Business Strategies: High-Tech Elements at Leisure Entertainment Facilities

As technology becomes an ever-more-prevalent and important part of consumers’ lives, the appeal of high-tech elements at leisure entertainment facilities continues to increase. So, too, does the variety of options operators can implement, all of which have significant potential to bolster business.

Laser tag ranks high on this list. Operators said it not only boosts profits in and of itself; its lure is such that use and/or ridership of other attractions trends upward as well. At Putters Family Entertainment Center in Eugene, Ore., a laser tag attraction averages more than 1,200 plays per week, “far more than anything we had projected,” said Larry Ault, owner. Ault attributed higher revenues from the facility’s miniature golf course, video arcade, and snack bar to the presence of the attraction at the facility, noting that it attracts individuals who might not otherwise want to frequent a family oriented center (for example, teenagers) but opt to try out other offerings once they have played a few rounds of laser tag.

Much the same is true at Dimples Family Fun Center in Lancaster, Calif., and at Fun Challenge Family Entertainment Center in Christianburg, Va. Mike Midkiff, of Dimples, noted that the facility’s laser tag system propelled overall sales upward by 40 percent. Meanwhile, Fun Challenge is able to cater to “a whole new market of teens, young adults and college students” following the recent implementation of laser tag, stated Chuck Jones, owner.

Manufacturers of laser tag systems have added a number of technological innovations designed to benefit locations by allowing additional twists, such as obstacles and personalization, to the game, thereby sparking guests’ interest even more. For example, Funovation, manufacturer of Laser Maze Challenge ™, now touts Oculas ™, a scanning laser that sweeps the playing field as the game progresses to render it more challenging, explained Erick Mueller, vice president, sales and marketing. Other enhancements to Laser Maze Challenge ™ encompass Mission Eye ™, which permits guests to control their game by waving their hand across a scanner rather than pushing a button on a laser tag gun; and a coin-op mechanism with a control guests can use to customize the difficulty of each game they play.

For its part, LaZer Runner Laser Tag Systems has introduced battle vests with embedded fiber-optic receivers. Fiber optic panels located on the front, shoulders and back of the vest activate the laser receiver; these may be programmed to glow red, green, blue, yellow, purple or orange to designate different teams. The panels turn off for five seconds when they are hit, but because they need not recharge after every hit, the game progresses more quickly, according to a spokesperson.

Simulators, virtual reality units, and attractions with similar high-tech elements that give guests the “impression” of an experience are also opening new business doors for leisure entertainment facilities. As is the case with laser tag, some such innovations bring in customers who do not fit the demographic of many family fun centers, especially those that cater primarily to young families. Others help to set leisure entertainment facilities apart from their competitors, as with flight simulators installed at Air Zoo in Portage, Mich., said Bob Ellis, director, and flight and roller coaster simulators featured at Tree House Arcade at Foxwoods in Mashantucket, Conn. The Tree House Arcade’s flight and roller coaster simulators are “the marquee attraction” at the Tree House Arcade, noted Patrick Smalley, amusement operations manager.

High-tech elements in this category are continually being upgraded. GEP Productions offers The Vortex Tunnel, a rotating aluminum tunnel with black-light illumination for the painted artwork found on the interior walls. Walking through the tunnel as it rotates and while the artwork is reflected by the illumination makes guests feel as if they are experiencing the condition of vertigo. The sensation can be increased with a number of new enhancements, such as a strobing black light, mirrored panels, three-dimensional fabric and a see-through “catwalk” bridge floor, according to Alan Tura, CEO.

Meanwhile, MaxFlight Corp.’s FS3000 flight simulators now feature high-definition three-dimensional projection. The combination of this projection with five-speaker surround sound and 360-degree “pitch and roll” technology renders air combat, stunt flying and carrier landings more realistic than in the past, a representative said. A VR2002 roller coaster simulator is customer-programmable; guests can select from track pieces to create their own customized “wild to mild” rides.

Industry News

Dave & Buster’s Orlando Announces Management Team

In addition to the many hourly positions Dave & Buster’s Orlando brought to Central Florida with its International Drive debut in mid-July, the entertainment complex also welcomed a talented management team. The new hires included:

  • Jacqueline Reissent joined Dave & Buster’s Orlando as a Corporate Sales Manager bringing 10 years of hospitality industry sales experience. She began with Dave & Buster’s in 2003 as a multi-market sales manager for South Florida until she was chosen to move to the new Orlando location.
  • Paul Clunan joined Dave & Buster’s Orlando as General Manager. Clunan has served in this position with Dave & Buster’s for more than three years at different locations. He joined the company with 25 years of hospitality experience in operations. He is responsible for the supervision and direction of strategic initiatives and maintaining operating standards for all areas of the building.
  • Jimmy Carroll joined Dave & Buster’s Orlando as assistant general manager. He most recently served as food and beverage vice president for a casino development company and brings more than 25 years of leadership experience in the restaurant industry. Carroll provides overall leadership, supervision and direction of shift operations along with specific department duties.
  • Andrew Lyn joined Dave & Buster’s Orlando as Assistant General Manager. He has been a member of the Dave & Buster’s management team at various locations since 2001 and brings more than 15 years of industry experience to his new position.
  • Michael Sterns joined Dave & Buster’s Orlando as a Food and Beverage Specialty Coach bringing more than 20 years of leadership experience in the food and beverage industry.
  • Jimmy Stewart joined Dave & Buster’s Orlando as Bar Manager.  He most recently served as area operations manager at Dave & Buster’s Times Square where he was responsible for hiring and training new employees. Stewart has been with the company for more than three years.
  • Richard Dellmer joined Dave & Buster’s Orlando as Senior Amusement Manager. He has served as amusement manager at different locations since 2005 and was promoted to senior amusement manager in 2009. Dellmer is responsible for overall leadership, supervision and shift logistics for midway operations.
  • Ryan Jennings joined Dave & Buster’s Orlando as Back-of-House Manager. He has 10 years of hospitality industry experience. In this role, he provides overall leadership, supervision and direction of shift operations along with specific department duties.
  • Emily Profit joined Dave & Buster’s Orlando as Operations Manager.  She has been with the company since 1999 and comes to Central Florida from Kansas City where she served as an area operation manager.
  • Gene Upshaw joined Dave & Buster’s Orlando as Kitchen Manager.  Upshaw brings more than 15 years of hospitality industry experience to his new role where he is responsible for overall leadership, supervision and shift operations related to food safety and quality.
  • Roberson Nelson joined Dave & Buster’s Orlando as an Area Operations Manager. He has worked in the hospitality industry for nearly 15 years and has been with the organization since 2001. 

Dave & Buster’s was founded in 1982 and is headquartered in Dallas, Texas.

Dave & Buster’s operates 56 large venue, high-volume restaurant/entertainment complexes throughout North America that offer a food and fun-filled experience to adults and families. The exciting environment of the Dave & Buster’s complex also provides the perfect setting for corporate and group events.

Industry News

J.C. Evans Receives Mickey Warner Award

J.C. Evans, Chairman of Gold Medal®Products Co., was to receive the 2011 National Association of Concessionaires’ Mickey Warner Award at the July NAC Annual Convention & Trade Show. The award is named for the originator of the NAC Concession Manager Certification program, and a great innovator and educator for the concessions industry. “We are so pleased to be honoring J.C. Evans for his leadership, innovation and contributions to both the concessions industry and to the National Association of Concessionaires,” said NAC President Ron Krueger II of Southern Theatres. “It is an honor well deserved.”

“Loom larger than life” has been J.C.’s guiding principle.  Dream the big dream and then implement the brush strokes to turn the dream into reality.

J.C. grew up in the concession industry after his father, David C. Evans, started Gold Medal in 1931. He began working summers at Gold Medal in the 1940s, graduated from the College of Business Administration at the University of Cincinnati, and completed a two-year tour of duty with the Army’s Counterintelligence Corp in Europe. He returned to the company as a salesman in 1950. J.C. was later promoted to sales manager, then to vice president and currently serves as Chairman.

J.C. was also the first recipient of the Outdoor Amusement Business Association’s Pioneer Award, and received the Award for Entrepreneurial Excellence from the University of Cincinnati’s College of Business. In 2000, he was honored with the NAC Bert Nathan Memorial Award, which recognizes leadership, significant contributions to the development and professionalism of the concessions industry and accomplishments and longevity in the theatre segment of concessions. With the Mickey Warner Award, he becomes one of only four people to receive both of the association’s highest honors.

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