Dwell time, safety, repeat visitation, attracting non-surfers, etc… the list of goals and key metrics to measure success when operating a surf park may seem endless. That’s why tackling the question of what metrics are the most important for a surf venue, is no easy task, as there are so many factors at play depending on the amenities in the park, location, wave technology type, and so much more.
To gain some insight and make this complicated topic much more digestible, we got together with operations expert Chris Sutton from Select Contracts. Chris has a background in leisure operations for all types of adventure parks and has been an operator for surf parks during the infancy of this industry. This gives him a valuable perspective into this topic, as him and his team at have overcome many of the challenges that surf parks face every day. What advice does Chris have to give? Read on to find out, all in the words of Chris Sutton…
If you missed part 1 with Skip Taylor from Surf Park Management, you can catch up here.
What are some of main metrics that measure success for any venue?
At Select Contracts, we look at everything from a health and safety perspective, so having cast iron operating manuals in place, the best staff training you can get, and ensuring the processes are followed to the letter day in and day out. This involves having an amazing team with everybody tracking safety as that is the #1 priority. Outside of that, the next important metrics is dwell time at a surf park. Trying to increase this as much as possible is so important and we want guests to at least have something to eat whilst they are on site surfing. Best case is to have a host of attractions for guests to participate in to increase dwell time and also widen the demographic as much as possible outside of that core surf market.
What are some of the metrics unique to surf parks?
A surf pool is limited by capacity, therefore, the main metric for the pool itself is keeping the pool booked as much as possible whether that is public sessions, private sessions or events. You must innovate constantly to keep those sessions booked up. One of the surf parks we operated was booked at over 80% occupancy year-round, the other was just less than that. Keeping capacity utilization rates high is always a challenge with seasons and weather. We keep a keen eye on the capacity utilization rates across surfer segments/wave sessions from beginner to expert, making sure we are serving the existing demand well but also getting as many new people as possible involved to grow the local market in the long term. Another unique surf park metric we focus on are the operating and R&R costs as a percentage of pool revenue, to ensure we have a sustainable profit model and adjust procedures and processes if needed.
What about short term measurements? A sustainable business model is important overtime – what can a surf park act on and measure in the short term to help drive success in the long-term?
There are a lot of surf parks in development around the world so you never know when one might open nearby and will become a competitor. Therefore, there is no choice but to widen the demographic as much as possible to get surfers and non-surfers alike. This is measurable short term but is critical to long term success. Aside from just surfers, attracting whole families to come, attracting spectators, attracting corporates and birthday parties is also incredibly important. All of these non-surfers can be cross promoted and this will increase that surfer visitation with lessons and clinics. Surf parks need to create a culture to differentiate themselves from any future competitors.
“ X amount of people came through the gate, we made X amount of money, and it took X amount to operate.” Can it be this simple? What is missing or better yet, what is not being capitalized on from this mindset?
From a financial tracking perspective, that is what surf park owners want to see. What is the profit margin and how can that sustain the business through the peaks and troughs of a typical year. All operating costs (including payroll) need to be examined daily and operators cannot get complacent to ensure the best profitability for owners without affecting that core focus of health and safety. Outside of the owner’s financial motivations, the thing we focus on as an operator looking for long term success is the culture at the park, both in the water and out. Creating a culture which is core to the surfing lifestyle but is inclusive of all skill levels and motivations is key for long-term success. This culture needs to start with the staff and how they interact with guests – giving them tips, helping with their skills progression to learn, and generally promoting all guests to have a good time. Once the staff shows guests that this is how the park runs, the guests almost always take it on themselves to continue the inviting culture, keeping the stoke high and spreading the word about the venue.
From an operations perspective, what are some common challenges regarding operating a pool and venue that directly impact these metrics?
Reliability of surf technology is an important one, ensuring that all preventative maintenance is done so that there are no faults that would need the surf park to close down during operating hours. That really hurts the reputation of a venue. Having the right team is another, a team who all work as a team, look out for each other and who understand that the customer is #1 to ensure that every guest gets the most amazing experience possible.
Want to get in touch with Chris and the Select Contracts team? Contact them here to say hello and talk about your project.
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