I went ahead and read the transcript from the conference call today. It was really our first opportunity to get official public statements from the new CEO Selim Bassoul and what he envisions, plus comments from VP and CFO Sandeep Reddy. Six Flags is the chain I frequent the most, but it's not by choice, it's just how it works out geographically for me. Six Flags has always left me wanting more, it's my least favorite major chain. Bassoul had a great statement today: "no more over reliance simply on our brand and our history. We must elevate our game to the next level". Six Flags has caught some backlash with their recent changes, including from me. But realistically, most of us agree Six Flags is inferior to other chains. And that is not going to change without a shakeup. @swfan1988 covered the financials pretty well above with some overarching thoughts. I thought I would list other takeaways from the conference call that sheds some light on the future.
Bassoul spent the first 100 days decentralizing the company and "empowering business unit leaders" (park presidents)
The culture has been or will be reset. This goes back to "no more over reliance simply on our brand and our history. We must elevate our game to the next level". Their goal is to be the most innovating and customer-obsessed theme park company in the world. Big focus on premiumization
They stated they have downsized, but that they have also added talent, particularly to culinary
They plan on paying down debt and refinancing it "later this year"
They have 6 initiatives to improving guest experience
Improving efficiency and convivence by reducing wait times, ride downtime and opening rides "when our guests arrive". They state they will accomplish this by moving staff from lower-value activities to rides and through a use of single rider lines for full cycles. They also mentioned they will experiment with "virtual fueling technology" (virtual queues?). They want to add digital boards through the parks that show wait times for rides and restaurants.
Creating fun through employee friendliness (this made me think of KI, Dollywood)
Park cleanliness. This includes "better curb appeal at the front gate", and Bassoul stated that several of the bigger parks are in the process of updating the front gate experience right now and hope to finish those by peak summer season
Better quality food. This was known, but Bassoul goes as far as saying they have been experimenting with their hot dogs, burgers and chicken tenders in his first 100 days and that based on what he has tasted so far "the quality of these items is better than any theme parks I've ever visited". He states this will be ready this spring. Over time he wants to include healthier options, more grilled items and better refreshments (states coffee and alcohol)
Guest amenities. More benches and shade are already on the way for this season
Guest facing technology. Basically upgrades to the app, to the point it will become "a remote control that facilitates a seamless guest experience"
Bassoul says that surveys have revealed that Six Flags has left a lot of money on the table with guests who hardly spend any money. They are combating this with higher prices.
The new pricing program in the past weeks has been a success and they are ready to roll it out chain wide. They have been very pleased with the early results.
They will simplify ticket offerings but combine season passes and memberships into a new product lineup with fewer choices and targeted blackout dates
For capital allocation strategy, #1 priority is reinvesting into the business and leading the industry in innovation. BUT he states that historically innovation was measured in term of thrill rights. He basically says that Six Flags already has enough thrills at their parks, "and while we continue to selectively add new coasters over time", the innovation he speaks of is in terms of guest facing technology, food, and other infrastructure. #2 priority is paying down debt.
Over time they may consider mergers and acquisitions but Bassoul does not see it in the "foreseeable future"
For labor, for anything that is not specifically guest facing, they are looking into automation. They specifically mention automating the back of the kitchen and security.
They will be changing up marketing to explain the shift of their "rebrand". They plan to do this on social media, through influencers, and investing in search engine optimization
Overall I think it is exciting for change. I have not fully supported everything that has happened over the park few months but it was nice to hear specifically what Bassoul has in mind for the future. A little concerned about rides going forward, but there's a decent amount to get excited about this season!