Keeping FEC Arcades Profitable

Top Strategies from Coin-Op Machine Operators

It is a techie-world, in which we live. In many homes, one can find any number of electronics, from Wii games, to iPhones to iPads. Family Entertainment Centers (FECs) have to bring in the best, most exciting games, in order to stand up to the challenge that in-home entertainment presents. Coin-op machine operators, who distribute the machinery to FECs, are there for more than just servicing machines. They can also offer advice to help keep FECs profitable in today’s world.
Marty Hook, service manager for Superior Vending Inc., in Minneapolis, Minn., recently returned from the Amusement and Games Expo in Las Vegas, Nev. “I saw some great new games that seem promising for FECs,” said Hook. Amongst those new games are Dido Kart 2 by InJoy Motion, which is a driving game, a new redemption pinball game and Blazing Angels, a flying game. “Other games that consistently perform well are Monster Drop and Crank It, as well as anything with flashing lights to attract kids,” Hook said.
Superior Vending, which does all the ordering for clients, trains FECs to use the machinery and offers same-day service, is beginning to expand their FEC client base. “We have accounts in Minnesota, Iowa and Wisconsin and have been beginning to work with more and more FECs. Smoking bans are hurting the bar business and FECs are like little casinos for kids. They are popular, so we are definitely getting more involved in the industry,” Hook said. Superior Vending has been in business since 1990.
Thorpe Music Company Inc. began in 1936, distributing jukeboxes and slot machines. By the 1950s, this family run company became a full-line vending company and added a full-line of amusement machines to the mix in 1985. Since 1990, the company has been strictly amusement and cigarette vending.
Vice President Alex Thorpe, grandson of the original owner, suggests that FECs should offer something for everyone. “It is smart to have a range of games. Little kids need the more simple games and older kids like the self-merchandisers. We pay attention to what brings in the most income so we know what to supply,” said Thorpe. Thorpe also keeps an eye on new and exciting games for his clients. “Dirty Drivin’ has been around for about six months and seems to be doing very well,” Thorpe said.
“We also suggest that our locations scatter the games, so the customers have to seek them out,” Thorpe said. Spreading the games throughout the center encourages guests to explore all the areas and will hopefully entice them to play other games as they are walking around.
Thorpe’s company services clients’ needs within 24 hours of a service call, so there is not much down time. “We know our clients rely on the machines to bring in a profit, so we want to service the machines as soon as we can,” Thorpe said.
Vacationland Vendors, in Wisconsin Dells, Wis., is a full-line vending and amusement company that has been in business for 47 years. When it comes to FECs, Mark Konemann, manager of amusement division, suggests placing those with high ticket distribution or impulse games, like self-merchandisers, near the redemption counter. “There should also be a separate area for kids’ games versus video games, ideally with a divider or barrier,” Konemann said.
“Big Bass Wheel is number one everywhere, as well as other self-merchandiser games just like it. Giant Crane is another one with killer earnings. People see the high-end prizes and just go for it. These perform amazingly well,” Konemann said.
Rusty Devoe is the owner of Vend-o-Matic LLC, a third-generation run family business in Dexter, Mo. Serving only Missouri, the company has been around for nearly 50 years. “We help set up the machines for our clients and will sometimes help with special events at the locations,” said Devoe. “For certain events, we will come in and open up the machines for a $10/all you can play event. We also make an effort to perform same-day service if a machine breaks down and will even come within an hour, if possible. Customer service is very important,” Devoe said.
“FECs will always do well with air hockey or crane games. Kids also enjoy the redemption games,” Devoe suggested. “Setting up a game room, however, really depends on the space you are working with. Sometimes we just have to stick the machines wherever we can.”
Anthony Pantelides, owner of Virginia Novelty, in Portsmouth, Va., also recommends self-merchandisers. “They are always so popular, so I would always suggest placing them in high-traffic areas, such as near the doors,” Pantelides said.
“The hottest games right now are Key Master by SEGA, where players can unlock a prize and Road Trip, by Baytek, also a merchandiser,” said Pantelides. “Any ticket redemption games, such as Skeeball, are also quite profitable.”
Virginia Novelty services North Carolina and Virginia and has been in business for over 75 years. “Our backbone is taverns and restaurants, but we also distribute to bowling alleys, FECs and convenience stores,” Pantelides said.
Wayne Davis and his son, Dick, started Valley Vending Service (VVS) Inc., as a vending company in 1961. A few years later it expanded into an amusement games business, and through the years has grown to include manual food service, video surveillance and FECs. Located in Cozad, Neb., VVS Inc serves clients throughout Nebraska.
“Our clients receive customer service 24 hours a day, 7 days a week,” said Jim Lakey, vice president. “Our staff has many years of experience and we keep machine time down to a minimum. We also stay in contact with our distributors and other operators in the business. This helps us stay on top of what equipment to buy and knowledgeable about the hottest redemption prizes.”
“Ticket redemption earners are the biggest earners for our FECs and newer games, like Treasure Quest and Monster Drop are very promising,” Lakey said. “As far as game placement, I always recommend arranging the games so that the customer has to walk by, or better yet, through, the game area.” Getting customers to explore increases those odds of them playing more and more games. –

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