Six Flags Woos Hungry Customers With a Risky Meal Plan

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 The Motley Fool recommends Walt Disney. The Motley Fool owns shares of Walt Disney.

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Just bought 4 passes and two dining passes this year at St Louis. I live 20 minutes away and visit several times a week. I can split the meals and gold passes get free parking-you'll have to be a moron or a child to get silver passes. The food has been great-with the exception of their corn dogs and beef brisket sandwiches. The servers and staff have been very friendly; I can only recall one employee who had an angry demeanor. I would recommend a meal plan to every person with a pass. Even if you only visit a few times a year, it's worth it to forgo a picnic in the parking lot.

July 08 2014 at 4:57 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

This is the 2nd year they are doing this. We bought 4 season passes and 4 meal deals last season and each time you go to the park you have to go get coupons for lunch and dinner. The selection is limited to 6 or 7 items including their horrible pizza. We also buy the refillable cups($1 a refill) and for 2013 if you bought a 4 pack of season passes last year and activated during frightfest they were including a season parking pass on each ticket. The nice thing is now we just go and spend maybe $20 each trip. The total cost for all of this was $600 and we will go 8-10 times this season it comes out to $15-20 per person and if the kids go with their friends we dont have to come up with a bunch of cash and they get free parking ($20)

January 30 2013 at 12:06 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

My family and I went to Six Flag in Maryland this past summer. After waiting on line to get in, and go through security, you had to wait on another line to get searched for outside food. Everyone was bottle necked, pushing and shoving, to get searched for a sandwich. If you had a sandwich or a bag of chips, they took it. We had decided before to buy lunch in the park before we left, so it didn't matter to us, but still ridiculous. The chicken strips we bought actually tasted like a hot dog. I don't know how that's possible. Completely gross. Oh, and they only had half of the places that served food open, and the people who worked there were not really into making sure you got your food in a timely manner. Never never never again will I go to another Six Flags park. I'd rather save my money and drive to Disney! Their food is expensive, but at least it tastes like it should!

January 30 2013 at 9:02 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

The food police will be boycotting Six Flags.

January 30 2013 at 8:32 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

The options for family meals at the Six Flags in St. Louis where all Chix strips, fries and sodas for $40.00 a pop. That is not much of a bargin especially when you only have 3 people and this meal serves 4. We always end up getting nachos and splitting drinks because it's the cheapest option. Heck even a pretzel cost $7.00 and if you want cheese that cost $2.00 more. PARKING don't get me started on that even as season pass holders and handicapped we had to pay $20.00 +gas of course before we walked in the front gate. I don't mind the gas we choose to go out there but when we buy season tickets we should at least get some kind of discount on parking. This has literally stopped us from going several times even though we wanted too.

January 29 2013 at 10:32 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Tracey's comment

@Tracey-------------could you post your comment one more time?

January 29 2013 at 10:41 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I used to be a pass holder every year until I moved and was no longer close to one of the parks. We would go once a week or maybe a few times a month and we hardly ever had a full meal while we were there. Usually we'd just get a pretzel or hotdog to eat or a funnel cake sundae. Their restaurants were so expensive and after riding all day, we never really wanted a full meal anyways. This meal pass would be useless for us. It's an interesting idea, but wouldn't they lose out on a lot of money? Or do they think it would bring in more money because people would eat more?

January 29 2013 at 8:03 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Does Six Flags want to fatten up their customers? That's not possible. They aren't forcing anybody to come everyday and eat both meals. But if somebody chose to do so, then that's their choice. If somebody wants to be fat and unhealthy, it isn't up to us to tell them what they can and can not do. America is changing. Not in a good way.

January 29 2013 at 7:35 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I'd say this was insane aside from one issue,, parking. Even though people can get a freebie meal after they pay the seasonal price, they'll get tired of waiting in line just for food & forking out $6-10 for parking plus spending another ten in gas. Six Flags might not be taking as big a risk as it originally sounded..

January 29 2013 at 7:07 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to skitzlpk's comment

Its $20 to park,$25 if you want VIP

January 30 2013 at 12:10 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Obviously they're banking on the fact that people won't be there everyday.

January 29 2013 at 6:46 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

oh, Linda and Louie. Got me laughing soooo hard.

January 29 2013 at 6:15 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply