Knott’s Berry Farm Puts A New Focus On Food

Written by MiceChat Staff. Posted in Features, In the Parks, Knott's Berry Farm, Knott's Scary Farm, Southern California Parks

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Published on July 22, 2012 at 10:51 pm with 24 Comments

As summer presses on, Knott’s Berry Farm continues to make improvements which add value and substance to the park. Management has been investing in infrastructure, landscaping and set decoration which has truly improved the overall park experience.  But, the one thing that really stands out lately is the focus on improving the quality of food throughout the park.  There is also a continued effort to further fill the park with the little vignettes and peek-ins, that add a bit of extra magic. Knott’s was the one local park which didn’t add a new attraction this year. However, with all of the efforts they have made to improve the value of the Knott’s experience,the reward has been higher attendance levels and increased guest satisfaction. It’s been a great summer for Knott’s Berry Farm so far.

THE TASTE OF KNOTT’S
Knott’s has been very eager to re-brand the food offerings, and for good reason. Knott’s may be known as a theme park today, but it really started as a berry farm and chicken dinner restaurant. The Mrs. Knott’s restaurant was so popular, that Walter Knott began building a ghost town and adding attractions to keep folks entertained. However, once the Knott family sold the park, the focus on food slowly faded.

As with many of the problems that current management has had to tackle, they took this situation very seriously.  Bringing in the big guns, Knott’s called on Russ Knibbs.  Russ, a boisterous food evangelist, began to reinvent the food items park-wide with a commitment to quality ingredients and unique menu items.

MiceChat was invited to a special event this past Friday evening, which featured many of the brand new food items in the park. Here is what they had there for us.

The Wilderness Dance Hall was flanked with tables and samples of the food, served by the managers of the individual restaurants.  We can honestly tell you that we were beyond impressed.


Bruschetta


Vegetarian, black bean Burger – a nice alternative for the vegetarian set.


11 hour slow cooked ribs, with meat so tender it was falling off the bone. Simply fantastic.


The flank steak sandwich was a delightful surprise. Tender, fresh and filled with flavor.


There was even an ahi tuna poke on wonton which was a favorite of Dusty’s.


BBQ ribbletts make a great addition to the menu and were quite tasty.


Many of the items, like this meatball sandwich, serve to fill a comfort food niche.


And one of our absolute favorites was the new jalepeño burger. Even better than it sounds.


Even Knott’s Soak City is getting new menu items. Subs and Veggie Wraps


Glutten Free Pizza – Soak City

The funnel cakes aren’t new, but we’ve learned that Knott’s will soon begin making churros fresh in the park!


But the surprise delicious treat was the chipwhich ice cream sandwich which they make from fresh chocolate chip cookies. a-ma-zing

If Knott’s wants their guests to return loyally (not just once every year or so, but frequently), food is the surest way to their hearts.  Food has always been a fundamental ingredient in the history of the park, and it was high time that Knott’s rediscovered one of its core strengths.  What is the result?  Not just good, but very good food options.

Russ Knibbs, Vice President of food and beverage, spearheaded the changes. He started at some of the  smaller locations, places like Coasters, near Xcelerator and Fireman’s Barbecue in Ghost Town. A particular favorite of ours is the Jalapeño Burger at Coasters, that adds just the right amount of zing and fresh ingredients to create a substantial meal.  Really, we never thought we could like a theme park burger, but this one is great.

The team has even begun to serve fresh squeezed lemonade in Ghost Town and they opened a fresh fruit cart in Camp Snoopy.  Everywhere, they are adding fresh, natural ingredients.


Russ Knibbs, Vice President, Food and Beverage

Russ Promises that they are far from done.  One week ago, the Ghost Town Grill debuted a new menu that he is very proud of and suggests that everyone give it a try.


The exterior menus have yet to be replaced.

Russ’ favorite particular item of the new offerings in the park?  The flank steak sandwich at the Fireman’s Brigade Barbecue.  But there is more.  He was quick to mention the new, patio table service at Spurs on Friday through Monday nights.  A tapas style menu offering ahi poke, bruschetta, sliders and other items, is complimented with cocktails and live music. The goal is to provide a relaxing evening escape for adults. What a fantastic change of pace.

One bit of delicious news that Russ offered to us was pretty interesting.  While he insists that they will never be finished improving on the food offerings, he mentioned that they will be putting an end to the  sad state of churros in the park (you know, the frozen sticks which are toasted in those conveyor belt mini ovens).  In fact, they plan on making their own Churros soon, from scratch.  We cannot wait!

Granted, this event was a showcase for the food, and we’ve yet to try them out in the various restaurants on a regular business day..  We have already gone back for the Jalapeño Burger at Coasters and it was just as good as it was Friday.  We will continue to report on the park foods and the enticing new items as they are added.

BUSY BUT MANAGEABLE
As we have said before, Knott’s continues to plus the park experience and make that affordable gate fee seem like a better and better deal.  The rising amount of guests in the park are a testament to the fact that the Knott’s strategy is working.

Fortunately, the park has a tremendous capacity to handle crowds and the park is still very manageable and enjoyable.

CHARLESTON CIRCLE
The planters in Charleston Circle are being refreshed again.  We caught them in transition.

Here’s what they looked like last week.

They have replaced the petunias with salvia and celosia.  These will do well in the full sun.

DETAILS
When Knott’s began to spruce the place up it was an encouraging thing to see.  But many wondered if they would be keeping it up or if the improvements were just lipstick on a pig.  Happily, we can report that they have been maintaining the new touches nicely.

Deadwood Dick’s grave is still planted and kept up

Just inside the Ghost Town Depot the “Ticket Office” has been lovingly decorated.


The telegraph machine taps out letters that were to and from Walter and Cordelia Knott.

Sadly, if people don’t get wise soon, they may have to remove the charming water pump on Main Street in Ghost Town.  Folks just can’t help themselves when there is water nearby.  They have to get in it and/or drink it.

It’s for the “Horsez Only”

We did run into the charming streetmosphere townspeople again,

They are always ready with a smile.

Back in Calico Square, we are waiting for the Windmill to make a return.  (We hope)

Saloon
They have also gone in and dressed the Saloon a bit more.


Now with more fake booze!

HAUNT
We are on Haunt watch 2012 now.  So far, all of the action has been happening backstage.  Construction has begun on four of the mazes backstage, Delerium, Dominion of the Dead, Endgames, and Trick Or Treat.  However, we have yet to see any real construction or changes on stage.

A fancy new VIP up-charge maze called “Trapped” will make its home in this location. We are very interested to see how this new maze will be handled.

Please come join us on Saturday September 22nd  for MiceChat’s KNOTT’S SCARY FARM 40th Anniversary HALLOWEEN HAUNT SPOOCTACULAR 9.22.12.  Tickets will be on sale soon for this extra special Haunt event! If you haven’t signed up for MiceChat’s newsletters, please do so today, so you don’t miss out on any of our great events.

And that’s our delicious news from Knott’s for this week.

 

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24 Comments

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  1. I visited Knotts on Sunday the 8th of July. Coming off July the 4th I expected the place to be packed out that Weekend like it was at Universal and SeaWorld. But the place felt dead to me with zero wait times and uncrowded walk ways. Shows like the Stunt show and Happiness with Snoppy played to 25% capacity. So very suprised to read that attendance is actually up this Summer. I also took into account most of the rides have low capacity and slow loading times. I am glad Knotts is improving the food quality and the loaded Funnel Cake I experienced was heaven. But I won’t be returning just for the food alone. It was my first trip in a number of years and while it was fun to revisit rides like the Mine Train and Log Ride these things are also not worth visiting frequently. Hoping we’ll see the addition of new rides soon that can convince me to return to the park during my annual trips to Southern California. Right now I don’t have any real desire to visit again. But could easily visit SeaWorld, Universal or Disney tomorrow.

    And with the Park making such an effort to improve the standards in show and food. How about addressing the lack of Knotts inspired merchandise next. And removing that reference to Six Flags in the Stunt Show. Since it comes across as Knotts views Six Flags as competition. Which goes against the recent direction I have seen the park heading in!

  2. I hope Knott’s understands that thematic experiences are what bring people in, not roller coasters and off the shelf rides. This is the reason why Knott’s Scary Farm is the busiest time of the year and Disneyland does so well. Hopefully they will build another dark ride in the near future that can rival any theme park like Kingdom of the Dinosaurs and Knott’s Berry Tales back in their prime. I feel now is the time, Disney and Universal are vulnerable and are not taking advantage of unique or original ideas, a segment that Knott’s could easily fulfill. If they started churning out new attractions like the Log Ride/Calico with state of the art effects I would have no issue with dropping my Disney annual pass for theirs. Please invest in your park, I promise it will not go unrewarded.

    • I’m in agreement with Seawolf. Knott’s was the best family park in the early 90′s. Roaring 20′s themed area, Fiesta area, and the calm of the reflection pool when you just need to rest after a chicken dinner. Having a coaster plopped in a convenient space just because it is available is counter productive in my opinion. A new innovative dark ride would be wonderful! My family would certainly spend our leisure time there once again if the park improvements were to match the food improvements.

  3. Good for Knott’s. I’m shocked at myself for wanting to go back to try all the remaining stuff in Cars Land I haven’t eaton. So food does add to the experience. I went to Universal on this Disneyland trip… will be going to Knott’s the next time. The great little touches I like(I don’t go on roller coasters) at a great price point. Keep it up Knott’s, can’t wait to go.

    Oh, and a dark ride WOULD be an amazing addition. However I would never mention the grin making Knott’s Berry Tales and the unimaginative/dull Kingdom of the Dinosaurs in the same sentence.

  4. Ya it needs more family friends rides like a dark ride like a interactive Sally dark ride
    Off the shelf is not wneeded needed they need to have rides that themed

  5. Excellent article!
    My then six-year-old fell in love with Knott’s last year as part of our two-year break from Disneyland. Their season passes were an amazing deal and Jaguar was the first “big” coaster she ever rode–a great training coaster that almost the whole family can ride.

    Malin, I like your posts, but I disagree with your objection to the 6-Flags reference at the stunt show. Maybe the guy delivering the joke was having an off day, but I love having underdog Knott’s going after M. Mtn, D land & Universal in a funny way. After one train robber asked my daughter for money and heard her say she didn’t have any, he yelled to his partner, “They ain’t got no money!” His partner yelled back, “Course not. If they did they’d be at Disneyland!” Great joke for more than one reason.

    I’d like the Silver Bullet moved and a permanent, ride-through haunted house added.

    And I’d like Knott’s Ghost Town theme spread to even more areas of the park.

  6. nice to see you covering something other then Disney parks! i rarely read your site since your such a disney centric site where you cover ad nauseum every detail of disney whether it be a new attraction or a new popcorn box – gets very BORING! so KUDOS to stepping out of your norm. i imagine it must feel good!

    • We’ve been covering Knott’s, Universal, Six Flags, SeaWorld, Legoland, and other parks for years. Usually on Fridays. Here’s a link to all of our recent Southern California “In The Parks” columns http://micechat.com/category/features/southern-california-theme-parks/

      We also have a column dedicated to Central Florida attractions (Universal Orlando, SeaWorld Orlando, etc) called “Orlando Parkhopper.”

      We’re really proud of our broad coverage of the theme parks and hope that more Disney fans will learn to stretch their wings and enjoy a broader variety of entertainment options.

  7. Looks like that Nibbs guy knows a thing or two about food.

  8. The changes to the food service are VERY welcome! (although I will miss the Frisco Burger at Ghost Town Grill).

    I, too, would love to see a new dark ride put in somewhere. And I’d like to have the haunted Shack back. And I’d like a mansion and a yacht. I doubt any of that’s happening anytime soon.

    mechanikins, you should hang around here more. You’d see that the good folks here at MiceAge/MiceChat regularly do features on Sea World, Universal, Six Flags and other parks.

  9. Great article on Knott’s, thank you. That explains the check-in table I saw on Friday night! Darn, I would have paid to attend that if I could. Attendance was definitely quite healthy. Lines were long enough that we only rode a few people-eating attractions and left the rest for a slower day. The Ghost Town Grill menu looked really good – what impressed me the most was the number of items available vs. a typical Disney menu of 5 or 6 entrees at best – the only thing is, they removed the fried chicken??? This was the best place to go for this when the line in front was too long :(

    Thematically they’re doing well on the upgrades/replacements, but the Boardwalk area is still such a dog. Waiting in line for the Sky Cabin I couldn’t help but notice a bunch of concrete around me and nothing more. Perilous looks terrible, as usual, and wastes a huge amount of real estate. And seeing the Roaring 20′s sign dark and disconnected from power is beyond sad.

    Food upgrades are a great thing – Disney’s had much success with them as of late – but both Knott’s and Six Flag’s food prices have been sky high to make up for their reduced admission cost. Gotta be careful not to price out your customers who can just as easily stop at McDonald’s before they head into the park.

  10. I let my Season Pass expire, but I will renew sometime in the future. The food needs better marketing. For the few times that I eaten there, it is mostly at the Chicken restaurant and Pink’s at the outside locations. The food inside the park wasn’t very good. It is nice to see improvements.

    I hope they make improvements to the Marketplace stores and restaurants. The displays and merchandise are terrible. Not that I think they should fire their long-time employees, but their employees reflect the merchandise being sold inside. Old and Tired. Either fix the merchandise or fire the employees.

    I hope they don’t add yet another roller coaster. I can’t handle their thrill rides. Their family rides are boring. Their family coasters need to be fixed. The seats are too small to fit tall people like myself.

    Their shows need better production values with the ice show as the only exceptional one.

  11. I went to Knott’s last week when I was on a “fumication” (my home was being fumigated for termites). I tried a couple of the new food items. I wish I had known about the flank steak sandwich, as I would have tried it. Oh, well, next time. I tried the “new and improved” hamburgers. They were pretty good except that the tomato they put on them was sliced about half an inch thick or thicker and they put two slices. I had a hard time getting my mouth around the burger because it was too tall and thick. Ended up being kind of messy to eat. For dinner, I tried one of the pizza’s. It was pretty good. I’m very glad that they have taken steps to improve the food. Especially for what food costs there.

    I was able to catch some of the new streetmosphere characters and Ghost Town skits. Some of the new entertainment was dark the day I was there, so I didn’t get to see it. The Ice Show was ddark, so missed it. I wasn’t really interested in the “All Wheels” stunt show, but stopped to watch it and ended up really enjoying it.

    Mostly, I spent the day shooting video around the Ghost Town area, as I hadn’t done that in several years. I was VERY happy that they changed the background music to music that is appropriate to the Ghost Town theme. When they were playing the pop music, I was not inclined to spend much time in Ghost Town, or, even go to the park because it was so unpleasant. I’m so glad to see Knott’s making some good strides to make improvements and return to being a place that I’ll want to spend more time at.

  12. They should make fresh water come out of that pump. It could then drain into a tank that is used for landscaping or toilets, which are going to use that much water, anyway. If people want to drink or splash water on themselves, then let it be part of the experience.

    They need more family-friendly rides, like Knott’s Beary Tales or Kingdom of the Dinosaurs. I don’t go there anymore because it is all thrill rides.

    I like the smooth pavement. Disneyland used to have that. Hope it comes back one day.

  13. It’s encouraging to see Knott’s taking steps in the right direction. I hope they keep up these improvements and refurbishments, they do make a difference.

    Knott’s is just two or three good rides away from becoming a must-see attraction in SoCal. A Snoopy/Peanuts dark ride that can accommodate seasonal overlays for Halloween and Christmas is a winner. They put on a great haunt so why can’t they put a year-round haunted shack walk-through in the park again? Finally a more thrilling dark ride like Kingdom of the Dinosaurs would really cinch the deal. Here’s hoping….

  14. Hope they do something with the Mexican food in that walk up next to the merry go round.
    We had the taco and and notchos (sp?) They were very bad. Same as a street taco you can buy all over soca for $.99. With tax came to five bucks ea. The nochos ( you know) had cold cheese and limp chips. Needless to say we will wait for the promised up grades b4 eating there again.

  15. Almost forgot! No mention of the new Ghost Town Miners.
    They appeared in DCA as the Miner 49ers The were fired by Disney after nine years. No room for older people in the new DCA. Sad.
    Their contract is only for a short time. See tthem by Ghost Rider Friday through Monday. At 6:30 on.

    • We’ll be sure to feature them soon. We actually DID get to hear them at the food event we attended on Friday night and it was such a nice surprise to see them. Recognized them right away. Disney’s loss is absolutely Knott’s gain!