IT IS amazing how different influences affect our lives and our businesses. For example, the global food network channels have dramatically changed the way we cook and eat. The shows on television are promoting food and people love these shows. Surveys show that people are spending more time in the kitchen after being inspired by watching TV food programmes. What is really interesting is that people are substantially influenced by the food programmes they watch. Shows like The Great British Bake Off, Top Chef, Hell’s Kitchen, re-runs of Julia Child and Cooking with Julia have all influenced our eating habits and what we like and what we want to test.
There is one show, however, that has definitely affected our amusement/theme park/attractions industry and that show is entitled Carnival Eats! We all know that, after the rides and entertainment, food is the second most important part of a person’s experience and reason to visit an attraction. When people go to a park, they cast away their inhibitions as they relate to diets and want to experience and eat crazy foods.
State fairs across the United States, like in Ohio, Texas and Wisconsin, are renowned for serving deep fried foods. Crazy treats that one would never conceive to deep fry, like gummy bears, maple bacon, Belgian waffles, Snickers candy bars, chicken skin, Frito pies, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, cookie dough, bubble gum, cheesecake, fried Kool-Aid balls and even Coca-Cola, have all been deep fried and consumed!
The point is that people like crazy foods and will try anything. State fairs and carnivals learned years ago that novelty foods will tempt a person’s palate. Novelty foods also bring in a lot of revenue for the fairs and carnivals, so they keep inventing them.
Today, parks all over the world are hosting food experiences over a series of days and weekends to bring people out to the parks. One of the best examples is Epcot at Disney World, Orlando. This year, they are hosting their 23rd year of presenting their huge International Food and Wine Festival. Why? Because people love it! From all over, they love to come and experience different unknown foods and cuisines. Speciality foods from all over the world, including Moroccan, Brazilian, French, Norwegian, Irish, Italian, African, Greek and many more wonderful treats will be served. Parks are presenting a “party in your mouth.” These programmes are wonderful ways to try, taste and explore global cuisines that many people have never had the opportunity to try before.
About 55+ years ago, Disneyland introduced the chocolate covered banana. It was an instant hit among park goers. Disney could not make them fast enough and was prone to run out of them every day. What was it? A banana, frozen, covered in chocolate and rolled in peanuts. These three things that people loved to eat were combined, put on a stick and turned into a delicious walk-around park novelty treat. How simple when you think about it. From this single treat, fairs, carnivals, parks and other attractions began testing and inventing anything that could be eaten on a stick or fried and served. Today, the list goes on and on of crazy edible (and maybe some not so edible) treats.
I believe that permanent park facilities will continue to watch and search the traveling fairs and carnivals to see what visitors want and like. Some may be crazy, even questionable, but if it is novel and fun, people will line up to try it. We know for sure that our guests are inclined to try anything once. If it’s good, like the Disney chocolate covered banana, they will come back for another taste.
By Dennis Speigel
Continuing his series of articles on the attractions industry, International Theme Park Services (ITPS) president Dennis Speigel looks at the attraction of ‘crazy’ food treats at parks and the benefits they bring
Dennis Speigel is president of International Theme Park Services (ITPS), based in Cincinnati, Ohio, USA, and has over 50 years of experience in the theme park and leisure industry. Since its inception in 1983 ITPS has worked on over 500 projects in 50 countries and is uniquely qualified to assist in all aspects of entertainment project development.