Solicit feedback from guests and employees. This not only increases the chance that customers will like what they see at the redemption counter, it opens doors to acquiring new, potentially popular items family entertainment center operators may not have discovered on their own. Becky Olbrych, owner of Wheels Family Fun Park in Durham, N.C., said she has used this strategy for several years and has uncovered some of her best “finds” through such inquiries, among them plush snakes and an inflatable Spongebob Squarepants™ doll. “I would never have thought on my own that anyone would have wanted the Spongebob item, but I’m glad I asked our guests and staff to show me anything they would like to see at the counter,” Olbrych said.
Go shopping. John Sarantakis, president and owner of The People’s Choice Family Fun Center in Waukegan, Ill., does not rely solely on vendors’ catalogs to find prizes to add to his facility’s redemption counter. Rather, he also scours various trade shows for this purpose. Similarly, while most purchasing is done from two or three approved vendors, management of All Star Sports in Wichita, Kan. occasionally looks for and locates prizes available at local stores at a good price. Josh McCahan, president of Fun Central in Clearfield, Pa., also advocates this approach. “After Christmas, there is a lot of surplus merchandise that may be new to the prize assortment that I can find, for half-off or more,” he said.
Demand, or at least suggest, the personal touch. “Obviously you need the buying power to do it, but if possible, ask that vendors bring you out to their facilities to look at he merchandise,” advised Peter Rebentisch, shift and redemption manager at Wahooz Family Fun Zone, Meridian, Idaho. “You may see some things there that you might not have liked when you looked at them in a catalog, but think are really cool in person.”