By Carimé Lane
The pandemic has abruptly stopped, slowed, or dramatically changed the operations of many businesses. But the mini-golf and go-kart facilities we spoke with for this article have continued to operate by making necessary adjustments, initiating promotions, and engaging with their communities to keep their businesses humming with patrons.
Promoting Mini Golf and Go-Kart Centers in This Climate
Peter Pan Mini Golf Owner and Manager Julio Massad said that, because they a local Austin landmark (they were founded in 1948), word of mouth and their reputation brings them plenty of recognition already. Beyond that, though, Massad suggested being active on social media. “We have an active Instagram and Facebook presence,” Massad said. These social media posts received a lot of attention, especially in and around holidays and spring break, Massad said.
Boots and Birdies Miniature Golf in Lake Placid, N.Y., closed for the season in October. Owner Yvonne Nichols said they also didn’t need to promote the business. “Our town was swamped with tourists,” Nichols said.
Instead, they tried to help other businesses where they could, Nichols said. For instance, they held a fundraiser, called the 2020 Shut Down Putt Down, for a local gym for three days in August. Seventy-eight teams of two participated and 17 local businesses and community members provided prizes for the winners of the tournament. What’s more: there were additional prizes for the judges’ favorite costumes and team names, most holes in one, and best battle with the elements.
Adam Saad, owner and operator of Rush Hour Karting in Garner, N.C., finds an online and very active social media presence has been helpful for selling tickets and spreading the word about the facility. He also turns the facility’s community involvement into a means of promotion. When the stay-at-home order first went out, they decided to help the 50% of the kids in the community who were reliant on the free or discounted meals normally provided at school. So, Rush Hour provided free lunches, featuring hot dogs, hamburgers, and sometimes lunches from restaurants in the community for anyone who called.
Rush Hour Karting also fundraised for the North Carolina Restaurant and Lodging Association Restaurant Workers Relief Fund, in particular, because restaurants were closed for a longer period than most businesses. Local newspapers ran stories about the event and Saad used social media to advertise. He sold races online at a discount and $20 from each sale was donated to the cause.
“It’s kind of a loss for us, but I look at it as doing good for the community, and marketing at the same time. So, I don’t really consider loss. I consider it our community involvement plan,” Saad said.
Along with promoting these community initiatives on social media, Saad uses an email newsletter to update members on their community involvement and activities. Normally, the newsletter is emailed out once or twice a month to a database of roughly 40,000 people, but it may be sent out more frequently in accordance with the number of events going on at Rush Hour.
Meeting the Challenges
Massad at Peter Pan Mini Golf said it’s important to “Maximize the contactless experience.” When the pandemic hit, they started to allow payment through credit card Massad said. In addition, they advertised their updated operations procedures, so customers were aware they cleaned their golf equipment after each use. They also have hand sanitizer and wipes readily available for customers, and require masks when social distance could not be maintained by members of different family units.
“We are also fortunate in that we are outdoors, and that gives our customers another degree of comfort,” commented Massad.
At Boots and Birdies, Nichols also developed protocols to meet the challenge of operating during the pandemic. This included: capping all groups at six participants, setting up strict distancing protocols between groups, washing and sanitizing all clubs and balls between guests and not only not re-using pencils to keep score, but also giving guests the option to keep score using an app on their phones. Nichols ensured everyone was briefed about the rules by giving a speech to participants on how to play and maintain distance, “so no one could say they didn’t know what the rules were.” A separate exit was set up to eliminate any cross traffic. Bathrooms were cleaned every hour and hand sanitizer was provided at multiple locations.
At Rush Hour, Saad said good employees are more important than any other asset you have. And, since times will get better, losing employees now will only hurt you in a few months–plus, they may help you come up with ideas in the meantime, he said. When they were closed for several weeks, Saad kept his employees on the payroll. At one point, he put them to work refurbishing the lobby, something they hadn’t had the chance to attend to while they were open.
“It was worth it keeping the people on the payroll,” said Saad. “They put their hearts and souls into this place. And in return, we were keeping their jobs for them without a doubt.”