals.
Now this idea is for great adventure. Turn granneys chicken into a desert bar. this could be a candy land themed place put the game board in the building since taht building is so fancey. this signiture thing they could serve are chocolate coverd oreo which are imposabe to find anywere outside a thmepark.
As for Cedar Fair, James is right. Their food is terrible too. When Panda Express and Subway are your food anchors, you know your customers are going off property for lunch. Why pay $10 for a sub I can buy for $5 down the road? Think, people, think!
If nothing else, Six Flags mgmt should travel to places like Knoebels, Silver Dollar City, or (as Robert mentioned in his article) Dollywood. These parks don't have the money the Disney parks do, and yet they still manage to make food one of the reasons people visit. No need to reinvent the wheel...when in doubt, be a copycat!
Is it just me, or have article comments increased in the past little while? Maybe it's just runoff from the tournament.
But I'm thinking that there should be something tangible that makes eating at the park preferred. I suggest that each fancy restaurant patron get one front-of-the-line pass to any park attraction.
Maybe if Six Flags got a famous chef to help out with their restaurants and "affordable" food? Give out samples at the parks and advertise on TV along with the creepy old man who's selling some other deal. Maybe have a TV show on Travel Channel or Food Network hype up the new food if it's really good?
I always say quality over quantity any day.
That said, I've always thought the cliff at Fiesta Texas would be a great place to carve out a restaurant and/or build a REAL "mine train" attraction. Why not combine the two like the Blue Bayou? Call it the Miner's Lunchbox. Think of the fun with signs saying things like "We only serve MINERS," "Your food is prepared fresh, so please pardon the MINER delay," "Our chicken nuggets are GOLDEN," "We really DIG our customers!" and the like...
The signature dish would have to fit the theme, of course -- perhaps a half-pound, flame-broiled hamburger, with a hole cut out of the middle and filled with the melted cheese of your choice...the Open Pit Burger, waiting for YOU to dig in at the Miner's Lunchbox...
p.s. you sell the "cut-outs" as Miner Sliders, so you aren't wasting any food...
One thought that just came to me is that Great America tends to do a very good business on catered events. Many businesses come and have a party at the park since they have the picnic grounds just for that!
Personally, I think they should do something with that area, but it is the main Fright Fest House. So......?
In fact, even relatively small parks (1 million-plus per year) serve many more meals daily than any sit-down restaurant out there, so volume advantages are there for any park that cares to pursue this end of the market.
KID Driven: Keep in mind it is the Kids that drive the parents to spending. In their kid's world, "Crabbie Paddies" from Sponge-Bob would want the kids to say they ate there. This goes true for other eating establishments.
Magical: The scenery in Disney world restaurants screams, you got to try this place.
SPEED: There is nothing worst than waiting a long time for food.
They could go one of two ways. They have specific areas (like Southwest Territory) and the foods could represent that or they could go with local favorites. The latter would be my preference.
Gurnee is within an hour of both Chicago and Milwaukee, I can't imagine it would be hard to find something local to feature in the park, as both cities are known for certain cuisines (the same could be said for Texas, California, etc.). For crying out loud, people sell hot dogs, brats, and Italian beef sandwiches out of carts on the street!
Do those things well. Add some lighter fare, like a deli-style place. If you want a sit-down restaurant, maybe a nice Chicago-style pizza place instead of Papa John's. If you have those things, you could work a little outside of that for a second restaurant, like a steak house or Italian place or something like that. Something a little pricier, but still afforable.
The biggest thing is to do whatever you do well, with reasonable prices, and people are more likely to pay for it.