By Vicki Hogue-Davies
While the arcade might not typically be the main destination for visitors to entertainment centers that offer bowling, go-karts and other attractions, it can be an additional and profitable moneymaker. To increase business at your arcade, there are several things to think about including game placement, prize redemption, customer service, marketing and advertising, package offerings and more. Here are tips from entertainment centers throughout the country for increasing arcade traffic and profits.
Wow!Zone Family Entertainment Center in Mankato, Minn., offers bowling, laser tag and miniature golf and features an arcade with nearly 50 games.
“The arcade is one of the first things you see when you walk in our front door,” said Allison Jennings, senior manager. “So we look at the placement and sound of the games to draw people in—the music, noise and mood lighting. We have Dance Dance Revolution along the front entry as well as some of our more recent and newer games.”
The center sells individual arcade game cards and packages that combine game cards with other attractions. Jennings noted that good customer service is also key to increased business and repeat visitors.
“It is important that customers understand how the cards work and how their tickets are loaded on the card, so we take the time to explain it to them,” she said. “We also go the extra step to explain to them how the games work and to help them out in front of games.”
Caleb Longe, general manager at Twin City Family Fun Center in Berlin, Vt., said that the redemption room is most important in attracting customers to the arcade. The center features bowling, laser tag and approximately 35 arcade games.
“The biggest thing these days for the kids is the redemption room,” he says. “You have to make your redemption room really ‘pop,’ so to speak, with flashing lights and something to attract their attention to the prizes they can win. Quality prizes must also be available. We offer everything from penny candy and Tootsie Rolls to iPads and X-Boxes.”
Like Jennings, Longe said game placement is important.
“The transition from our bowling center to our arcade is just a big open door,” he said. “We made sure we had the games with the most flashing lights visible from the bowling center. So if you are sitting at our front desk or bowling lanes you can just look to your left and see flashing lights and games that really attract your eye and attract the kids’ attention.”
Using advertising and marketing to bring more people into the entertainment center naturally results in more people visiting the arcade, according to Joel Johnson, director of operations for Park Lanes in Hillsboro, Ore. The bowling center features approximately 60 arcade games. The stand-alone arcade room is located at the center’s main entrance.
“My dad has been the owner of the business since 1985,” Johnson said. “He has really pushed marketing and advertising to drive people to the facility. We don’t necessarily target the arcade in our advertising.
“Our main attraction is and always will be bowling, but having an arcade may help people choose our facility as a destination,” he continued. “It is an additional thing to do while you are here.”
To help bring in bowlers and potential arcade visitors, the center offers passes to kids for free bowling all summer long through its Kids Bowl Free program. In 2013, Park Lanes added a “jungle maze” climbing structure to attract a larger number of younger children to the center. The structure extends into the arcade room. “It has really boosted our birthday party business,” Johnson said. And all of the birthday party packages include arcade game cards.
Like the other entertainment center managers and owners, Johnson noted that it is important to make the arcade stand out to draw people to the area.
“You want to put the brightest games that have flashing lights and sound closer to the arcade entrance,” he said.
Andy B’s, in Springfield, Mo., has approximately 64 game stations in its arcade. The center, which features bowling and laser tag, includes an arcade card with every birthday package.
“That is key to getting [people] in the game room,” said General Manager J.R. Huyck. “Another tip, and this is something to do before you invest, is to make sure you have a prominent space to the right as you come in the entrance to the building. That has long been talked about as key to getting foot traffic in, to see the arcade right when you come in the entrance.”
Marketing and advertising to the right demographic is also very important.
“Advertise to moms and dads who are looking for things to do with their kids,” he said. “Advertise in those kinds of publications. We advertise in a [local] kids’ directory. We promote our game room as not just a kids’ place because we have great redemption prizes for all ages.”
And when it comes to redemption, “make sure your prizes are fully stocked at all times,” Huyck said. “Make sure you have some big prizes. Have some higher dollar items such as game systems. If you have the room, have huge prizes like bicycles and kayaks. Some people will keep coming back to play to save up for those high-dollar items.”
Advertising locally and online and prominently displaying arcade games at the center entrance are tips offered by Donna Giang, manager and owner of Hukoo’s Family Fun in Orlando, Fla. Hukoo’s features laser i-tag, bumper cars, trampolines and other attractions in addition to an arcade.
And when developing your arcade, think about positioning the arcade (and games) where people will see it, Giang said.
“Ask the [company] who does the installation,” she says. “The person who is installing will give you ideas for what they think is best.”