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Business Lessons | North Star Food & Beverage

Business Lessons - Through the Eyes of a Child

hpI've been going to amusement parks my whole life.  They are central for idea generation for our business... not a bad place for R&D!

My entire career has been centered around these types of venues... any place where people gather for entertainment and fun.  I operate businesses within these locations, I've consulted with over a hundred separate sites, I volunteer for our industry, I've networked with colleagues, and many of my best friends work within the Amusement Parks and Attractions industry.

Yes... I've visited many amusement parks, and my photo library on my iPhone tells a pretty clear story of what a visit to any park would like like.  Countless (... literally!) photos of menu boards, food items, new F&B concepts, patios, behind the scenes postings, kitchen equipment, most popular midway games and how they are flashed, retail merchandising ideas, themed gifts, warehouses, employee break areas, other revenue sources, guests buying these items, new attractions, employee uniforms, garbage cans  (... yes, garbage cans), and price points of everything.   I also realized that I could go through any park in record time... no problem when not standing in ride lines, waiting for a show to start, or searching out the newest animal exhibit.

That all changed when  we took our six year old grandson to Hersheypark.

Hersheypark and neighboring Hershey's Chocolate World, are  tremendous attractions. I've been many times, but I have never enjoyed a day like this.

I had been practicing my mantra of patience, patience, patience since early morning... I knew the day was not about me, it was about time with our 6 year old grandson Beckett.  We started early, paced ourselves and did everything!

So what did a day look like to me as a guest...

rideWe rode ALL the rides that we could.  Happily waiting in line and appreciating the attention and focus the ride operators were giving to all the children... for their enjoyment and safety.  Offering high fives and comments of encouragement.

We played games... and loved it.  Hard to resist a "come on Papa, let's play this one together".  It was a blast, and fortunately we didn't "win" anything too big that would have cost another plane ticket home.  The variety of prizes and levels of skill and luck were excellent... as were the smiling and encouraging employees, who added tremendous value to the game... .and made it easier to keep spending money.   When we came upon the Skee Roll location, I knew it was my time to shine.  Being raised in an amusement park... I could play Skee Roll!  Beckett was super  impressed as the tickets came pouring out of the machine.  Banking left, banking right, hitting the 50 over and over again... for the moment I was #1 Papa!   And spending all these tickets at the redemption counter was an experience in itself.  He studied what was available, recounted the tickets, made sure he was going to get all he could... and no matter what we left with, he was certain he worked a good deal.

We didn't eat on the go.  We studied the choices, found variety and the familiar, and made good selections. We enjoyed the time over lunch, talking about what we had done... and how much more there was to do.  We studied the the park map, and determined areas we hadn't seen yet... and made sure we didn't miss anything.  

I also have to call out that restrooms were convenient... and clean.  Not always the norm in public facilities, but it drives perception on quality, one way or the other, more than just about anything else.  A reminder that the little things can make a huge impact.

We also enjoyed the indulgence foods you can't find when you go home, sharing a funnel cake, smore, fresh made potato chips and their new Whoopie Pies.

kitkatWhether it was for a six year old, or just an old Nana and Papa... we made sure we paced ourselves throughout the day.  Occasionally sitting for 5-10 minutes, riding the sky ride and the Kissing tower, and we purposely strolled more leisurely though the ZooAmerica section.  When the costumed characters came around, we waited until we could take our picture.   We were not in a hurry.

At dinner time, we visited their full service restaurant and took our time.   We stayed recharged, refreshed and ready to enjoy every moment of the day.

We shopped.  Looking for the one of kind items to bring home for his sister and parents, became an adventure in itself.  And there was clearly something special about buying the latest Hershey branded candy in Hershey, PA... even though it may be available in our local grocery store.

And nearly 10 hours later, it was back to the Hershey Lodge... for more candy and dessert.  What a day... and not one photo of a menu board!

So what's the point?  This was kind of an "Undercover Boss" experience.  Sure we were at Hersheypark, but everything we witnessed, participated in, rode, played, enjoyed, spent money on, is all very transferable to my own business interests.

I was able to appreciate their brand value and the  impact of the people, product, and place in a manner far greater than the academic, or removed from reality conversations that regularly occur.  And when this is delivered in a consistent and quality manner, pricing doesn't matter as much.  I know I sure helped out with the per cap spending that day!

I saw our industry differently that day and it has changed my perspective on the guest service and experience that we all provide.  After nearly 40 years in this business I still have much to learn... so it's a good thing I have 5 more grand children to teach me.

When was the last time you were able to see your business "through the eyes of a child"… or through any real objective manner? 

While the elements of customer service, employee engagement, quality, cleanliness, revenue maximization and others….. apply to most businesses, they are particularly necessary in all hospitality businesses.  Organizations where the front line staff... those closest to the customer,  can determine whether a customer spends, or returns... need to appreciate the impact they have on those that they serve, and that they may be judged... through the eyes of a child.

I'd look forward to hearing your experience, results, challenges and lessons learned, in your quest to make continual improvements in your business!

About The Author

ken whitingKen Whiting is an amusement park and attractions food and beverage operator, and industry consultant for improvements in F&B, retail and workforce productivity. Reach out with any questions or comments you may have at: