The first Face 2 Face Entertainment Conference (F2FEC) was held at the Pointe Hilton Tapatio Cliffs Resort in Phoenix, Ariz., Feb. 24-26, 2015. Focusing on the entertainment center business and its future, as well as the people who make their living in the industry, the conference was the brainchild of industry experts Ben Jones, Rick Iceberg and George Smith, aka The Three Amigos. The event brought together about 180 operators, manufacturers and suppliers.
The Amigos are bringing to the industry the best of the best information and speakers. The trio have the power and the ability to speak with authority, honesty, courage, originality and fearlessness about the issues that are at the forefront of the industry. Guiding principles of the conference included: evolve or die; bigger is not always better; happiness is a way of life; take every day as a gift; be grateful, be kind and be caring; and share information. The 2016 theme is 10X Better.
Finding Inspiration Face to Face
A Face 2 Face Entertainment Conference Question and Answer Session
Face 2 Face Entertainment Conference attendees Michael Goss, president of Austin’s Park in Austin, Texas; Brian Chilton, in charge of Midway Direction for Circus Circus Casinos in Las Vegas, Nev.; Brad Alt, owner of San Diego, Calif.-based Equinox Laser Tag; David Lahti, partner in Bar Partners, Pflugerville, Texas; and Jerry Johnson, co-owner of Amusement Unlimited based in Eugene, Ore., responded to questions about the event from Tourist Attractions & Parks (TAP) magazine. Here is what they had to say:
Tourist Attractions & Parks (TAP): What did you get out of attending this conference?
Michael Goss, Austin’s Park: Overall, it provided both inspiration and resources. Everyone was very open about their numbers, what they were doing in the industry, and trends they were seeing. There was a lot of sharing; it was very interactive. There was no competition in there.
Brian Chilton, Circus Circus Casinos: I received a lot of information about equipment, merchandise, promotion and marketing. The way people participated in this event allowed a lot of interaction, which doesn’t usually happen in entrepreneurial conferences. There was a very free flow of information.
Brad Alt, Equinox Laser Tag: We received a lot of resources and insights from attending. For example, some new ways to take care of employees were presented. If you take care of your cast, that translates to a better experience for our guests, which is something I’ve always pushed for. We uncovered some new ways to do so at the conference.
David Lahti, Bar Partners: We’re in bar and club vending. The conference served as a real eye-opener for us on the more family-oriented side of amusements, an area that we’re just learning about and considering expanding into. We took away a lot of solid information about the industry.
Jerry Johnston, Amusement Unlimited: Being a street operator and owner of one small family entertainment center, the conference was a great learning resource. We’re looking forward to reaching out to customers and setting up new venues, supported by the information we received about different locations and operations.
TAP: What, if any, improvements will you make due to the conference?
Goss: Interestingly, a lot of things that were discussed at the conference, in terms of expansion and building your business, we already had in the works. It was very valuable to hear from others who had done things they’d had success with or had issues with, to hear about new attractions and expansion. Basically, the conference let me see what other people in the industry have done or are planning to do, which will help us implement our own plans.
Chilton: Based on the information at the conference, we’re anticipating using capital in a stronger way in regard to merchandise and the licensed products that we carry.
Alt: One major take away is to be more involved in regard to our website. We’re revamping it to appeal to more customers.
Lahti: We won’t be making any immediate changes, but we digested a lot of the information. Just knowing what successful family entertainment center owners have done, and how the business is changing, helps us identify opportunities. We learned from the best out there about how we can utilize this information.
Johnston: We’re doing upgrades on our whole route, and looking at different products. The conference was a big help in looking at the choices out there.
TAP: What did you like best about the conference?
Goss: I liked the way the conference was presented and structured. All three of the Amigos complemented each other. The presentations were all excellent, with solid information.
Chilton: I thought the speakers were great, really outstanding. …They were very informative and professional.
Alt: I would have to say what I liked best was the quality of the people at the conference, and their willingness to share their experiences, their mistakes, what worked and what didn’t.
Lahti: What I liked best was the way the conference organizers created interaction. They didn’t allow people to just sit with their colleagues or friends. There was a concerted effort to let all attendees meet a wide variety of people. It was pretty unique how much they created an interactive environment.
Johnston: The best part was learning about our industry, looking at new opportunities that we can consider.
TAP: What did you take out of the conference that will cause change(s) in your location?
Goss: What I took away was a really top idea from Rick Barsness of Incredible Pizza, an idea about how to increase sales by maximizing his cashiers’ up-selling, and implementing a commission-based program for them.
Chilton: Discussions about different choices in redemption equipment at the conference will very likely lead to upgrading our own redemption machines.
Alt: The major change I’ll be making is in regard to our website and social media. They’re the main driver for advertising and promotion out there today. We may even develop a game that will run on the website to get people interested in us. The conference really drove home the point that the industry is changing rapidly, and if you don’t change too, you’ll become extinct. It’s vital to be innovative and creative, to stay on the cutting edge. You can’t be stagnant.
Lahti: Attending really caused my three partners and myself to open our eyes about what opportunities are out there in more family-oriented amusements. It was a learning environment, and we’ll put what we learned into action down the line.
Johnston: What I took away was the importance of new attractions. It was repeatedly discussed how essential it is to keep things fresh. We add new attractions all the time, and the conference emphasized the importance of that. A new attraction is always vital, no matter what end of the entertainment business you’re in, whether it’s a crane game or a merry-go-round. That was very much reinforced for us. ∝