While popular video games offer players the opportunity to lose themselves in an imaginary world of thrills and adventure, from the comfort of their sofa, laser tag represents a healthier alternative. The difference? The imaginary, adventure-filled world of laser tag gets you up and about, and allows creative and exciting interactions between people. With so many family entertainment centers offering laser tag nowadays, the challenge has become about standing apart from the crowd and offering enough of a value to the customer to keep them coming back.
Jeff Schilling is the owner of Creative Works, Inc., which is a full-service theme creator, prop builder and attractions provider to venues such as family entertainment centers, theme parks, museums and more, based in Indianapolis, Ind. Those in the laser tag industry, or those just getting started, can consult with Creative Works to receive guidance through every aspect of building a successful attraction.
Schilling’s company hosts an event called LaserTag360, which is a conference that is packed with business-boosting strategies. Some of the vital information provided at the conference are ways to ensure success in this industry. Of course there are many components that make for a thriving, booming business, but Schilling stressed a few points that he considers to be key elements.
“An entertaining briefing should be given to all players at the start, to get them involved and interested,” said Schilling. This is the perfect opportunity to pump the players up and get them excited. Staff is also an essential element to guests’ enjoyment. “The staff/actors and actresses should have continual training to ensure top-level service and memorable experiences for the guests,” Schilling remarked. Finally, Schilling advised that the arena should have the “WOW Effect.” Basically, the players should be able to get lost in their imaginary world, because it feels so realistic.
Laser tag enthusiasts visiting Badger Sports Park, in Appleton, Wis., are treated to Lasertron Laser Tag, which is a two-story laser arena and features four five minute games, during which the game is put into C.H.I.P.S. Mode. “These different modes mean that the game is changed up depending on what mode you are in. We mostly have two teams, red and blue, and we will play two modes together, such as Spy Mode and Energizer Mode. You know which mode you are in by the changing colors on your vest,” said Tim Bruecker, owner. “This style of playing really sets us apart, because there is more than one element to our game play.”
Another laser tag center is located not too far from Badger Sports Park, and Bruecker said his prices are higher, but the customers keep returning to Badger, because the experience is so much fun and competitive. “The Lasertron manufacturer runs their own facility, so we based our prices off of theirs and actually charge a little less than they do. It works for us. The guests are getting a great value because the experience is so unique,” Bruecker said.
For young kids who are too little to enter a laser tag arena, or for others who may not want to get too involved, the laser tag arcade game that is connected to the arena at Jason Behm’s Advanced Laser Tag in Olathe, Kan., is the perfect alternative. “Those who don’t enter the arena can wait on our observation deck. From there, they can see what is happening in the game and with our arcade game, they have the ability to shoot at the players. This keeps them involved in the game, even if they are not actively playing,” said Behm.
Another way Behm keeps players engaged is by hiring great staff. “We choose the right people, which makes a big difference. The Marshall needs to be someone who is able to command a room but can also loosen up and have fun. Our party hosts also form a conga line on the way to the arena, which the kids love. We keep it lively and fun and that keeps them coming back,” said Behm. “Our staff is also trained to keep the illusion of perfection. If there is a problem somewhere in the facility, we deal with it without the customers knowing. We want things to always go as smoothly as possible for our guests, so they are comfortable here.” Price is another reason that people want to return to a location. “Our price is fair enough for our guests. They get such a great, personal experience here that they don’t mind paying it. The advice I once heard was ‘If 20 percent of the guests aren’t complaining about the price, then you aren’t charging enough,’ ” Behm said.
Robin Creswick, owner of Amazone Family Entertainment Center, in Medina, Ohio, credits the staff with working hard to ensure that the customers are having a good time. “The best way to make certain everyone is enjoying themselves is to check in with them to see if they are playing not just safely, but nicely, too. A customer who is getting teased or picked on isn’t having any fun. We give a warning when we see that, and, if it continues, the offenders can’t play anymore,” Creswick said.
Pricing at Amazone is a value, so customers can come and stay, and spend money on more than just laser tag. “As a mom myself, I wanted the prices in our facility to reflect what is affordable to a family for a day of entertainment,” Creswick said. “With affordable prices, guests also feel comfortable returning on a regular basis, which is what we all want. We watch all of our costs, shop around for better prices on what we buy and offer opportunities for people to spend, such as concessions, arcade, etc.”
Just like Creswick, John Pittman, owner of Battlefield Houston, Houston, Texas, instructs his staff to learn body language. “You have to be able to read the guests and know if everyone is happy. It is our job to make sure the players are all having a good time,” Pittman said. “If everyone is happy, then the game is great. People of all ages are working together toward a common goal. It is about team play and interacting with everyone, even if you didn’t come with them.”
The players at Battlefield Houston are sent on team-based missions, such as Hostage or Demolition. “Because it is not always the same game that is being played, people want to come back to experience it all,” Pittman said.
Pittman checks out the competition to be certain that his prices are reasonable for an hour’s worth of entertainment. “The value is great because the sessions, at an hour, are so long. People are really ready to go after such a long play time. We also set drinks and snacks at a fair price, membership rates are available, as well as group packages,” Pittman said. Keeping a clean environment also adds to the value, from a parent’s perspective, according to Pittman. “The typical teen may not notice, but the parents are the decision makers and they are looking for a safe, clean place for their kids to play. Cleanliness and safety are critical, when it comes to adding value and creating repeat customers.” –
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