Six Flags Woos Hungry Customers With a Risky Meal Plan

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Six Flags YouTube.comIt looks like the executives of Six Flags (SIX) might want to consider replacing the "More Flags, More Fun" marketing tagline they retired a couple of seasons ago with the slogan "More Fat, More Fun."

The regional amusement park operator is introducing what it calls the Season Dining Pass at some of its parks this year.

For as little as $69.99, park guests can enjoy a lunch and a dinner with every park visit through the 2013 season. It's a steep upfront payment, but it's easy to see how this can pay off for season pass holders that plan to make the most out of their unlimited admissions.

Do the math. Six Flags Magic Mountain in California is selling a Season Dining Pass at $99.99 -- a steal when you consider the park is open year-round, with roughly 250 operating days this year. Show up every day for both meals and you'll be chowing down on burgers, quesadillas and more for less than 25 cents a meal.

See the problem?

Potential Problems Catering to Goliath Appetites

Does Six Flags want to fatten up its customers? Of course not. Salads and grilled chicken sandwiches are available as options on the dining plans.

However, this could easily become a problem for multiple reasons.

For starters, the young season pass holders who may go for this deal are typically stingy. They're locals. They're looking for deals. They're not the ideal demographic for the park: young families who pay up for meals, merchandise, and actually buy the on-ride photos being sold.

Will it be a problem if concession lines start getting too long because Season Dining Pass members are queuing up for their free grub? The last thing that Six Flags wants to do is turn off one-time visitors with money to spend.

Will this also eventually sour the experience of the park fans with the actual passes? They may find the quality of their experiences diminished if they're merely showing up for the food or lingering around the park between meals.

Skipping Meals at Other Parks

Disney (DIS) would never dream of doing this. Sure, it offers resort guests dining plans that they can use during their stays, but they aren't carte blanche deals for an entire year. And although some of the parks in the Sea World and Universal Studios chains do offer all-day dining passes, they would never dream of offering year-round meals for a low upfront price.

Six Flags rival Cedar Fair (FUN) -- now run by a former Disney executive -- is probably in no hurry to follow Six Flags' lead here either.

When you think about it, even national buffet chains wouldn't dream of this kind of risky promotion. Can you imagine Golden Corral, Sweet Tomatoes, or Cici's Pizza offering annual passes?

Six Flags can counter that it knows what it's doing. It tested this concept out at its Six Flags park in St. Louis. If it was a problem for the company, its guests, or its shareholders it wouldn't be introducing it this month at its flagship park in California.

However, it would be a shock to see these Season Dining Pass offerings continue beyond 2013. Meanwhile, can you please pass the chicken strips?


Motley Fool contributor Rick Aristotle Munarriz owns shares of Walt Disney. He also runs a theme park directory at ParkOutlet.com. The Motley Fool recommends Walt Disney. The Motley Fool owns shares of Walt Disney.




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