Special Section - Family Entertainment Centers - November 2018

Matt-Heller-Headshot---Credit-Matt-Heller

“When you’re in a front-line position, you’re thinking about working the laser tag arena today. As a leader, you’re thinking about who will run the laser tag arena three weeks from now.”
 — Matt Heller, Founder of Performance Optimist Consulting (Credit: Matt Heller)

Making the Leap

Tips to transition front-line FEC employees into supervisory roles

by Mike Bederka

Family entertainment centers (FECs) and attractions that strive to groom their front-line employees into supervisory positions can harness their associates’ built-in knowledge of customers, rides, attractions, and overall operations. This often makes these future leaders a major asset to the facility, says Matt Heller, founder of Performance Optimist Consulting in Hendersonville, North Carolina.

Yet, this leap can be tricky if not properly managed. Heller, author of “All Clear—A Practical Guide for First-Time Leaders and the People Who Support Them,” describes how FEC owners and operators can effectively handle the move.

Finding the Stars

Not everyone will be cut out for leadership roles. “And that’s totally OK,” Heller says. For these staffers, it’s still incumbent upon the management team to seek out their personal strengths and continue to develop them. 

“That might mean giving them experience in different departments or challenging them to build their skills elsewhere—whether that’s in customer service, productivity, or efficiency. You still want them to be better at the job they’re doing, not necessarily up the ladder.”

However, other front-line employees will be primed for a promotion and possess those “critical, unteachable skills.” Look for individuals who constantly ask questions on how things work, show initiative, can step out of their comfort zone, and have natural leadership ability, he says. “They may not have a title yet, but people naturally follow them. They have an outgoing personality and can build great relationships and trust.”

Testing the Waters

Once FEC managers identify potential new supervisors, they should be evaluated before they earn the official promotion, says Heller, who suggests giving them a real-world exercise to perform as an audition. For example, encourage them to lead a meeting, create the weekly schedule, or head up the employee recognition program. 

“Let them run with it, and see how they do,” he says. “The key element of this process is you get to see how they reacted in the situation.” 

Along with observing, managers should be offering feedback on what the employees did well or areas for improvement and use that as a building block for strengthening their skill set. 

“Work through the specifics,” Heller urges. “It helps people develop the mindset of what it takes to be in those roles. When you’re in a front-line position, you’re thinking about working the laser tag arena today. As a leader, you’re thinking about who will run the laser tag arena three weeks from now.”

More Than Just a Budget Line Item

Some FEC owners and operators may worry about the extra expense of adding more supervisors to the payroll, even if they deserve the raise and additional responsibilities. When faced with this conflict, management should use it as an exercise to look closer at the facility’s budget, says Matt Heller of Performance Optimist Consulting. 

“If you bumped this person up to a supervisor, could this move increase the revenue somehow?” he asks. “Or will a new supervisor let you have more coaching, feedback, and recognition for staff, which in turn, would help people stay? Then, you can make the case that you’re actually saving money because you’re reducing turnover.” 

In situations where the expense can’t be justified, managers should have a candid conversation with the employees, explaining their value to the FEC and exploring other ways they can contribute besides a promotion. Possibilities include training in another department or taking on a special project or two, he suggests.

“There’s a balance, though,” Heller says. “You don’t want to be perceived as taking advantage of them.”

Develop Structured Training

The education process for the staff member continues after the promotion announcement, Heller says. “The investment to develop new leaders is one of the most important things you can do to help sustain your business. Even if you’re a mom-and-pop FEC and your son or daughter will take over, you still have to train them on how to do that. They don’t come out of the womb knowing how to run your business. You still have to put them through the paces.” 

Owners and operators should develop a structured supervisor training program and be committed to it (see box).

“Determine what you want them to learn,” he explains. “What are the things already happening at your center that you can involve them in. It’s not about creating a big training course. It’s about using the things and experiences you already have and teaching them those processes.”

Management teams also must support their supervisors throughout their entire leadership journey.

“The initial training is important to give them a firm foundation, but leaders take a long time to develop,” Heller says. “Home in on what it takes to become an effective supervisor. Have one-on-one meetings every few weeks to see how things are going and give them additional coaching and feedback. It’s always a progression of their skills.”

Clear the Air

After employees formally move into a leadership role, they also should sit down and meet with their former front-line colleagues and lay out specific job expectations. This proactive step will help prevent any awkward situations in the future.

“Let them know they can still come to them with questions or concerns,” he says to new supervisors, “but they’re not the peer-to-peer commiserator that they were before.”

Hit the Reset

Unfortunately, not all moves to higher positions will work out. FEC managers shouldn’t get down on themselves, and the same goes for the new supervisor.

“It’s really hard to predict what it will be like to be in a leadership role until you’re actually in it,” admits Heller, recommending managers wait at least a few months for them to find their footing before making any additional changes. “After then, it’s OK to hit the reset button.”

Assuming the employee still will be valuable to the company, management shouldn’t cut ties completely—perhaps he or she could head back to the front line or switch to another department, depending on the situation, he says. “Work it out to be whatever will be comfortable for them.”

However, if they made some irreparable mistakes in the supervisor position, it might be best to separate them from the FEC, Heller says.


Mathieu-and-Normand-Huppe---Credit-Boulzeye

Boulzeye is an FEC with bowling, billiards, laser tag, and virtual reality that has grown through the years as a family business Mathieu (left) and Normand Huppé of BoulZeye. (Credit: Boulzeye)

Runs in the Family

Generations work side by side

by Mike Bederka

Regular Sunday dinners take on special meaning for members of the Huppé and Allison families. Not only do they share the latest bits of their lives around the table, they also spitball ideas, strategize, and look for ways to improve their family entertainment centers (FECs).

Some FECs are true to their name, with generations of families running their businesses side by side. Normand Huppé and his son Mathieu Huppé of BoulZeye in Montreal, Canada, and Russell Allison and his son Kyle Allison from Andy Alligator’s Fun Park & Water Park in Norman, ­Oklahoma, dish some of the family secrets on how they make this dynamic work. 

Headshot-Kyle---Credit-Andy-Alligators-Fun-Park-&-Water-Park

“I love working in a family business where if we want to make a decision, we just do it. We don’t have five layers of red tape to get through.”
— Kyle Allison, General Manager at Andy Alligator’s Fun Park(Credit: Andy Alligators Fun Park & Water Park)

A Matter of Trust

Before joining Andy Alligator’s in 2008, Kyle briefly dabbled during college in event sales at a sports arena. Following graduation he stayed on until the corporate environment eventually sent him to the door.

“I love working in a family business where if we want to make a decision, we just do it,” Kyle says. “We don’t have five layers of red tape to get through.”

Clear roles and responsibilities help to streamline everything. Russell, the owner, provides the overall strategic and general direction at the FEC. 

“I’m a dreamer,” Russell says. “I have a lot of crazy ideas.”

On the other hand, Kyle offers balance. As general manager, he handles the daily operations, including overseeing the maintenance and tech crews, sales and marketing teams, and staffing.

That’s not to say they don’t overlap at times or help out each other in a pinch. 

“The biggest advantage for me is having someone you can trust 100 percent of the time,” Russell notes. “You know things will be done right. Kyle isn’t looking at this as ‘just a job.’ He cares about the family business. It’s going to be his someday.” 

Kyle has some close company at Andy Alligator’s. His wife works in human resources, his brother in food and beverage, his sister-in-law at the water park, and his mom helped start the FEC and still handles the accounting.

“There’s pride in everything we do here,” says Kyle, who is also chairman of the IAAPA FEC Committee and serves on the IAAPA Board of Directors.

Headshot-Russell---Credit-Andy-Alligators-Fun-Park-&-Water-Park

“I may work until I’m 70 years old, but it won’t be in a leadership role. I am going to pass the flag.”
— Russell Allison, Owner of Andy Alligator’s Fun Park (Credit: Andy Alligators Fun Park & Water Park)

Growth Through Delegation

People will see a remarkably similar family affair roughly 1,600 miles to the northeast at BoulZeye. Normand opened the FEC in 2007, with Mathieu starting off working the front desk on Thursdays and weekends while attending the Université du Québec à Montréal for a degree in management.

Mathieu took on additional duties over time, and when graduation came, Normand had a frank sit-down conversation with his son.

“I told him, ‘I don’t want to impose anything on you,’” Normand recalls. “I asked, ‘Do you want to keep on working here?’”

Mathieu responded with a resounding “Yes.” Besides being an avid bowler (boasting a 232 average), he says he looked forward to instantly implementing everything he had learned at school, including accounting, marketing, and supervising staff.

Not many people get this kind of opportunity fresh out of college, Normand says.

“He was managing a $2 million business. How many 27-year-olds can brag that they handle this much responsibility?”

With a newly minted general manager in place, Normand took a step back from the daily operations to focus on the FEC’s vision and special projects.

Six Tips to Running a Multigenerational FEC

1. Take It Slow. Children should not be rushed into the family business, urges Normand Huppé, president of BoulZeye. 

“You don’t have to give them the keys to the whole thing on the first day. They have to grow into it. Don’t look over their shoulder or second-guess them either. I’ve seen situations where the parents have crushed their kids’ morale.” 

That means mistakes likely will be made. 

“It’s all training, and it will be OK,” he says. “You have to learn to let go.”

2. Have Clear Lines of Communication. When Normand officially passed along the day-to-day responsibilities of BoulZeye to his son, Mathieu, he meant it. Normand wanted all staff members to go to Mathieu with any questions, comments, or concerns. If they tried to bypass Mathieu, Normand would send them right back to him.

3. Disagreements Sometimes Get Personal. Russell Allison, owner of Andy Alligator’s, acknowledges that business-related discussions with his son, Kyle, can sometimes become animated. 

“It’s absolutely personal because some day it’s going to belong to him,” Russell says. “I want it to be done right. I hold all my family members to a higher standard than any employee, for right or wrong.” 

Kyle takes it all in stride and certainly reciprocates. 

“I would never talk to my boss in the real world like I talk to my father,” he says, “but we also probably joke and play around a lot more.”

4. Work and Life Will Mix. It can be tough to separate the FEC from home life, but people shouldn’t sweat it, Kyle stresses. 

“If anyone in a family business said, ‘We leave everything at work,’ I don’t know if I would believe them. It’s your livelihood, and if you’re sitting at dinner and something pops in your head, you want to talk about it.”

5. Put a Succession Plan in Place. To avoid any confusion (especially at an extremely difficult time), Russell made his will clear and details all the business responsibilities.

6. Divvy Up the Tasks. “Know your limits and accept them,” Mathieu says. “You can’t do everything by yourself. It won’t be good for your business or your own well-being.” 

Kyle echoes that sentiment. “Appreciate your strengths and determine the responsibilities based on them,” he says.

“I would just cut off his leg leadership-wise if I stayed around,” Normand shares. “It’s also impossible for a single person to have their eyes on the day-to-day and be able to look through their binoculars at the next big trend. Because there are two of us, we can be efficient at both levels. It’s a strong relationship, and I would not change it for anything in the world.”

The once bowling-centric FEC has undergone a massive expansion thanks to this philosophy. They bought and incorporated the billiards hall and bar with off-track betting on either side of the facility. BoulZeye also added laser tag and a virtual reality section, and a pub and kitchen will be coming shortly. Its staff jumped from 17 to 55 people through all the changes.

Much like the Allisons in Oklahoma, the Huppés—Normand, now 56, and Mathieu, 31—found trust to be a key factor in the FEC’s success.

“From day one, Mathieu was authorized to sign all the checks,” Normand says. “Normally, there’s a limit where you can trust your employees with your wallet. We’re a team at the top.” 

In fact, Mathieu’s younger brother, Olivier, joined the FEC in May to handle the accounting and payroll. His role may increase in the future, wherever that may lead them all.

Normand would love Mathieu to continue running the facility for decades, but he doesn’t put any pressure on his son.

“I’m not expecting him to be the owner or operator of this business for his lifetime,” Normand says. “It’s not my goal. My son will always be my son—even if he moves on. Whatever he decides to do, it will be great.”

Mathieu does not have plans to hang it up anytime soon, though. 

“I think about the business all the time,” he says. “It’s not just work. It’s a passion.”

Russell, who worked for his father in a transmission shop as a teenager, also plans to take a hands-off approach down the line at Andy Alligator’s. 

“It’s wrong when the dad sets up and just keeps control,” says Russell, now 54. “I may work until I’m 70 years old, but it won’t be in a leadership role. I am going to pass the flag.”


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TreeUmph continues to follow up with groups to ensure their questions and concerns are handled before their events take place. (Credit: TreeUmph! Adventure Course)

Planning with Purpose

FECs must extensively prep for successful group events

by Mike Bederka

On a busy day several years ago, a large group rolled up to TreeUmph! Adventure Course excited for a day of climbing and swinging. Management had anticipated the outing, so they had the headcount set, waivers signed, and appropriate staffing in place. 

The problem? The family entertainment center (FEC) known for its wooded ropes courses didn’t realize the group would be arriving on a bus, and its small and forested parking lot couldn’t immediately accommodate them.

It took some scrambling, but the facility found space for the oversized vehicle, and the guests enjoyed their time out, says Aaron Corr, owner of TreeUmph in Bradenton, Florida. The blip, however, did provide Corr with a valuable lesson, and thereafter, the FEC’s reservation office always would inquire about the group’s mode of transportation—along with its lengthy list of other questions. 

A group event often only will be as successful as the planning that goes into it. Facilities need to take special care to prep for the function, from the initial call to the lead-up to the day, as well as be ready for any last-minute craziness.

TreeUmph-Pic-2

Planning times can vary depending on the type of event coming to an FEC. A corporate holiday event could begin planning months ahead of the scheduled date. (Credit: Apex Parks Group)

First Contact

TreeUmph attracts groups—like academic clubs, scouts, and companies—from 10 to 300 people in size. Most will reach out at least a month in advance to start the booking process, says Corr, noting this first contact becomes crucial in the planning.

The staffer details the height and age restrictions, inquires about tentative numbers (including anticipated junior and adult tickets), and, in the most critical detail, asks about their expectations.

“We want them to come to a place they’re excited about, and we want to make sure they know we’re an adventure park,” he says. “We have ziplines and obstacles. Some people will make it all the way through, and some people don’t.”

At this crucial touch point, facilities should have a “candid conversation” with group leaders, urges Janét Wilson-Irving, director of sales and marketing for Aliso Viejo, California-based Apex Parks Group, which has 10 Boomers FECs and two SpeedZones under its umbrella.

“Find out as much as you can as far as what they’re looking for, and then see what you can do to accommodate their needs,” she says. “I can’t encourage this enough.”

For example, with corporate events it’s important to understand if it’s a milestone, anniversary, or a team-building exercise.

Also, don’t overpromise something the FEC can’t deliver, with staffing and spacing common sources of discomfort, Wilson-Irving says. 

“Make sure you can accommodate them,” she says. “You have to be sensitive to everyone coming in for the day. No one wants to be in an environment where they can’t move.”

Be Prepared

Educate the Whole Team on Group Sales Basics

Most FECs don’t have an army of group sales reps to handle booking events, but that doesn’t mean the entire front-line staff can’t be educated on the basics.

“About 90 percent of the time it’s really fact-finding calls from guests,” says Janét Wilson-Irving of Apex Parks Group, who has over 25 years of sales experience. “They’re just looking to connect with someone and get information. You want the customer to avoid the voicemail hole.”

Front-line employees don’t need to worry about the entire booking process, but in case the group sales team is temporarily unavailable, they should at least know in general terms what the facility can offer to a potential group. The staffer should also collect basic information from the organizer (person’s name, company, phone number, date of event, etc.) to pass along to the group sales team for a return call.

“Communication is key,” Wilson-Irving says. “It’s all about immediacy.”

While most of their groups start planning four to six weeks out, exceptions always exist, Wilson-Irving says. Some have contacted Boomers just a couple days before wanting to arrive for a small group outing, while at the other end of the spectrum, the Irvine, California, Boomers location recently hosted the JCC Maccabi Games, an international Olympic-style event for Jewish teens that attracted some 3,000 people to the park.

The four-hour event in August took more than a year of planning, requiring numerous calls to hammer out logistics like food and beverage menus, ticketing options, and several walk-throughs. On the floor, organizers asked the Boomers team about staffing levels, ride admission policies, and drilled the staff on the number of restrooms and trash cans on-site.

Wilson-Irving also sees this level of commitment and interest from people in charge of high school graduation night planning. The clients generally visit five to 10 times before the event to review logistics.

She said FECs shouldn’t overlook the importance of a walk-through and compares it to a home seller’s make-or-break open house. Little details, like sticky floors or broken games, could have the group running to the competition, so facilities should be sparkling.

Handling the Back-and-Forth

Following the initial contact, TreeUmph will generally follow up two weeks before the event to inquire if the group has any last questions and then asks for final numbers a week prior. The staff will then contact group planners two days before their arrival to take care of the waivers and see if they have any last-minute concerns.

“We have at least three or four phone conversations with the group to make sure they’re ready and everyone is prepared,” Corr explains. “It’s important to us, and our guests appreciate it.”

A central reservation office handles TreeUmph events, using customer relationship management (CRM) software to schedule follow-up calls and record notes with the customers. With roughly one-third of his business from group sales, Corr says the company has moved well beyond simple sticky note reminders to plan this crucial part of the operation.

Apex’s FECs use CRM software to help manage group communication, as well, says Wilson-Irving, adding that a few days prior to the event can be a particularly important point in the process.

“Here’s a great upselling opportunity,” she says.

To gain extra incremental revenue, Wilson-Irving suggests facilities not take the “pushy car salesman” approach. Rather, FEC staff should spin it as a chance to address any additional needs based on the client’s budget, such as snacks outside of the planned meals, more money for the game cards, or tickets for alcoholic drinks.

“You can only put so many people in your facility, but if you can get a couple more dollars out of each of them, that’s where you will really see the difference,” she says.

Dealing with Last-Minute Issues

On the other hand, FECs shouldn’t attempt to do any upselling at the actual event, Wilson-Irving warns. 

“That’s when they want to just enjoy the day,” she says.

But even if staff members aren’t trying to drive additional business, they must be on high alert for any last-minute hiccups. 

“My best advice? Anticipate that not everything will be perfect,” she says. “You just have to make every attempt to make things right.”

In other words, if the group shows up with 25 extra people, don’t panic or show frustration to the guests. Take the wrinkle in stride. 

“It usually boils down to do whatever you can to make the customer happy in the moment,” says Corr of the snags.

At his facility, groups will occasionally show up with guests who are too young or too short to participate in the adventure course (despite staff detailing the requirements weeks ahead of time).

To make the best of it for teary-eyed guests, TreeUmph has a contingency plan ready to implement. These customers will get a junior guide shirt, whistle, and radio and explore the wooded park land under the ropes course above with a staff member, while everyone else goes climbing.

Holding a Post-Mortem

For those few times where groups experience more than the usual glitches, TreeUmph management doesn’t focus on reprimanding staff, Corr says. Instead, it looks at those moments as training opportunities and brings the crew together to discuss what exactly went wrong and how similar issues could be prevented in the future.

At Apex’s FECs, the good, bad, and (sometimes) ugly of group events will be recapped at weekly staff meetings.

“Communication is important leading up to the event, but it’s just as important afterward,” Wilson-Irving says.

The facilities also will solicit feedback from the group organizers shortly after the function to hear about their time. In fact, these testimonials frequently prove to be a valuable way of recruiting additional business.

“One of the greatest compliments you
can hear in group sales is, ‘We will be back,’” she says. “It’s a stamp of approval.”


DAVE & BUSTER’S

“Jurassic World VR Expedition” launched on the same day at 113 locations. Dave & Buster’s set up a toll-free help line for stores to call to ensure a smooth operation. (Credit: Dave & Buster’s)

Virtual Reality with Teeth

How Dave & Buster’s created its own VR attraction

by Scott Fais

IN AN UNDISCLOSED LOCATION RESERVED FOR RESEARCH AND DEVELOPMENT, Kevin Bachus held his breath.

“Oh, baby!  This is the one!  Guests are gonna lose their minds when they see this!” he exclaimed watching giant-sized Rock ‘Em Sock ‘Em Robots engage in battle.

As one of the creators of Microsoft’s Xbox video gaming system—and now senior vice president of entertainment and game strategy at Dave & Buster’s Entertainment—Bachus was excited to launch the 12-foot-tall game—the first the chain had ever built in-house—where participants control two towering robots that throw punches. One problem: guests were far more aggressive with the game than expected and the robots didn’t initially hold up to all the wear and tear at Dave & Buster’s stores, he says.

The robots were quickly strengthened and the game went on to become one of the chain’s most popular. Yet, Bachus remains solemn.  

“It was one of my most bitter disappointments because that should have been the moment of our greatest triumph,” Bachus remembers. “We learned so many lessons from that game that went directly into the engineering and manufacturing of our VR product.”

However, Bachus, who has spent his entire career in developing consumer video games, wasn’t down for the count, but ready to tackle virtual reality (VR) next.   

This past summer, Dave & Buster’s debuted “Jurassic World VR Expedition.” The simulator attraction, exclusive to the family entertainment center (FEC), is part ride, part game, and a total immersive experience. The rollout was massive: 113 locations all began offering the game on the same day to coincide with the summer release of Universal Pictures’ blockbuster “Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom.” 

For the first time in its history, Dave & Buster’s designed, built, installed, and now operates a VR ride it designed. The undertaking was the largest in the company’s history, with a dozen vendors playing a role at secret locations in Orlando, Florida; Dallas, Texas; Los Angeles, California; Harrisburg, Pennsylvania; and Seattle, Washington.

In a story you’ll read only in Funworld, Bachus peels back the curtain for an inside look at how Dave & Buster’s created its own VR system.

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“I’ve seen a lot of technology come and go, and it’s very difficult sometimes to separate the potential from the business side of it.”
 — Kevin Bachus, Senior Vice President of Entertainment and Game Strategy at Dave & Buster’s Entertainment (Credit: Dave & Buster’s)

Creating a game you can ride in-house is a large undertaking. How long did this process take?

Kevin Bachus: We’ve been testing VR for over five years. In mid-2013, it seemed to me that while consumer VR had the potential to be very compelling, it was also going to present a real hassle for most ordinary gamers. I realized it would be a very long time before most people would install a VR platform in their home. It takes clearing furniture and positioning cameras—I work in technology, and I can count on one hand the number of people I know who have even managed to install surround sound systems in their house! I’ve seen a lot of technology come and go, and it’s very difficult sometimes to separate the creative potential from the business side of it. I tend to be a lot more skeptical of technology than others. Rather than thinking, “OK. How do I build a VR product,” what I tried to do was build a product that could enable me to build a business around an immersive experience. At the end of the day, that’s what VR delivers to you.

Your VR game looks very different than traditional games. Why the departure?

KB: I thought we needed to do something that would feel comfortable for our guests, something that wouldn’t seem like an annoyance—like strapping on a backpack, putting on a headset—all the stuff you generally have to do in VR. So instead, I built something that looks at first a lot like a theme park ride, but is in fact really a game. And that was intentional. It was not designed to compete with theme parks, but to build a sense of familiarity and comfort in our guests when they first see the unit. When they see it, they already know what it’s about.

“Jurassic World VR Expedition” is half game, half ride. How did VR systems on roller coasters influence your development?

KB: I thought, “Can I do something similar, but in 200 square feet? Could I create something which gives you that same sensation of motion while delivering an immersive experience to go along with what your body is feeling?” So we built a very early prototype and tested it in one of our stores about a year and a half ago, and it did really well. That gave us the confidence to continue forward. Ashland Technologies in Orlando worked with us on the final design and did all of the construction, including the theming and perimeter “fence”. We even designed the fence to look more like an extension of the vehicle. I didn’t want it to look like an “old-timey” state fair-like chain link fence. We wanted it to look more organic and be an extension of the game, so again it would feel very natural to our guests. Talon Simulations in Orlando was then responsible for all the quality assurance of the system as it related to the VR component. For long periods of time, we put sandbags in every one of these units. They would tilt forward, backward, right, forward, backward, left, right, all day long, to make sure these things were solid when they left the backdoor of the assembly facility.

What in store logistical changes were needed to accommodate the addition of “Jurassic World VR Expedition?” 

KB: Nearly everything had to change. We created a new form of currency in our stores. That involved our accounting team and our information technology team. We had to redo our kiosks to list the product, and then there is training. The fact we have a game attendant is something we haven’t had in decades. All of our games are self-service, although we have some phenomenal technicians in every single store who maintain the games. But we didn’t have somebody standing alongside of them [operating] the games. It’s really given us a workout. It’s touched every single person in our company.

With a duration of five minutes, lines can build. How do you manage the wait time?

KB: VRstudios out of Seattle built the software that the game runs on and it’s phenomenal. In addition to the gorgeous touchscreen interface to run the game, it allows us to add a waitlist functionality, so we can take a guest’s cell phone number and send them a text message when it’s time to come back. It prevents them from standing around for an hour and a half waiting their turn. We have reporting and auditing built into this simple, little touchscreen interface that is running off the same computer that is running the video screens and the game.  That was really important because from end to end, we wanted this to be a really great experience for the guest.

How did you secure the rights to use the film as an intellectual property (IP)?

KB: So at this point, the only thing missing was, “What is the game we are going to launch this thing with?” For me, there was never any other choice. If there was any way to do it, I wanted to launch with “Jurassic World.” It’s a property that I have always admired, and we even did some testing with our customers that showed they felt the same. We showed them several well-known IPs, some generic IPs, and what we found was that there wasn’t a whole lot of distinction between the different IPs, with the exception of “Jurassic World.” That’s the one that set it apart. I learned that a relatively new company in Los Angeles, The Virtual Reality Company, had secured the rights to make a VR game out of “Jurassic World,” so we partnered with them, funded the development of their first game to be designed initially for our platform, and they got to work creating an exceptional experience. Building a relationship with Universal, as well, was a great experience. Their team has become very close to me. I really admire that company. A lot of really good, good people work there. They have a remarkable culture.

With the game up and running, what plans do you have to expand the footprint?

KB: We’re very, very happy with the performance so far. We’ll continue to add the platform to all our new locations and over time, we will build up a large library of content for it. Right now, it’s like the small-town movie theater with one screen, playing just “Jurassic World.” Down the road in the not-too-distant future, we’ll turn it into a multiplex with two screens—then three screens, four screens—giving our customers even more choices.