Tips to Drive New Business to the Fun

Bringing in new business is always vitally important to family entertainment centers. For this article, staff and owners at centers that feature mini-golf and go-karts offered their tips on getting new customers. 

At Pelly’s, in Del Mar, Calif., General Manager Matthew Clay said the facility has moved away from print advertising to digital to draw new guests. “We have done some Google Ad Works, Facebook ads, and Yelp, and we also have a variety of smaller digital campaigns that we run. We noticed seven or eight years ago that we stopped having returns on print ads, so we moved away from that.” He added that “We also do local promotions with schools, and we donate to every non-profit in the area for reading programs; we have them come to year-end parties and things like that. It all builds business.”

An octopus element on a mini-golf course hole at Pelly’s. Attendance and customer flow has been up over 10 percent during 2019, according to the general manager.

According to Clay, the two mini-golf courses are themed, which adds to the draw of the attraction. “One is called Surfing Safari, and the other is Ocean Adventure. We also have a golf driving range, and food and beverages. The whole goal is to make this a family-friendly facility. We thought that kids might go for the mini-golf while adults went for the driving range, but we honestly haven’t seen that happen too often. Families tend to stay together on the mini-golf courses.” Clay noted that during the summer, the facility sees a great deal of tourists from the San Diego area, but the rest of the year, business tends to be more local. “Our driving range users are primarily 15 to 20 minute drives away, the mini-golf courses draw people a little bit further away, half an hour to an hour – which of course in Southern California could be two miles,” he said, referring to the traffic. Visitation is up for the facility. “Our attendance and customer flow is up over 10% this year,” he asserted. “I think it’s a combination of it not being so hot here this summer, and we are just in the mix for what a family goes out to do, along with the beach and movie theaters in the area. There are very few mini golfs in Southern California, so that makes our location a draw as well.”

In Glendale, Ariz., a suburb of Phoenix, Veerachart Murphy, co-owner of Phoenix Kart Rentals, also relies heavily on social media and online advertising to bring in new guests. “At the very beginning, we tried Groupon, but it was a loss leader for us, so we try not to do this. We’re well established now and don’t need to do that. I have to say it is pretty much all driven by social media.” Additionally, the company uses excellent group rates to draw new business. “We charge groups at a different rate than individuals; we’ve had church groups, a sixth-grade class, bachelor parties, a little bit of everything. People will often come back individually after coming in as a part of a group.” The center is unique in that the outdoor track that Phoenix Kart Rentals operates on isn’t owned by the business. “We offer a kind of Bondurant experience, with a track that is almost a mile long. We offer training and we use gas cars which don’t have bumpers around them, but full safety gear is required. We provide a transition experience from indoor to outdoor to actual racing,” he explained. 

A view of a golf course at Pelly’s, in Del Mar, Calif. The facility uses digital advertising to draw new guests.

Guests do travel quite a distance at times to visit Phoenix Kart Rentals, Murphy attested. “The majority of our business comes locally and from within the state, but we’ve had people come from as far away as Canada, New Zealand, and Great Britain to have the experience. Locally, people come from opposite ends of the valley, up to an hour away.” The facility’s visitation is up, he noted. “People are just learning about us, and we’re growing. We’ve only been in business a year and a half. As we continue to get the word out, and people find out about us and share their experience on their own Facebook pages, our name gets out there, and new people visit.”

At Funtastiks in Tucson, Ariz., guests can enjoy both go-karts and mini-golf along with a host of other activities, according to Group Sales and Marketing Manager Terry Gonzalez. “To bring in new people, we have weekday promotions that we run on both our website and social media, and we offer discounted group rates. For 10 or more people, we also have birthday party packages that appeal to kids, and we find they’ll come back on their own after attending a party here, so we build new business that way as well.” 

Along with the popular mini-golf and karts, the facility also includes the Cactus Springs Water Park, bumper boats, and a five-ride kiddie land that features what Gonzalez calls the one-of-a-kind Cosmo Jet, and a three-level laser tag arena. The go-karts have a height restriction of 56 inches and higher to operate, and 40 inches and up to be a passenger; mini-golf has no age or height restrictions. 

“Our center’s visitation is up, primarily due to the new waterpark attraction which brings people in to enjoy all the activities,” she said. “It’s just a year and a half old.” Having a variety of activities is also a selling point for the center. She described guests as traveling from regional locations such as Sierra Vista, Douglas, Casa Grande, Amado, and even crossing the border from Mexico – area locations up to two hours away. “They come because we have so many different activities to offer.”

At Glo Mini Golf in Riverside, Calif., Manager Rebecca Ledesma said the facility primarily uses group activities and social media to bring in new customers. “We do advertisements on social media, giveaways on Instagram, and that sort of thing. They all pull people in and increase word of mouth about us. School groups and birthday parties also help; people who attend large group activities will come back on their own.” The facility offers a 27-hole glow in the dark mini-golf course with black lights that causes an appealing glow on guests’ clothing, Ledesma notes. The uniqueness of the glow in the dark course also brings guests to the center, as does its lively theme. “It’s a world-travel theme,” she explained. “Each hole takes you to a different location, from Paris to Hollywood to Rio. The course is also 3-D enabled, and you can experience it that way if you wish.” 

Ledesma said that guests travel from up to 90 minutes away, from cities such as San Diego, San Bernardino, and Victorville, as well as coming from within the area. Along with mini-golf, virtual gaming and a full arcade add to guest interest. “Our attendance is up,” Ledesma said. “People are in some cases just learning about us, although we have been here four years. There is even a constant flow of locals making their way to us, who’ve just discovered we’re here.”

At Pelly’s, local promotions with schools help build business.

Located in Lexington, Ky., Sylmar, Clovis, and Thousand Oaks, Calif., MB2 Raceway offers large scale indoor go-kart facilities at each spot. Jared Sheff, general manager, speaking about MB2 Raceway centers overall, from the company’s headquarters in Sylmar, said the facilities use promotions with schools, digital advertising and a large email list, as well as social media to bring in new business. “We also donate to a lot of fundraisers and set up booths at their events. We raffle off prizes and give away things, and that makes people more aware of us as well.”

The facilities are large, and allow the company the ability to host corporate events, birthday parties, and other group activities. “We have 60,000-square-foot buildings with indoor kart racing. We have a large arcade, and Sylmar also has laser tag, and our stores all have Hologate virtual reality, a VIP room, and pool tables, things like that.” Travel ratio for guests varies by location. “We generally have people traveling up to 30-miles or so as a radius in each direction; in our LA market, particularly, we get a lot of people who are passing through the area or visiting from out of town.”

The centers’ annual visitation varies by location, but “We are seeing a bigger increase in customer volume overall. I think people are getting a bigger interest in racing, and it’s a lot more popular year in and year out. But honestly, the biggest reason we are up, is that people seem a little more willing to get out and spend money and have fun than they even were last year.”

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