The wildly popular Netflix show “Tidying Up with Marie Kondo” now has people around the world placing a greater emphasis minimizing and decluttering their lives.
With some tweaks, these same principles by the organizing and lifestyle expert can translate to the family entertainment center (FEC) universe. Check out these seven ways owners and operators can evaluate their inventory, refresh their facility, and, to borrow a phrase from Kondo, “spark joy” for their guests.
Failing to mix up the game, ride, and attraction selection from year to year will almost guarantee a dip in revenue, especially at venues that rely on repeat business, says Evan Anastasiadis. “Keeping it all the same would be a crime and bore your guests.”
Practicing what he preaches, the owner of Kids Fun City, in Toronto, Canada, solicited guest feedback and asked industry colleagues at IAAPA Education events including IAAPA FEC Summit for advice on making changes. Based on this insight, he recently installed a redemption area to replace his underperforming mini-golf, upgraded the toddler area to include more touchscreens, and added a millennial-friendly menu for his café. With the food upgrades, Anastasiadis now relies on locally sourced ingredients and features items like egg and avocado for burger toppings.
Follow a Buying Strategy
When purchasing new equipment, facilities should follow a buying strategy to set themselves up for success, says Michael Scholz, technical and operations manager for the Al Hokair Group in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. Here are some items and questions he puts on the top of his checklist:
- Owners and operators shouldn’t let their own biases get in the way when buying pieces, including new redemption games, video games, photo booths, etc.; make sure customers have an interest in the products as well.
- Will the staff be capable of operating the equipment to its maximum potential? If an activity requires too much attention, especially during peak times, it might pull employees away from other needed areas, causing service to suffer.
- What prices do competitors charge to play the same (or similar) equipment?
- Is the machine being eyed too similar to another one already in the game room? If so, the like-pieces could cannibalize each other.
Move to Time Play
Through his point-of-sale system, Anastasiadis monitors all his game, ride, and attraction revenue on a weekly basis. “You need to know what’s performing—and what’s not,” he stresses.
However, when Anastasiadis saw noticeable decreases across the board, he realized something bigger than a simple game swap had to be considered. After some careful deliberation, the FEC moved from a pay-per-game attraction to a time-play model with resounding success. The game room revenue increased, and as an added bonus, time play eased the pressure off parents. Adults now spend more time scrolling through their phones and relaxing in the food and beverage area, where business jumped as well.
To keep an FEC performing at optimal levels, owners and operators should constantly evaluate their equipment selection, especially when particular pieces start to falter. Scholz recommends asking the following questions before declaring anything unfit for the floor and assigning it to the “great arcade in the sky”:
- Is the piece positioned to allow for strong visibility and access?
- Can the earnings be revived by changing the price or settings?
- Is the piece set up correctly, with all the accessories in working order?
- Do frequent mechanical breakdowns gobble up earnings? This should include the cost of labor, parts, and shipping.
- What’s the book value of the equipment? If the machine has already provided a solid return on investment, but now seems to be in a funk, it may be worth selling it or using for parts on another piece.
Be Resourceful in the Kitchen
Unfortunately, not all menu items will satisfy guests’ every craving. To help avoid food ending up in the trash or freezer burned, Anastasiadis looks to use a core ingredient for several different dishes. The versatility of dough, for example, allows his cooks to prepare dessert pizza if the traditional variety isn’t moving.
At Chile’s Happyland, the management team evaluates its menu quarterly but monitors inventory weekly, says Felipe Arteaga, business project manager. If the team sees a prepackaged food item is nearing its expiration date, staff members will give it away as a bonus with the purchase of a top promotion.
Rock Star Redemption
Redemption can be the bedrock of an FEC, so when interest in this area sputters, the whole facility likely will suffer. Scholz shares a few trouble spots and ways to rev up redemption:
- The FEC doesn’t offer enough machines for customers to win tickets on.
- The ticket payout ratio isn’t matched to the stock value, so customers can’t win enough tickets to earn the prizes, or the stock is marked up too much, putting it out of reach for most guests.
- Unattractive, dimly lit, and poorly organized displays can turn off or confuse guests. On the flip side, bright, full counters, walls, and shelves organized by ticket value allow for easier transactions.
- Letting customers squeeze, bounce, and play with sample items will increase desirability to spend money on redemption games, where the prize range should reflect the average ticket spend.
- Slow-moving items usually make themselves known within a few weeks. Some suppliers allow returns of unused and unopened stock for credit or even issue a refund. “It’s best to deal with such items immediately,” Scholz advises. “It’s better to reduce the margins or let stock go at cost than leaving the stock to fill up the storeroom.”
- If suppliers won’t take back the duds, FECs could arrange a prize wheel promotion of the unwanted merchandise for customers who spend a certain amount. For another deal, facilities can package unpopular and fast-moving items together to give guests added value.
The Little Things Matter
In the midst of all the menu overhauls and new rides and attractions, basic housekeeping and maintenance can’t be overlooked, Anastasiadis notes. Make sure to pick up the trash in the parking lot, keep the bathrooms spotless, and add a touch of fresh paint when needed.
“First impressions are everything,” he says.
In addition to regular maintenance, Happyland runs a monthly “cleaning crusade,” Arteaga says. The event brings together the entire operational team at each store for a night of pizza, games, and, of course, deep cleaning.
Make It Measurable
Inventory controls and cleaning and maintenance measures should be included in the monthly schedules and yearly planning, and importantly, be assigned appropriate key performance indicators, Arteaga says. “This is the only way to create and maintain a tidy, appealing, and safe location over the long term.”