2011 | 2012 | 2013 | 2014 | 2015 20162017 | 2018

Family Entertainment Centers - January 2017

FEC Sessions Address Operations, Marketing, More

by Mike Bederka

From games management to special events, the education sessions at IAAPA Attractions Expo 2016 provided plenty of information for family entertainment centers (FECs). Here are a few of the takeaways:

Up Your Game in the Arcade

Game card systems can improve customer satisfaction, increase operational efficiencies, and grow your business, said Jeff Ernst, vice president of ACS Amusements, during “Arcade 101: Fundamentals of FEC Success.” Tokens, meanwhile, create frustrating jams and go hand in hand with “messy” tickets.

With game cards, FECs can monitor staff activity and decrease theft, track customers, better evaluate game performance, and offer loyalty programs and packages like time play, he said. When they swipe versus drop, guests increase spending per visit too.

“We’re a cashless society,” said Joe Ingui, president of Tricorp Amusements, who also presented the session.

Ingui shared a series of arcade tips with attendees:

  • For machine selection, aim for 50 percent redemption, 20 percent merchandisers/cranes, 20 percent video, and 10 percent interactive/other.
  • Maintain sightlines throughout the room. Keep lower-sized games out front.
  • Cluster categories of games together (video, redemption, etc.).
  • Review the game mix every 3-6 months and look for underperforming machines.
  • Move games around within the space. With a different location, people will think they’re playing something new.
  • Have clear signage. Guests don’t want to feel uncomfortable asking silly questions.
  • Keep the redemption counter well lit and stocked.
  • Appearances count, so regularly shampoo the rugs, add a fresh coat of paint, and change out dead light bulbs.
  • Winners make players. Take pictures of people with high-ticket prizes.

Strive for Group Sales Success

If an FEC doesn’t have a dedicated sales team in place, group business will suffer, said Beth Standlee, owner of TrainerTainment, during “Building Great Group Sales for Your FEC.” “People buy from people. That can make a huge difference at your facility.”

Don’t be scared to use the word “sales” when placing ads for staff. Sometimes people wrongly highlight descriptors like “event” or “marketing” manager. Also, spell out the job description and describe a typical workweek. Close the ad with a call to action: Tell them to phone if interested.

During the interview, ask the candidate questions like, “How do you handle rejection?” and “Tell me about your best sale.” Do a mock sales exercise, as well.

Once hired, sales staff should have a clear position description, including how many calls they are expected to make. Standlee offered this formula for outside sales: Eight hours/day x three calls/hour = 24 calls/day.

Among the other suggestions in her session:

  • Never, ever have discounted packages on Saturday 0r Sunday.
  • Do sales staff have problems getting past a company’s “gatekeeper”? Contact someone in its sales department to help make a connection. “You already have a whole gob of stuff in common with them,” she said.
  • Always track key performance metrics of sales staff: number of bookings and guests, as well as the amount of each sale. In addition, get projections for this week, next week, and two weeks out.
  • Less is more with package types. “Don’t go nuts,” she stressed.

Make Music Matter in the Guest Experience

Music isn’t just the icing on the cake, said Joel Beckerman, founder of Man Made Music. It’s the cake.

“Every single thing, whether we know it or not, is scored by sound,” he said during “Creating Spaces with the Senses to Develop a First-Class Guest Experience.” “Are you being thoughtful with it?”

People respond to sound quicker than all the other senses, he said. Music emblazons memory triggers, hurling individuals across time and space in an instant. It also helps create expectations and influences what guests remember of their experiences at a facility.

“Music sets the emotional tenor,” said Beckerman, who believes sound will play an important role in driving the narrative in virtual reality, an exploding market segment. “It’s a not fad. It’s the first brand-new storytelling medium in our lifetime.”

Small Changes Can Equal Big Differences


FECs don’t need a massive overhaul or bank loan to improve revenue and streamline operations. Through the audience-participation heavy “FEC Lunch: Facility Tweaks, Enhancements, and Improvements That Make a Difference,” owners and operators swapped a series of relatively easy-to-implement ideas:

  • Scene75 instituted a loyalty program where guests receive everyday perks like discounted arcade pricing, VIP event invitations, and entry into the birthday club, along with bonus benefits every Wednesday of three free arcade games, half-off go-karts, and a large pizza for $5. It sells 150 loyalty cards a week for $12 a pop, which translates to almost $100,000 in revenue for the year. Plus, the FEC collects valuable marketing information on guests.
  • Big Thrill Factory reaches out to third-party events (for example, wine and painting meetups). The FEC attracts a different audience from what it would see normally, and it bumps up food and alcohol business.
  • Thunder Road uses online scheduling for staff. The affordable and convenient tool allows employees to easily swap shifts, lets management monitor payroll costs, and helps with retention among millennials who’d rather not deal with a hard-copy schedule.
  • Entertainment Properties Group formalized the process for donation requests from the community. Rather than handling dozens of calls a month, have a form on the website for people to fill out. In that form, add a section to inquire how the group or organization could benefit the facility, as well. Perhaps it can incorporate the FEC’s name into signage or an e-blast for a marketing boost.