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?
JL: 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?
JL: 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.