The food service at Ocean Park in Hong Kong is the most inspired I’ve ever seen in a theme park. If ever you visit, be sure to check out the Bayview Restaurant and Terrace Café (pictured).
The park’s management describes them as dining “experiences” …and it is right.
Recently I also visited two local restaurants in Vancouver that illustrated perfectly the type of places people in the attractions industry should visit to capture the essence of exciting dining. Few operators other than Tivoli, Disney, Universal and Ocean Park seem to capture that.
Bin 941 is a tightly-seated tapas bar with some very unique tapas, while Kitanoya Guu, also in Vancouver, is another “small plate” restaurant that invites diners to sample a wide variety of Japanese dishes. Both of these attract a youthful (theme park?) clientele that enjoys a vibrant, entertaining atmosphere.
Here, for me, is what made these establishments great:
1) Unique and Inviting Atmosphere. You can’t eat atmosphere, but in our business it is very important. All three restaurants highlighted are in busy locations and areas that may be thought of as hip. The cliffside location at Ocean Park is extraordinary, while Bin 941 features music that fits the pace of dining.
2) Customer Service/Buzz. Customer service in these places extends beyond simply how your order is taken. Perhaps the best of the three is Kitanoya Guu. Here the staff – the entire staff including the cooks in the kitchen – greet you in Japanese, with a “sayonara” when you leave. I’ve never seen anything like this in a restaurant before. Throughout the meal there is the noisy buzz of commentary from the waiting staff and the “show kitchen,” which I am sure would be even more entertaining if only I knew a little Japanese!
3) Unique Food. At all three of these restaurants the menus were so varied that you simply couldn’t wait to visit again. I ate in Kitanoya Guu three times in a five night visit and still did not get round to sampling half the food I planned. It’s worth remembering that no matter how fine everything else is about a restaurant, the food is ultimately what brings you back for more. Many in our industry have forgotten this at their peril.
4) Pricing. Unfortunately, too many parks and attraction operators subscribe to the captive audience theory; people have to eat so the price/value relationship is not always good. All three of the restaurants I visited make you walk away saying “great experience, great food, great value!” You don’t hear that in many theme parks these days, or even some upscale restaurants. Your food service operation can be a key factor in determining the public’s overall view of your facility; so don’t make a meal of it!
Dr Samuels has written over 200 articles for the amusement industry. He provides diverse consulting services in marketing, promotional activities, facility development, customer service, crowd and event management. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org