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Friday, May 28, 2010

Meet Team Smiley!

It's that time of year again....the time when Smiley's Cookie Cruiser and our team of smile experts hit the road to visit community events in PA, OH, and WV. Want to know where they're headed? Check out http://www.findsmiley.com/ to see where you can find them next!

This year, we have 5 new team members who are excited to meet all of Smiley's adoring fans. Make sure you say 'hi' or give them a friendly honk if you see them out on the road! Read on to find out a little more about this fun-loving crew.

Hey everyone! I'm Leah and I'm a senior corporate communications major at Robert Morris University (Go Colonials!!). Not only do I love Eat'n Park, but I also love the Steelers and Penguins...after all, what would Pittsburgh be without Eat'n Park and the black and gold? I've been a team member for a year as a server at the New Stanton Eat’n Park and I'm so excited to be a member of Team Smiley 2010. One of my favorite things at Eat'n Park is the Shredded Pot Roast Sandwich; it's so delicious! My favorite Smiley Cookie is the Halloween edition; the candy corn eyes and nose make the cookies even more delicious! I am so excited to see all of your smiling faces this summer when Smiley and his team hit the road for some awesome events!

Hello! My name is Brandy and I am a senior marketing major at Saint Vincent College in Latrobe, PA. I'm so excited for Team Smiley 2010 - I get to put smiles on people's faces all summer long! My favorite thing to eat at Eat'n Park is the Chicken Fillets. I always get a side of garden rice and mashed potatoes and gravy with them. Mmmm! For dessert, I can't resist a piece of fresh lemon meringue pie. :) I hope you are as excited as I am to kick off the summer with Smiley!

Hi! My name is Ethan and I’m a Communications major with a Business minor going into my junior year at John Carroll University. I grew up near Pittsburgh in the small town of Irwin, PA. I enjoy spending time with my friends and family, seeing movies, and staying active. When it comes to Eat’n Park, the Buffalo Chicken Salad is by far my favorite meal (plus a desert of Grilled Stickies à la Mode)!

Hi, my name is Lauren and I am a senior marketing major at Saint Vincent College. I have lived in Pittsburgh my whole life and have been an Eat'n Park team member since 2006, as a server at the big McKnight Road restaurant. Also, living in The City of Champions is very fitting for me, because I love sports, especially hockey! Lets Go Pens!!!! I am very excited for what this summer has to hold for me, and I know that being part of Team Smiley is going to be a great learning experience, loaded with tons of fun! On my days off from working with Team Smiley, you will find me continuing to smile at my favorite place in Pittsburgh: Kennywood. Oh yeah, I have a season pass!!! If you see me driving the Cookie Cruiser down your local roadway make sure to give me a wave!

Hi! My name is Ashley and I attend Marietta College where I am studying marketing. I have grown up in Pittsburgh loving Eat'n Park. It's hard to name my favorite menu item when I have so many favorites. If I had to pick one, it would be the Gourmet Grilled Cheese Sandwich and, of course, the Smiley Cookies. I have a sweet tooth, so Smiley Cookies are a perfect treat! The bunny-shaped Smiley Cookies are my favorite. I love working for Team Smiley because our mission is to bring smiles to our customers. I am so excited to meet all of our Smiley fans this summer. Share

Friday, May 14, 2010

Eat'n Park's commitment to healthy eating wins a positive review

If you’ve been following us here on our blog, you know that we have a strong commitment to the communities in which we do business. For years, we’ve taken steps to ensure that our guests recognize Eat’n Park as a trusted source not just for healthy, local food, but for business practices that put our guests and their communities first.

But we don’t always publicize everything we’re doing, so we aren’t surprised when guests are unaware of our efforts. Recently, a blogger caught our attention with when he mentioned Eat’n Park in one of his posts. Jim, a veteran of the food service industry, writes a blog called the “Food Vigilante," where he seeks to expose the good, the bad, and the ugly in the world of food service.

Back in March, the Food Vigilante (FV, for short) was reviewing his experience at a local ethnic restaurant, and recommended that his readers go there, rather than to an “Eat n’ Park…or any other family chain and certainly not to a fast food joint. You’ll just be wasting your money on processed food.”

Well, of course that caught our attention. I posted a response to FV to let him know about our hand-breaded fish, our local produce, and our hand-cut veggies, among other things. “Give us another try,” I said. FV called us out – if we could show him what we’re doing to provide our guests with fresh, healthy food, he’d eat his words. Challenge accepted.

I set up a meeting with FV, and invited some of my colleagues: fellow blog contributors Jamie and Regis, as well as Brooks, who oversees purchasing; and Mercy, who heads up operations. FV brought his concerns to the table, and to his surprise, we explained how we shared those same concerns, and how we had addressed them. Trans-fat-free fryer oil that’s recycled into biodiesel fuel – check. Catering to guests’ dietary needs with gluten-free, reduced-sodium, vegetarian, and low-cal, low-fat items - check. Buying fresh produce from local farmers – check (actually, we’ve pretty much pioneered local sourcing in this area).

FV was floored to learn about these initiatives, and he stayed true to his word. Click here to visit FV’s blog to read his take on our meeting. Hopefully, you’ll agree that we’ve risen to the challenge.

And to our new friend, the Food Vigilante, we thank you for the opportunity to share our efforts with you and your readers. We look forward to seeing you at Eat’n Park!

Kevin O’Connell
S.V.P. of Marketing Share

Team Appreciation Day at Eat’n Park

Last Friday night, I was seeing strawberries in my sleep. Don’t worry, I’m not going on another tangent about how much we love them here at Eat’n Park (just click here if you want to hear about that). No, I was dreaming about strawberries because I spent the day making strawberry pies at our Natrona Heights Eat’n Park in Pittsburgh, PA. I “plucked” enough strawberries for more than a dozen pies – and that’s a lot of strawberries!

I had the privilege of this duty because Friday was Team Appreciation Day at Eat’n Park. Every year, the folks from our headquarters (myself included) head out into the field to spend a day working alongside the team members who are the face of our company. This day is a tradition that’s taken place for the last 19 years, and it’s a great opportunity for us to thank the team members whose hard work and enthusiasm day in and day out make Eat’n Park the special place that it is.

I started my day with a lesson from Scott, who trained me on the proper way to make a strawberry pie. Of course, this involved the tedious aforementioned task of “plucking” (removing the tops from) a massive quantity of strawberries. I do believe that I detected Scott trying to hide a smug grin as he watched me fumble with the giant berries. Then, I learned how to properly place the berries in the shell so that they’d form a sturdy mound, then glaze them without disturbing the eye-pleasing shape. Who knew that so much care went in to making each and every pie? I came away with a new appreciation for the pies and the team members who handcraft them every day during this time of year.

Scott and his cohorts really put me to work on Friday, and I enjoyed every minute of it. In the dining room, I got to talk to some of the restaurant’s regulars, who referred to their servers like they were old friends. It was a reminder of why Eat’n Park is the Place for Smiles – our team members take their jobs to heart and treat our guests like family.

All in all, I had a great day and am already looking forward to next year. And next time I enjoy a piece of strawberry pie, I’ll be sure to savor every bite, knowing the time and care that someone put into making that gorgeous slice of heaven.

Team Smiley Share

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Win exclusive Kennywood tickets and be one of the first riders on the new Sky Rocket rollercoaster!

We are partnering with Kennywood Park to offer 24 lucky Eat’n Park guests an exclusive opportunity: to be among the first riders on Kennywood’s brand new rollercoaster, the Sky Rocket! The winners of this contest and their chosen guests will enter the park early on the Sky Rocket’s opening day, and will be able to ride the coaster before it opens to the public.

Click here to submit your entry today! Deadline to enter is Sunday, May 23.

The Sky Rocket definitely isn’t short on thrills. It launches out of the gate, accelerating from 0 to 50 m.p.h. in under 3 seconds. With a 95-foot climb followed by a heart-pounding 90-degree drop, plus loops, twists, and turns, you’ll say goodbye to gravity and hello to an adrenaline rush. This coaster is not for the faint of heart!

So if you’re down for the ride of your life, click here for your chance to win. Opening day is tentatively set for May 31, 2010, but is subject to change at Kennywood’s discretion.

NO PURCHASE NECESSARY. VOID WHERE PROHIBITED. Legal residents of the 50 United States (D.C.) 18 years and older, Ends 05/23/10. To enter and for Official Rules, including odds, free methods of entry and prize descriptions, visit www.eatnpark.com/kennywood.

The contest has ended, and we have our winners! Congratulations to:

Terri M. – Jeannette, PA
Margaret B. – McKees Rocks, PA
Tina P. – Freeport, PA
Jack S. – Latrobe, PA
Tara S. – Verona, PA
Joseph S. – Munhall, PA
Kenny K. – Sharon, PA
Vickie D. – Bessemer, PA
Gil G. – Bethel Park, PA
Kathy F. – Cheswick, PA
Michele B. – Imperial , PA
Cindy D. – Pittsburgh, PA
Sandy R. - Munhall, PA
Joy H. – Monaca, PA
Sylvia P. – Cortland, OH
Nelson G. – Pittsburgh, PA
John F. – Monreville, PA
Lori O. – Plum, PA
Lisa I. – Butler, PA
George S. – Verona, PA
Bob M. – Pittsburgh, PA
Kathie T. – Jeannette, PA
Alex H. – Pittsburgh, PA
Rich V. – Irwin, PA Share

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Farm Tour 2010

I love spring time. As the snow on the ground begins to melt and warmer weather rolls in, I know it’s time to make my annual pilgrimage to our farmers, who provide us with local produce through our FarmSource program . I always find these visits to be very educational and exciting. Even though there are not many crops growing yet, my objective is to make sure our farmers understand what we are looking for in the coming year.

My first stops this year were at Harvest Valley Farms where I met with Art King, and Brenckle’s Farm and Greenhouses where I spoke with Don Brenckle. We have been working with these two farmers for the past 5 years, so they know the drill and always look for us to try to execute something new. Both of these farmers grow tomatoes, squash, cucumbers, peppers, beets, greens and corn.

This year, Don is constructing a 5 acre hoophouse to grow produce for us. It’s so cool to come across farmers that are excited about extending their growing season and ultimately looking for direction from their customers.

Hoophouse (above) – a structure used as a greenhouse or a season extension, characterized by a half-round "hoop" shape. Hoop houses are typically constructed of lengths of PVC pipe, which is both flexible and sturdy.
We want to hear from OUR customers also…and that means YOU. What kind of local produce would you like to see featured at Eat’n Park? Because of the extended growing season, the hoophouse may allow us to offer items that we otherwise wouldn’t be able to. We want to hear your suggestions, so post them here!

Another of my spring visits this year was to an artisan cheese producer, Emerald Valley Farm Artisan Cheese in Scenery Hill, PA. This farm is absolutely gorgeous, from the rolling hills to the picturesque homestead. I love visiting farms because I get a chance to see how they are raising their animals and what they are eating. This family-run farm has been raising dairy cows for over 50 years, and they have some of the healthiest looking cows.

When a 4th generation member of this farming family wanted to start diverting some of the milk toward cheese production, Emerald Valley was born. They still have about ½ of their milk going to a local dairy to be processed into fluid milk. Over the course of the next 2 to 3 years, their goal is to have 100% of their fluid milk diverted to making cheese. At Eat’n Park, one of our goals is to begin using locally-produced cheese in our restaurants, so hopefully, with Emerald Valley’s help, we can make that a reality.

The local growing season will be upon us soon. At Eat’n Park, you’ll see local ingredients being featured not just on our salad bar, but also in our menu items. At home, remember that buying locally is not only good for you; it’s good for the environment because less energy is used in transporting local produce, meat, and dairy products, among other reasons. Go to LocalHarvest.org and enter your zip code to find a listing of farmer’s markets near you.

Until next time,
Jamie Share