Thursday, August 28, 2008

Three F&B Questions with Hersheypark's John Lawn

Earlier this year, FUNWORLD staffers and the various committees we work with decided to start informal interviews about timely topics that affect all members. Our first interviewee is John Lawn, assistant general manager at Hersheypark and chair of the IAAPA Food and Beverage Committee.

Certainly, a main concern this year has been how a sluggish economy has impacted operating costs in areas such as transportation, merchandise, and food. Lawn provides insight into how to cut costs, work with vendors, and provide excellent guest services in these tighter times. As you plan your exhibitor visitation strategy for EAS 2008-Munich, and IAAPA Attractions Expo 2008, we hope this interview will also help you as you explore new vendors, pricing, and products.

FUNWORLD: How have the price increases of food and raw materials affected your business as a whole?
John Lawn:
After significant consideration we have passed along some of the increased expenses to our guests through increased retail pricing, and have found that our "standard" guest spending patterns have not been effected. Our more cost-conscious guests, including our season pass holders, seem to be taking greater advantage of our existing "cost-saving" opportunities, including: utilizing our picnic area outside of our main gates; requesting complimentary ice water from our concession stands; and participating in our $0.99 souvenir mug refill program.

FW: What types of strategies are you implementing to combat the effects?
We continue to work with our suppliers to limit cost increases through "win-wins." This would include evaluating non-branded products; evaluating shipping alternatives, including multi-vendor coordination of deliveries; reducing delivery frequency; eliminating items with low turnover; etc.

We continue to listen to our guests and provide value options wherever applicable. This includes offering smaller portions and lower prices for individual consumption, as well as larger portions that can be shared with a bigger group. We also offer packages that include game coupons, meal tickets, and merchandise in an effort to provide a full experience on any budget.

FW: What are some tips you can share on working with vendors during these more difficult times?
You need to maintain an open and honest dialogue with your vendors to ensure you are working together for the common goal of our guests' satisfaction. Both the retailer and the supplier need the guest to make a sale, so you need to combat the higher prices together.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

E-mail and YOU!

Last Thursday, the IAAPA staff headed off to Dave & Buster's in Hanover, MD for our annual staff retreat, SummerFest.

While it sounds like a lot of fun in games, it was educational, too. Before we could enjoy the games on the midway, we participated in two professional development education sessions. The first session focused on proper e-mail etiquette and the second dealt with how to be more globally minded when holding events and working with members from around the world.

Jay Kalathil, IAAPA's web manager, and I presented a session on e-mail etiquette and best practices. We prepared for the session by polling the IAAPA staff for their e-mail pet peeves and compared that to the various research we found on the subject. We learned a lot: How to properly address emails; dos and don'ts with regard to font size and color; how and when to use a signature, plus much more.

Our presentation consisted of a PowerPoint, a few video clips, and activities. At the end of the session we provided the staff with a checklist of items to think about before they send their next e-mail. That checklist is posted below for your review; feel free to use these handy tips for your own training.

We would welcome your comments and additions! Happy reading and e-mailing!

E-mail Checklist

Who should be included?

• Have I thought about who I am sending this e-mail to?
• Am I blind-ccing (or cc-ing) my boss? Am I bcc-ing (or cc-ing) a coworkers boss? If so, what will happen if the recipient finds out? Have I tried to resolve this situation with the recipient first? If not, don’t send the e-mail. Go and talk to them.
• Did I hit 'reply all'? If so, am I glad I did? Does every person on the list
need to see it?

How is my tone?

• Am I angry? If so, save as draft and come back to the note in one hour, one day, or never.
• If I had to pay 42 cents (of my own money!) to send this e-mail, would I?
• Did I mind my manners and is my e-mail polite?
• Am I giving bad news to someone over e-mail? If so, don’t send it. Talk to your recipient.
• Could whatever I want to be accomplished by sending this e-mail be done better (or FASTER) with a phone call or visit to the person’s office?
• Is there anything in this e-mail I don't want the attorney general, the media, or my boss seeing?

What do I do about attachments?

• Have I attached any files that are very big?
• Did I include an explanation for why I am sending the attachment and the recipient knows what I want them to do with it?
• Did I attach the attachment?

Is my e-mail formatted and written professionally?

• Is any portion of the e-mail in all caps? Is it in black/blue type at a normal size, business appropriate font?
• Is this the first time I e-mailed this person? If so, do I have my contact info at the bottom?
• Am I quoting back the original text in a helpful way?
• Could this e-mail be shorter?
• Did I check to make sure I know the difference between its and it's, your and you’re, there, their, and they’re, among other common grammatical and spelling errors not caught by spell check?
• Does the subject line make it easy to understand what's to come and likely it will get filed properly and replied to?
• Do I respond to e-mail requests in a reasonable amount of time 24-48 hours?
• Did I read the entire e-mail chain before I replied to this e-mail?

What do I do about forwards?

• Am I forwarding someone else's mail? If so, will they be happy when they find out?
• Am I forwarding something about religion, race, or other potentially offensive issue?
• Am I forwarding something about a virus or worldwide charity effort or other potential hoax?

And one final question:

• Can I schedule a meeting using a meeting request instead of sending an e-mail?

Friday, August 22, 2008

'In the Queue': On the Home Page

So this little experiment of ours has been going pretty well since launching last fall (though we welcome any comments on how we can improve—or you can e-mail me). The goal when we started was to post twice a week and, with a few exceptions, we've been hitting that mark pretty well.

Still, we want to make it as easy as possible for our readers to know when there's new content on the blog. Today we've updated IAAPA's official home page with a new "In the Queue" section (it's in the center column) that will be updated every time we post something new. Hopefully this will make it simpler for everyone to keep tabs on the blog without having to click over here in hopes of a new post.

And, as always, thanks again for checking us out. We hope it's been beneficial for you.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

ADA Comment Period Closes

After a whirlwind 60 days, the comment period on the proposed ADA regulations for recreation facilities closed yesterday. IAAPA submitted its own comment on the proposed rules as well as a comment specifically on the miniature golf provisions. It was a collaborative effort between by IAAPA, the International Association for the Leisure and Entertainment Industry (IALEI), and the Miniature Golf Association of the United States (MGAUS). Additionally, many industry members submitted their own public comments on the rules directly to the Department of Justice (DOJ).

We had hoped the comment period would be extended into the fall to give more of our members time to read the regulations and comment on them, but that did not happpen. I am actually a little relieved this part of the process is complete—there were many long days and a lot of hard work leading up to the deadline.

The next step is for DOJ to publish a final rule to make the accessibility guidelines "official." The buzz around town is that this will happen before the next administration takes office (January 20, 2009), but there are no guarantees if the government will hit that target or not. IAAPA will notify its members when the rule is finalized.

Friday, August 15, 2008

September FUNWORLD: Watch for It!

The September issue of FUNWORLD shipped out yesterday, so hopefully all of you will receive your copy soon. The cover story this month details the inspiring tale of Harry Haynes, who owns and operates an FEC in Brooklyn, New York.

The whole thing began with an Industry Notes item our news editor, Keith Miller, wrote back in February 2007 about this newest and biggest FEC in New York. Only this facility has one attraction you definitely wouldn't expect: a computer lab! So even though Keith wrote about this education-minded FEC last year, the notion of such a strong FEC-inspired educational outreach never left his brain. When he started to investigate into Madd Fun further for this month's story, he discovered Haynes has a powerful personal story of overcoming obstacles, and Haynes' facility has become a place of peace and neutral ground among many divergent people groups in a tough NYC neighborhood. For the full scoop, naturally, you have to grab your copy of FUNWORLD when it hits your mailbox.

Other excellent reasons to open the mag this month:

• FUNWORLD Editor at Large Tim O'Brien profiles the "Year of the Frog," a worldwide conservation effort to save the little amphibians.
• Contributing Editor Mike Bederka discovers 10 ways FECs can improve their web sites, and looks at the booming popularity of bowling—both physical and virtual.
• Juliana Gilling interviews authors extraordinaires Joe Pine and Jim Gilmore, experts in authenticity, and how their insights apply to the amusement industry.

And, of course, there's much more. Enjoy! And feel free to drop me a line about any of these stories—yay or nay—either in the comment section below or via e-mail.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Last Call: ADA Comments

My colleague Stephanie Thienel has posted about this before, but on her behalf let me remind you that final comments on the proposed changes to ADA regulations are due this coming Monday, which means she needs any comments from members right away.

You can check out the new regulations here. The association has put together a web site here to help clarify how these changes would affect businesses in our industry.

You can e-mail Stephanie with your comments and/or questions at Don't miss this great opportunity to make your voice heard on behalf of the industry.

Friday, August 8, 2008

Is it February Yet?

Last month I had the glorious opportunity to visit the Atlantis resort on Paradise Island, Bahamas, as part of a photo shoot for the October issue of FUNWORLD. Besides my responsibilities for the magazine, I saw it as a scouting mission for IAAPA Connections 2009, which will be held at Atlantis in February.

Connections, you say? What?? Let me explain …

For years IAAPA has hosted an annual Summer Meeting, a special event where industry leaders get together for networking and a generally fabulous, relaxing time. This year's Summer Meeting is Sept. 27-29, in Munich, Germany, and will mark the final installment of this event in its present iteration (I'll be there, so chat me up if you see me). The new Connections format will be different in that it will have more educational opportunities, with keynote addresses and such from some of the industry's top minds, focusing on pressing issues of the day.

But there's plenty of time to talk about the new program. What I'm telling you right now is Atlantis will be a great place to kick this new event off right. While I only had about 36 hours on property, I made a point to see as much of it as possible. As you can see from this map, there's a lot there to cover. The resort literally takes up an entire island, complete with its own over-water access bridge from Nassau. The entire facility—with its multiple hotel towers, pools, spa, casino, restaurants, shops, convention center, and more—felt like someone had scooped up a lavish Las Vegas property and dropped it into the Caribbean.

And speaking of the Caribbean, wow, the beaches and water are phenomenal. Soft, white sand leads into crystal-clear water that, in mid-July anyway, was pleasantly warm. Our FUNWORLD story will focus, in part, on Atlantis' Blue Project, which deals with coral reef conservation, among other environmental issues. As part of the resort's Blue Adventures program, I got to take a ride out to a nearby reef for some snorkeling (awesome!). One of our friendly guides told us this particular site (seen in the photo above, courtesy of photographer Tim Aylen), was used in the filming of the 1965 James Bond classic movie "Thunderball." How cool is that? Atlantis is no stranger to Hollywood, either; a glance at the resort's Wikipedia page shows it's played host to the sitcom "Friends" and most recent Bond flick "Casino Royale," among other productions.

So, yeah, Atlantis is a cool place. IAAPA has a lot of great events going on between now and Connections, but there's no way I could've contained my excitement until the new year. Hope to see you there …

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Crypto Update

In recent weeks, there have been a number of news stories about public pools being forced to close after they tested positive for Cryptosporidium. Crypto is a highly-contagious, chlorine-resistant parasite which causes diarrhea and is usually transmitted through fecal matter.

In February, the Center for Disease Control (CDC) published Fecal Accident Response Recommendations to provide guidance on preventing Crypto outbreaks and other recreational water illnesses (RWIs). While the title of the publication may elicit a few smirks, RWIs are really no laughing matter.

We encourage all pool operators to review the CDC recommendations to prevent future outbreaks. Operators should also check their state and local guidelines to see if additional steps are needed.

Friday, August 1, 2008

Loss of a Friend: Elaine College, Busch Entertainment Corporation

IAAPA lost a good friend and partner this week with the passing of Elaine College, vice president of entertainment at Busch Gardens Africa in Tampa, Florida. Elaine has been involved with the association since 2004, including three years as chair of our entertainment committee.

My colleague Eamon Connor worked closely with Elaine in that role, as the two of them cooperated in planning the annual Big E Awards at IAAPA Attractions Expo, which honors the best and brightest in all forms of amusement park entertainment. Eamon described Elaine as "the perfect blend of coach, mentor, and leader." He said she was a tireless recruiter for participation in the association, and several of her fellow entertainment committee members are on that panel because of her.

“She really knew how to get the best out of a team and made everyone feel part of the success of whatever project she was involved in," Eamon told me. "She had a passion about the impact that live entertainment makes in the attractions business, and that was reflected in her sterling work in Big E Awards and other events at IAAPA.”

As is typically too often the case when someone you know dies, I've found out more about Elaine this past week than I ever knew about her before. I would encourage everyone to read this article in today's St. Petersburg Times, which highlights what a true pioneer Elaine was in this industry (she was the first female executive at Busch Gardens Africa). It also includes an excerpt from a piece she wrote in 1994 detailing her terrible battle with lupus.

I first met Elaine during IAAPA Attractions Expo 2004 in Orlando, when I covered a behind-the-scenes tour of Busch Gardens Africa's new stage show, "KaTonga." Only on the job for three weeks, I had very little idea of what in the world I was doing there. Elaine, maybe even sensing how in over my head I felt, treated me kindly that day, answering any questions I had, and we worked together off and on ever since. Whenever I had an entertainment-related question—whether it was BEC-related or not—she was the first person I contacted. It was at her urging that we looked into French park Puy du Fou, which ended up on the cover of the July FUNWORLD, and was one of our best stories of the year so far.

Busch Gardens Africa will hold a memorial for Elaine Aug. 10 (call +1 813/987-5322 for info), which is quite fitting. According to BEC CEO Jim Atchison, as quoted in today's St. Pete Times, Elaine was in the core group of executives who helped transform that park into a well-rounded entertainment destination: "We started to endeavor to make it a whole attraction. Elaine was one of a handful of people who really got that going. It's just amazing and speaks to the significance of her skills."

Elaine College will definitely be missed.