FECs - Renovations - November 2017


FEC_logoHow to refresh a long-in-the-tooth family entertainment center

by Mike Bederka

When Dean Park first laid eyes on the family entertainment center (FEC) he would eventually own, he saw beyond the dirty carpets, broken games and attractions, and woefully outdated laser tag equipment.

“Hawaii had a need for something like this,” says Park, co-owner of the newly named Tiki’s Family Fun Center in Honolulu. “The previous owner had a vision. The bones were there. I just had to clean it up.”

After Park purchased the 10,000-square-foot indoor facility in spring 2016, he began the complete refresh—including cosmetic changes and, more importantly, a revamp of the management philosophy. 

All the hard work paid off, says the serial entrepreneur (he owns four other businesses). Revenue increased 38 percent compared to the old FEC, and the facility’s Yelp reviews jumped from 2.5 to 4.5 stars. He details how he hit the reset button.

Keep Up Appearances

Park rehabbed the venue from top to bottom: new carpeting, improved mini-golf layout, renovated café, better redemption prizes, and upgraded mini-bowling, arcade games, and laser tag system. “I wanted items that kids actually will use, not break after five minutes,” he says.

The facelift of the then 6-year-old FEC took about a week to complete. Park decided to stay closed during the renovation. He wanted to wow guests with a whole new look upon reopening and not worry about operating at only partial strength for an extended period.

“The cosmetic things were easy,” Park notes. “The biggest change came in operations. That was the hard part.” 

Update Policies and Procedures

When Park bought the facility, he believed in the potential of the staff members already on the job.

“I knew I could train them my way, and they would be perfect,” he says. “You can do a complete makeover, but it can easily go back to running the same way without the proper training in place.”

Park gave his team members job titles, as well as clear roles and responsibilities, and implemented a series of guides and checklists to follow (for example, opening, closing, and cleaning). 

“No one knew what they were doing before,” says Park, also a licensed pilot—a fact that makes him a big fan of order. “When you give your staff the right tools, everyone’s job is easier.”

To further encourage involvement and buy-in, Park shared Tiki’s mission and vision, and stressed an open-door policy, where staff can easily communicate with managers and owners, if needed, on any issues or concerns that affect the business.

Park did not know how many employees would actually stick around through the transition. Of his 18 staffers, only half committed to the new ownership team at first. 

“The toughest part was getting staff members to realize we’re really there to help them,” he says. “The biggest thing is trust. However, everyone did stay after they saw that we wanted to make this a better place.”

Three Reasons Why Businesses Fail

With five businesses under his watch, including Tiki’s Family Fun Center in Hawaii, Dean Park knows a few things about being a successful entrepreneur. He shared these three U’s of why companies fail.

They Are … Underfunded

“You need to raise capital when you don’t need it,” he says. “Otherwise, when you do need the money, you’re screwed.”

… Undermanaged

“Spend the time and money to set up a system, and train your people to do the key jobs,” Park stresses. “Otherwise, you won’t be able to grow your business, and you will be stuck in the same place forever.”

… Underexposed

“You can have a great facility, but if no one knows about it, what good is it?” he says. “You must market it.”

The Name Game

Along with the interior overhaul and changes in management style, Park ditched the previous FEC’s name—and the baggage that came with it.

“I wanted to create a whole new energy and vibe,” says Park, adding he felt the Tiki’s moniker would lend itself to developing a brand better associated with Hawaii. (He plans to open future locations in the state and, eventually, on the U.S. mainland.)

Still, despite the name change and other massive upgrades, Park knew he would have to battle the negative reputation associated with the prior establishment, especially when the FEC first opened last year. Based on the old Yelp reviews alone, he saw a slew of complaints across the board. 

“That was our biggest concern,” Park admits. 

To counteract any preconceived notions, the initial marketing campaign focused heavily on explaining to guests that new ownership leads the FEC, he says. Plus, strong customer service became a tenet of his ownership style. The old place is just a distant memory, Park says, and guests rarely comment about it now.

Keep Working It

Park may have righted the ship within the first year of operation, but he did not want to become comfortable with the success. 

“When a business is doing well, it’s not a time to gloat,” he explains. “This is when you work even harder. You always need to make changes or bring in something different.” 

For Park, that meant integrating a popular franchise into the fold. He won the rights to the Hawaiian market for Rita’s Italian Ice, a popular restaurant chain that specializes in Italian ice and frozen custard, and has the first location in the state at Tiki’s. Now, some guests come from the nearby airport (with luggage still in tow) to buy an icy treat—and play a few arcade games—before heading to their hotel. 

Overall, revenue has jumped since he opened Rita’s in May, and he plans to put them in his future locations.

“Now, I can use two things to market one,” Park says. “With this co-branding, I draw people who wouldn’t normally visit us.”

Contact Funworld Contributing Editor Mike Bederka at michaelbederka@gmail.com.