One of the frustrating things to the customer is when they go to their favorite amusement park like Cedar Point or Kings Island and a particular food stand is closed. Why would the park not open the ______ food or drink stand on a 90 degree day? Why is Chick-fil-A closed on Sunday…OK that is a question for another day. The answer is based on a complex system in place to determine whether a particular food stand should be opened for the day.
Supply & Demand
First, in order for the stand to open, there needs to be enough of the product in stock. For example, the park needs to constantly keep an eye on its supply of souvenir cups to know when to order more, etc. A particularly busy or hot day could diminish supply, impacting the following couple days before more can be brought in. Maybe one day funnel cakes sold like crazy because lots of people were using the mobile app and received a buy one, get one offer. As a result, supply of powdered sugar could be low.
At any given time, the park needs to constantly monitor supply and demand to know exactly how much supply they have in their warehouse and for where that needs moved into the park. If the park happens to not open a food stand on a particular day, it could be because they know they do not have enough hamburger buns in stock, etc.
The other reason a food stand may not be open is because of staffing. The parks hire thousands of employees each season and rely on them all to be performing to the best of their ability to make an efficient company.
However, at certain times of the year, for example, say April-May before the majority of students are on summer break (the majority of hired employees), staffing levels could be low and they will only open the food locations that will have high enough demand. This is often the case during the Haunt season as well when employees head back to school.
Additional staffing factors include illness, days off, vacation, etc. If only a couple of employees happen to miss a day of work for whatever reason, the trickle down impact is a food stand may not be open.
Real Time Results
The parks try to manage a lot of factors that are their responsibility, but the unknown comes in the form of demand from the customer. The parks need to always carefully balance the needs of the customer. Obviously the most important aspect to make sure you have the best day involves making sure the rides are in operation. If a guest pays money to visit the park for their first time, and a particular roller coaster is not running, they could result in an unsatisfied consumer.
So the most important staffing comes in the form of ride operators, safety, and maintenance personnel, at least in terms of happy customers. Next comes the food and beverage staff who make up the second highest profit makers in the company. Closing down a food stand for the day in lieu of having your favorite roller coaster up and running is a minor inconvenience compared to the alternate.
The parks keep track of sales in live time to carefully monitor the profitability of a particular food stand.
The unknown of customer demand starts the moment you pull up to the front gates. The parks do not know how many customers are going to come on a particular day. So as soon as you pay for parking, the parks are keeping careful track and reporting back to operations to determine staffing levels, etc.
Once you are through the gate and going on with your particular day, the parks then keep track of sales at every food stand across the park in real time. If a certain stand happens to not be profitable and covering the cost of labor, the park may shut it down for the day. Consequently, they may also notice another area of the park that is getting hit with a large amount of sales due to higher crowds. The park than can reassign staff and supplies to assist that area.
In summary, it all comes down to supply and demand. The parks monitor sales throughout the day, and if a food stand is not profitable, it may be shut down. A drink stand may not be opened because they are low on cups or refills for the machine. The parks are constantly playing a balancing game to maintain customer satisfaction while maximizing profits. Without a positive cashflow, we do not get bigger and better rides each year.
The parks want to make you happy, and while closing a food stand may seem contradictory, it is in everyone’s best interest if it 1) can not meet the customers demands, and 2) is not profitable.
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