Special Events Strategies – Creating the Perfect Children’s Birthday Party

It’s a natural market. Kids are a major driver of the popularity of mini-golf and go-kart parks. And when it comes to celebrating birthdays, parents want to give their children a memorable event. But creating the perfect celebration can be challenging. After all, there are a myriad of factors, ranging from accommodating multiple age groups and affordability to keeping it unique and meeting the often different requests from both parents and kids.
Even though you may have standard baseline packages, to fully capture your share of this market you have to really listen to what people are saying they want. “Probably the hardest part is that when it comes to booking a party, every kid is different and every parent is different,” said Amanda Hirnyj, the general manager of Page’s Paradise Island in Depew, N.Y. She explained, “One parent may like being separate from everybody else and another may not want to have a party room. So the challenge is to cater to the individual tastes of those having the party. You need to understand what they really want.”
“You get a wide range of people, from those parents who want you to do everything for them, to those that want to do more for their kids, like jump in and help serve and cut the cake instead of letting the hostess do it. It depends a lot on the age group celebrating,” said Party and Events Coordinator Marsina Feathers at the Clubhouse Fun Center in Rochester, N.Y. “So the best advice I have is to really listen to what the parents want, so you can design the perfect party.”
Being able to offer the right party solution also requires being flexible. Said Feathers, “We offer three great packages, but within each package there are ways the customer can customize their activities themselves. That is, they can get food, tokens and passes so they can do all of our activities, which are games, food, go-karts and mini-golf or the parents can decide which activities they want to do.”
That’s where dedicated customer service can help. “When someone books a party with us, they get a party coordinator and that person does everything you would do if had the party at your house,” said Hirnyj. “Many parents love this approach because they can sit and relax with their friends. Of course, others don’t want to feel like our servers are crowding them. So it is a balancing act, depending on what they want. A lot of it often has to do with the size of the party. If you have 20 kids you might want more support and service than if you are having a party for 10 children. You have to listen so that you can give them not only the venue they want, but the level of service they want.”
“We are very flexible and not as rigid as some places,” said John Young, the owner of Just Fun FEC in Hamburg, N.Y. “Our hostesses are very well trained to handle almost any situation. We have many parties with multiple age groups and our facility accommodates that. We have a lot of pride in that we can usually meet anyone’s expectations regardless of age group or what they want to do.”
Leveraging park strengths can also help to create the right setting and image for the perfect celebration. “We are unique in the sense that our facility is nestled into a Brooklyn area where we actually have trees and a park-like setting,” said Mark Blumenthal, manager of Adventurer’s FEC, Brooklyn, N.Y. “Even though Coney Island is only about a mile and a half away, this is a neighborhood park. And we are really set up for the younger children.”
He explained, “We have a lot more rides geared towards them, from 32 inches up. This is what makes our Adventurer’s Park the place for birthday parties.”
Creating an image that appeals to kids is important. “You always want to stay current and exciting for the kids, so we constantly renovate our parks,” said Michelle Branham, vice president of Adventure Landing, from their corporate offices in Jacksonville, Fla. She noted, “We have 16 parks, like Adventurer’s Landing in Raleigh, N.C.”
“We try to do all the little things, the details, so that people notice and they come back,” said Blumenthal. “For example, we keep up on painting to make it look good and fresh and keep up with our lights so that it is bright.”
In today’s economic environment, value has taken on a new meaning. “We are owned by one family and they are very family oriented,” said Branham. “So our number-one focus is making sure it fits in their budget. Once they are here and having a great time we don’t really have a lot of customer service issues. I think the best way to make sure that your customers are happy is to set expectations. We are very informative in everything we do, making sure they are as informed as possible. The last thing you want to do is bring a family or party in and at the last minute two kids can’t ride on that attraction because they are not big enough. Then what you are trying to do is make sure it’s affordable at a price point they are comfortable with so they feel like they are getting good value.”
“We go over our packages every year to identify if there are things we need to change, whether it is the price or what is offered within the package. We have been able to hold the same pricing the past few years, switching things within the packages to help parents get the most for their money by making things not only customizable, but affordable as well. With this approach we have avoided any major issues.”
“Options are good,” said Hirnyj. “Our customers can make reservations and have a more typical type of party. Or, they may just want to do a walk-in party with the understanding that they don’t have reserved space.”
Young said, “We have only been open about a year and a half and our intent going in was to keep prices extremely low, as low as I could. The feeling was if we could do that they would keep coming back a second and third time.”
Building a successful party business also requires some old-fashioned marketing. “We do all types of things to promote, for example, we partner with other companies, like Chic-fil-A, for promotions. So if you eat there you can get a two for one pass during certain promotion periods. So that way we are able to cross over demographics because they are our demographic, too, and a lot of families go there. If it’s a family package we try to offer really big discounts and try to put together packages so they can do their favorite thing at a great savings. In addition, we do lots of contests and events. You get special promotional deals if you come to those events. And then we have the Adventurer’s Club where you can sign on to become a member and you are the first person to receive discounts or get special offers. All of these things help promote us as a place for special celebrations.”
“If we have a birthday party for 15 kids and there are 15 parents with them, this gives us the potential for 14 more parties. The challenge is to do it right and keep everybody happy so that we get more parties from that group. If there are negative comments you don’t really know how much that hurts you, but one thing for sure is that if they are happy it can really help. So, word of mouth is probably one of the best advertising tools we have.”
He added, “The level of customer service is something we are trying to raise to new levels. We want input from our customers so we can ensure that they are having a good time. Having things like a suggestion box are important and can help us improve and raise standards. This enables patrons to give us specific input and feedback.” –

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