Business Resources - Point of Sale - April 2018

CINERGY ENTERTAINMENT

Cinergy Entertainment Group's newest facility is cashless, allowing customers to pay for food, beverages, movie tickets, and bowling games with either a credit card or a Cinergy Fun Card. (Credit: Cinergy Entertainment)

Show Us the Mobile Money

How smartphones and tablets are getting rid of the cash register—and providing time, labor, and cost savings

by Jen A. Miller

It used to be the point of sale took place at a handful of locations around your family entertainment center (FEC): guests pay here for tickets, there for meals, and then you count the drawers at the end of the night hoping things were about right (and if not: find out why). 

But just as smartphones are changing our everyday lives, they’re changing how we do business. For a lot of FECs, that’s shifting the meaning of the term “point of sale”—and how a lot of business is done.

The programmability—and mobility—of smartphones and tablets have enabled FECs to do everything from going cashless and mining customer data, to even performing site surveys, where managers can record employees’ effectiveness on the job and take photos of the facility’s cleanliness. 

CINERGY ENTERTAINMENT

Cinergy's cashless system has reduced customers' wait times for its attractions and has led to time and labor cost savings for the company. (Credit: Cinergy Entertainment)

Cashless Registers

Cinergy Entertainment Group FECs feature dine-in cinemas serving food and beverages, in addition to offering a selection of interactive games and other amenities, including bowling, laser tag, and ropes courses. When Cinergy planned for its new Odessa, Texas, location, it did something radically different from its other established locations: It went cashless. The Dallas, Texas-based company looked at its cash-to-credit card ratio and saw cash was trending down.

“We know it’s coming, and we know most people know it, as well,” Todd Maunsell, director of operations at Cinergy, says of moving toward a cashless society. According to a recent survey from global financial institution ING, 38 percent of respondents from the United States would be willing to go cash free, and 20 percent said they already do. “We decided to be pioneers and get ahead of technology and create this environment,” he says.

Customers have two choices for how to pay. They can use a credit card anywhere in the FEC, or load cash onto a branded Cinergy Fun Card at one of many kiosks near the front door and every point-of-sale location. Cinergy positions greeters at entrances to explain how the system works. “If someone gets through and up to a register with cash, we can quickly convert that cash to a Fun Card,” Maunsell says. 

Cinergy uses Vista for its food, beverage, movie ticket, and attractions point-of-sale system; QubicaAMF’s Conqueror management system for the bowling alley; and Intercard to run its Fun Card system.  

The company has seen instant results, Maunsell says. Not having cash shortages in its registers is an obvious one, but no cash also means time and labor cost savings in the accounting department. Cinergy also found small labor savings in that employees can share drawers. 

“Anyone that’s been trained can jump on a drawer, and we don’t have to worry about money missing,” he says. Another bonus: line wait times have been shortened, which, of course, customers enjoy.

Cinergy is currently building a new facility in Tulsa, Oklahoma, that will also be cashless, and the company is working to convert its two existing FEC locations.

BIG THRILL FACTORY

Data mining offers FECs the opportunity to better understand their customer base, adjust inventory, and create effective marketing campaigns. (Credit: Big Thrill Factory)

Diamonds in Data

Another benefit to a cashless system, especially for FECs that offer something like Cinergy’s Fun Card, is customers most likely provide their information in return, and FECs can mine their data to fine-tune marketing efforts.

“You’re able to track how often they attend your facility, where they spend their money, how long they’re at your facility, how often they come to your facility,” says Craig Duncan, sales executive of amusement software at Ideal Software Systems. 

This can work for FECs in three major ways. First, it gives operators a better handle on when they’re busy so they can staff appropriately. Second, it helps managers adjust their inventory so they aren’t wasting items or running out. “How many hamburgers are you selling per day, per hour, per month, per year? You can look back and modify your inventory based on the needs from the data,” says Duncan.

And third, it tells FECs a lot about their customers and can provide insights on how to market to them. For example, if a customer books a birthday party, “now you’re able to track who came to your birthday party, what was ordered, what was taken in prizes,” he says. It could also allow FECs to figure out that while they do well with birthday parties for 5-year-olds, their tween offerings aren’t as successful. “Maybe your birthday party packages aren’t really offering what the clients are looking for. Maybe they just want a private cabana and to play laser tag. Whatever it may be, the data is going to be able to tell you that from these reports,” Duncan says.

If FEC customers provide their information when they sign for up a cash replacement card, companies can also directly market to them through text messages and e-mail, but Duncan warns to be careful not to bombard customers, and to make sure to offer an opt-out option because not doing so can turn off older customers (i.e., parents, who are usually the ones paying). 

Beyond the Register

Big Thrill Factory, an FEC company with three locations in Minnesota, hasn’t gone cashless, but does use the Jolt operations platform, which has apps for smartphones and tablets, to manage information and tasks. These include opening and closing checklists, maintenance inspections, opening inspections, and tracking things like refrigerator temperature charts in real time. 

Big Thrill Factory is also testing a function of Jolt’s software that’s a departure from the norm:  using smartphones to conduct staff observations.

Managers use smartphones to carry out a 10- to 12-minute observation of an employee, ranking elements like area cleanliness, customer engagement, and enthusiasm. The apps on phones also allow managers to take pictures. Then, the app has a manager confirm they administered a two- to three-minute feedback session with the employee, which can lead to immediate changes to benefit both the employee and the FEC.

“It’s a simple and fast way that everyone’s familiar with—and convenient,” says Darrel Blomberg, regional general manager at Big Thrill Factory.

Managers can then use the app to retrieve all of their observations when it’s time for a six-month and annual review. 

“It’s not a separate function, so managers don’t have to go through and create a separate form. They’re reviewing a summary of all those staff observations,” Blomberg says. 

The company is still in the testing phase, rolling it out to different departments over months. It’s not just so the new function doesn’t cover the entire company in one big change at once, but also to make sure the company is using it at the right intervals for the best feedback for all of its employees.