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Beverages in Theme Parks Post‑Pandemic

MAY 2024

Post-pandemic theme park behavior is changing throughout purchasing habits and beverage preferences.

How is theme park traffic changing post pandemic?

The surge in travel and attractions visitation and spending that occurred immediately after the COVID pandemic is finally showing signs that it may be about ready to fade. Top-box intent to return to the last theme park visited is at its lowest point on record, 41% vs a 45% historical average. And the previous low occurred in the prior study in 2021 at 42%.

The inclination to visit theme parks within the coming 12 months is increasing among all guest groups. The largest increases are seen among multicultural and Season Pass holders.  Theme parks hosted 35% more multicultural in 2023 than in 2021. The ratio of multicultural is growing closer to the average mix across the U.S. population (40%).  Season pass holders have a 21% higher intent to return.

Infographic showing intent to visit any theme park by guest niche, for 2021 and 2023. All of the guest niches (season passholders, other ticket types, younger adults, older adults, non-hispanic white, black, hispanic/latino, and other ethnicities) reflect the same trend, where the intent to visit a theme park is higher in 2023 than in 2021.

Source:  H2R & Coca‑Cola® 2023 Theme Parks Food & Beverage Preferences Study

Satisfaction rates

In theme parks, satisfaction results decreased across the board in 2023, with Overall Food and Beverage Satisfaction falling to its lowest point since 2016. When asked to rate overall satisfaction*, 83% were somewhat/very satisfied with Food and Beverage experience, which is down 5 points from the historical average.

Infographic showing the components of satisfaction in 2023, as follows: Value for the price paid for food & beverage (60%), Innovative beverage choices (68%), Food & beverage wait time (70%), Quality of food & beverage (76%), Variety of beverage options (76%), and Friendliness of the staff (77%).

What are beverage best sellers?

Bottled water remains the most popular beverage available at theme parks, followed by an extra-large bottle of water, and Coca‑Cola Freestyle third. However, all top beverages reported small decreases in intent compared to 2021.

Coca‑Cola Freestyle is influential in the decision to purchase because they offer unique combinations and selections. But if given the choice, guests are still more likely (+9%) to purchase from manned freestanding beverage carts.

Infographic showing the top 5 theme park beverages, and the percentage of the audience that probably/definitely would purchase, as follows: bottled water (68%), extra large bottled water (62%), Coca-Cola Freestyle (60%), frozen lemonade (59%), and ICEE/Slurpee (57%).

*Q28: Please indicate how likely you would be to purchase each of the following types of beverages the next time you visit a theme park/amusement park. (5-pt. scale) Source:  H2R & Coca‑Cola 2023 Theme Parks Food & Beverage Preferences Study

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In summary

  • While momentum may be slowing, there is growing interest in a wide range of groups.
  • Satisfaction in food and beverage decreased in 2023 to 83%, which is -5 points from the historical average.
  • Bottled water was the most popular beverage choice for most theme park goers, followed by Coca‑Cola Freestyle.

Overall, these observations illustrate well the ever-changing theme park industry. Growth is always possible when you know where the opportunities lie. ■


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