And what timing. I just got back from Wendy's. Recently, many fast food chains in Canada have taken a different route. Typically, the standard Canadian fast food portion is smaller than the American equivalent. However, I was just asked if I wanted a small, medium, or large meal. I've never been asked that before. Apparently, we've switched to the American sizing system, as my "medium" was the size of our previous large. It was delicious, but now I feel rotten.
Robert once mentioned that college towns, such as mine, are lucky in terms of dining because we have access to so many inexpensive yet satisfying meal options, and plenty of ethnic choices, too. The family-owned takeout spots outweigh the chains in number. My favorite takeout spot in town is a Cambodian restaurant. For $10 CAD, I can get Phanaeng Kai, a spicy chicken curry dish with enough rice to last two meals, and a Coke. The food tastes better, is equally (if not more) filling, and costs the same as the Wendy's meal I just ordered. In terms of production cost, it can't be that much worse than fast food. Most of the dish is just white rice.
I don't think we're necessarily talking about "healthy" foods. I think we're leaning towards health-conscious food. For example, the Mitsitam Cafe Robert speaks of (which I had the pleasure of dining at in January but never had a chance to finish my D.C. trip report) serves cafeteria-style food in several stations based on different American Indian tribes. You can still get a burger at the Great Plains station, but it's made with house ground buffalo and duck, roasted pepper Dijonaise, smoked tomatoes, aged cheddar cheese, and served with Chili spiced fries. Definitely not a healthy meal, but at least your body will thank you for some real nourishment.
As for not enjoying the experience, I mentioned in another thread that people get bothered about minor theming mishaps, like the view of Soarin' from Canada at Epcot, but don't seem to care that they are eating cheeseburgers in a land themed as Egypt. There have been some incredible advancements in rides and shows. Let's see some advancements with food.
Especially since I'm Asian (what... you couldn't tell from my picture????) I always love me some good ol' rice, veggies, and seafood. To me-- that beats a burger any day. Whenever my equally Asian family goes theme parking with me, they always stare at the menus for a loooooooong time. (And it doesn't help that my dad's a pediatrician helping many obese children). Burger? Oily. Fries? Salt and oil. Salad? Aw, it's not so yummy.
I say... take foreign food concepts to parks. Aka... more Italian food! More Asian food! More grilled food. And the good thing about lots of Italian and Asian dishes is... you can make a variety of foods using similar ingredients (not that expensive) and MORE SOUPS!!! I don't see how any soup can be unhealthy or expensive to make.
I think variety is the most important thing. The reason I love Epcot so much is because of the world showcase. One of my favorites there is Restaurant Akershus. Norweigan food, I never knew I was a fan until I went there. If only all parks had this much variety.
In a sense, many parks do have variety, but it is only in the restaurants and not at the food stands. For example, if you have the time to eat at Islands of Adventure, you can sit down at Mythos and have a great meal that is both flavorful and healthy. Last time I was there, my wife and I both ordered the ceviche which was a chef's special that day. My wife and I loved it! And my wife is from Peru, so she knows her ceviche. If we didn't have the time (or the money) to sit at Mythos, what would our options have been? Probably the usual. Pizza, burgers, fries, chicken tenders. I think the stands could use a bit of variety to help spice things up.
Restaurants are tricky business, they have a fairly slim profit margin, and it's not always easy for them to be real moneymakers. Because of that, quality of ingredients (better cuts of meat, fresh veggies, etc) sometimes takes a backseat to the bottom line. In fact, it's one of the first things subject to cost cutting when times get tight. Drawing the balance between quality and financial viability isn't the easiest thing, but with consumers, quality tends to wins out over price if they are able to keep the price reasonable. A good first step would be improving the quality of ingredients.
I think the second step for many parks would be to open up more sit down restaurants. Food stands serve grease, fat, and sugar because it's quick, easy, and cheap. Opening up more places where the food is prepared instead of pulled out of a plastic bag is a start. There’s a bit of a “feeding trough/school cafeteria” mentality with a lot of these places because they have to deal with crowd control. When thousands of people break for lunch at the same time, it’s a tough task to feed them quickly. Also, many guests are perfectly fine with grabbing the cheeseburger basket or a hot dog for lunch, and may balk at a sit down place that’s a little pricier. Staffing more of these restaurants may be tricky for some seasonal parks, but there are plenty of culinary arts majors in college. There are plenty of people in the park (I’m one of them) that would gladly sit down to breakfast, lunch, or dinner with wait service, and pay a little more for a freshly cooked, well prepared dish. Look at it this way, many leave the park and go out to dinner at Outback, TGI Fridays, etc. Why wouldn’t they stay in the park and have a meal in a restaurant of similar type and price?
Again, a lot of those decisions are purely financial. It costs more to operate such a restaurant; hence there is an element of risk that profit won’t be maximized. Seasonal parks only have a few months to make their money and they have bills to pay. If people are gobbling up the junk at food stands, then why take the financial risk? It’s a case of “corporate responsibility vs. personal responsibility”, even though that choice doesn’t always include a wide variety within the park gates. Ultimately, it’s the consumer that determines what is successful and what isn’t, and if they wish to eat their way into oblivion, they are going to find somewhere to do it.
Something interesting that I would want to know if I’m in management. How many people leave the park for lunch, or go out to dinner at a restaurant after their visit? If that number is high, the parks are missing out on money and guest satisfaction. If the number isn’t high, than people seem to be happy with what they have. I’m sure the data would vary by park, region, and culture, but I would be very surprised if that number wasn’t high in many of the seasonal parks.
I often go to the parks for an escape from D2D life and that includes my D2D diet. I really look forward to that Dole whip pineapple float or a good old funnel cake at MK.
Everything in moderation! If the "full figured" traveler would get to the parks more and do some 10 mile daily treks they would probably lose a couple inches off the old waistline...I'm just saying.
But yeah, I get your point! I would like to see a fruit cart at every theme park first!