November 22, 2010
Vending and coin-operated amusement machines comprise a viable profit center for many leisure entertainment facilities. However, adding these units without at least some forethought and consideration as to what might constitute the “right” machine or machines is a recipe for big headaches. Several factors merit consideration prior to moving ahead.
The most significant of these considerations is taking into account industry trends, because if a facility’s amusement machine and vending machine offerings appear “dated” or have fallen out of favor, they will likely remain idle most of the time. Consequently, operators seeking to hit the jackpot on the amusement machine front would do well to consider self-redemption games, which currently appear to be garnering the bulk of guests’ attention. “Even the littlest children love to use these machines now,” said Becky Olbrych, co-owner of Wheels Family Fun Park in Durham, N.C.
Cranes remain a popular self-redemption game option, with a few new twists. For example, customers of Amusement Game Company are implementing more crane machines with a “scoop” that picks up and dispenses small candies and/or small, inexpensive items to every player, regardless of whether he or she has won a “real” prize, according to rep Dan Levee. Such units constitute an especially good bet when one considers that while guests may stop playing a “regular” crane game if they have not managed to snare a “big” prize, they will probably persevere a bit more if they know they can get candy out of the deal.
Adults, too, are jumping on the redemption game bandwagon, asserted Gary Balaban of Coast to Coast Entertainment. He cited a heightened tendency among his company’s customers to request redemption games whose configuration allows them to be filled with more valuable “grown-up” prizes, like electronics and accessories. Units with oversized claws, or those that require players to “capture” prizes by maneuvering a pair of scissors to cut a string, fit the bill, reported Alan Phillips, co-owner of Sports Center of Connecticut in Shelton, Conn.
Stackers have also become a self-redemption standout among teenagers and adults, in large part because they are perceived as a “fun” novelty, sources said. This renders them worth a look by owners and managers of leisure entertainment facilities whose clientele skews to this market, suggested Charles Batson, owner of Angleton Amusement Company.
In vending machines, sources said, the dominant trend is “cashless vending,” wherein guests have the option to pay for their purchases not just with cash, but by using a credit or debit card. Statistics make a strong case for installing vending machines that can accept “plastic.”
According to Mike Burnett, president of 1.800-VENDING, “case studies report that cashless vending technology increases sales by 15 to 20 percent. Not only are more people able to buy the vended products, but studies even show that consumers spend more with each sale when the vending machine accepts debit and credit cards.”
But trends aren’t the only factor leisure entertainment facilities must keep in mind if they are to select the “right” vending and coin-operated amusement machines. Durability and maintenance requirements should also weigh heavily into any purchasing decision. When evaluating potential amusement machine purchases, Olbrych always scrutinizes the units in question for, and asks her distributor to demonstrate or explain, how easy it is to fix small glitches, such as a “stuck” crane, as well as how to make minor repairs. “If it seems complicated, or the construction looks flimsy, I will pass it up,” Olbrych said. “It’s not worth the investment otherwise.”
Phillips follows much the same philosophy. He also insists on machines that are easy to clean and do not have many cracks and crevices in which dirt can accumulate. His redemption game selection is limited to those units that feature good lighting to maximize appeal to players of all ages.
Moreover, it behooves operators to invest only in amusement and vending machines that are covered by a good warranty. Some companies offer units with 90-day warranties, but a one-year warranty is best, according to Balaban. “It signals that the company truly stands behind the product and feels good about it,” he asserted. “If you don’t have that support, it’s probably the ‘wrong’ machine for you, whether its type is popular, or not.”
Hershey Entertainment and Resorts Company Names New President
Ted J. Kleisner, Chief Executive Officer of Hershey Entertainment & Resorts Company (HE&R) has announced that William F. Simpson, Jr., currently the company’s Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer, has been elected by the Board of Directors as the company’s new President, effective October 29, 2010. In his new capacity, Simpson will continue to report to Kleisner.
“Bill has all the right talents to serve as president of this company,” Kleisner said. “He has extensive resort experience and he has spent the past eight years running our entertainment operations. The sum total of that knowledge combined with his ability to collaborate make him the ideal person not only for this position, but also to further support the legacy of Milton S. Hershey.”
Simpson began his career with Hershey Entertainment and Resorts in 1996 as the general manager of the Hershey Lodge and Convention Center (now Hershey Lodge). He oversaw the dramatic expansion of the Lodge in 1998 and guided that property to record years during his tenure.
He became vice president of the Entertainment Group in April 2002 and oversaw the operation of the Hersheypark Entertainment Complex. While with the Entertainment Group, he guided the park to achieve all-time records in every measurable category, while also achieving new levels of guest satisfaction scores and feedback.
In April 2010 Simpson was promoted to Chief Operating Officer.
“He has a proven track record in guest service and a true passion for leadership development,” Kleisner said. “Those who work with him will readily define him as someone who leads by example, always putting the guest and the employee experience at the forefront of every decision.”
Prior to joining Hershey Entertainment and Resorts, Simpson was general manager of the Sheraton Grand Hotel in Houston, Texas. Other key leadership positions were with the Williamsburg Inn, The Opryland Hotel and Hyatt Hotels Corporation.
Simpson has been an active member of hospitality and tourism trade organizations, including the Small and Independent Hotel Committee of the American Hotel and Lodging Association (AH&LA). He also has been a member of the Certification Commission of AH&LA’s Education Institute, and he earned the degree of Certified Hotel Administrator and Certified Rooms Division Executive from AH&LA.
Simpson graduated from Appalachian State University with a Bachelor of Science degree in Business Administration/Hotel and Restaurant Management. He and his wife, Holly, reside in Hershey and are the parents of Ashleigh, 14, and John, 11.