4 Ways to Refresh and Renovate Your Family Entertainment Center
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center (FEC) he would eventually own, he saw beyond the dirty carpets, broken games and attractions and woefully outdated laser tag equipment.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. Revenue increased 38 percent compared to the old FEC, and the facility’s Yelp reviews jumped from 2.5 to 4.5 stars.
One of the best places for operators to learn about refreshing and renovating FECs and similar attractions is IAAPA Expo this November in Orlando. Below are some tips on how Dean Park and you, too, can hit the reset button on that long-in-the-tooth FEC.
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.
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). 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.
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. 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 place them in his future locations.
For more tips on refreshing and investing in your entertainment center, operators should conduct extensive research. One of the best places to learn is IAAPA Expo this November in Orlando. Educational seminars and roundtables, such as “Taking Your Entertainment Theming to the Next Level to Enhance the Guest Experience” and “Bowling Center to Bowling Entertainment Center — Creating the New Wow in Town,” provide unique opportunities for vendors to learn from and ask leading professionals about the exciting and fast-paced future of FECs.
Plan now to attend IAAPA Expo from Nov. 18 to 22 in Orlando, Florida.
A version of this article originally appeared in Funworld, the official publication of IAAPA.