Competition for the leisure dollar is at its highest level these days and this scenario does not look like it will ever go away. The public is always looking for something new and exciting and the amusement entertainment industry should always be on their radar screen. You do not have to go to the lengths that the bar and nightclub industry does by closing and re-opening under a new name. All you have to do is make your facility look new and improved and word of mouth will benefit you in the short and long term.
The present generation has grown up with full color blasts from all directions and expects all of the flash, bells and whistles and instant gratification. In addition, today everyone wants a bargain, a deal or a discount. It is now a part of our culture. Baby boomers have seen the transition from black and white television to color; the emergence of satellite channels and VCRs to pay per view and TiVo; and the change from rabbit ear antennas to cable and now digital receivers. Today we are buying 72-inch Plasma LCD, and 3D TVs that are accessorized with Blu-ray, HDTV, Internet and surround sound. How do you compete with these in-home entertainment centers that now act as movie theaters, gaming systems and worldwide communication centers? You need to start thinking about things like colors, carpeting, lighting, background music and special effects in your own centers. Creative Works is now selling specially designed carpeting that does not fade in a black light environment and has a backing that will keep liquid spills from saturating through. Maybe now is the time to replace the old, faded carpeting?
The first step to longevity is to write down your goals. If you plan on staying in this business you should have a long-range plan of how you are going to reinvest in your business’ future. Break down the goals into six months, 12 months and two years. What new revenue generating areas are right in front of your face but you have not paid much attention to them, such as games and food. What revenue models are out there?
Examples are that one-third of the total gross revenue can be food and beverage, one-third can be games and one-third FEC attractions. If you are a bowling-anchored FEC, there are also several models you can fit into, such as one-third bowling, one-third food and beverage and one-third games and FEC attractions. The model that will work for you is dependent on the size of your facility, your target market and average per capita spending. Food is such an important component because we do not want our customers to eat before they visit our facility or leave early because they get hungry. Our facilities create activity and people get hungry and thirsty.
The basic concept is to make an improvement and provide your facility with something new to market. One example that I [Frank] am familiar with is right-sizing and opening up your game space and getting rid of the older games that do not contribute to the game gross and in fact “drag down” the public’s opinion of your facility. When even one new or different game comes in, the kids tell each other and excitement is generated.
If you have not considered the advantages of social media networking, now is the time to grab that market. Facebook costs nothing but your time right now and you can build an extensive targeted network of potential repeat customers. With Facebook, you can let your “Friends” know about your upcoming events, specials, new games and products, anything that would encourage someone to visit your facility. New technology even allows you to send instant text messages to any number of individuals at one time. What a great way to get people in the door on an otherwise slow night—send a “BO/GO” text message to entice customers to choose your facility that night over another, or offer something free with their dinner if you have a food venue or even an attraction. This is the marketing that our kids recognize and respond to.
What is the competition up to? Here are a few examples:
Retail: Theming merchandise around a special event. Disney has done this for years by naming a shop with special merchandise after a special ride. Amusement parks and waterparks are following suit.
Museums: Bringing in an exhibit and building events, parties, merchandise and food around it and selling memberships and donor support. Traveling exhibits are being created to get the word out—something in which our industry dabbles.
Zoos: Adding new permanent exhibits and building around a theme. For example, Cost of Wisconsin does theming work in this area.
Just about every youth-related business does heavy marketing at the beginning of September when schools start.
Don’t miss this time of year when our industry traditionally slows down. Don’t let the word “modernization” scare you because you may think it comes only with a big price tag. “It just ain’t so” is the best quote we could hammer home. So, once again, what are your business goals and are you ready to get serious to attain them? –
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