I think part of the problem, though, is that the game forces you to go overboard with guest facilities. Most real zoos have what, two, three eating areas, located in key areas around the zoo? Planet Zoo requires food/drink stalls at just about every corner to keep people happy. People go to the zoo to see animals. [...]
This might be a cultural difference. Here in the US, at least my local zoo and safari park (San Diego) have lots of food/drink places throughout their parks, several restaurants and lots of smaller food courts or carts. One tends to not consciously register all these shops, but once you pay attention to them, they’re practically everywhere. The San Diego Zoo has 19 “dining” options (as they call it) plus 11 gift shops of various sizes. The Safari Park has 17 dining places and 9 gift shops. They are another way to help support the zoos.
Here’s an interesting article. Some zoos basically have to add more food courts and rides to increase their income, so in this regard, PZ is rather realistic.
Size of the zoo and climate could also play a role. As in PZ, if it’s hot, people get thirsty; if the zoo covers a large area they get tired and need a rest - so why not have something to eat in the shade?
Also, here in the US, people in general tend to eat out much more frequently than in Germany, for instance - at least that was the case when I lived there many years ago. People tend to bring their own food and drinks, whereas in the US, more poeple just buy lunch and/or snacks.
So I personally don’t find the need to place so many food/drink shops that strange or exaggerated.