It's Party Time!
Children’s birthday parties typically make up a significant portion of family entertainment center (FEC) income streams. However, there is always room for improvement.
Are your birthday parties reaching their full revenue potential? Here's a look at what some FECs are doing to ensure their birthday party business is the most sought-after in their region.
Not Just for Kids
Some FECs are leveling up their birthday party businesses by offering parties not just for kids, but for older guests as well.
Samantha Unglert, chief operating officer of iPlay America, said it was a no-brainer to offer party options for kids, teens, and adults, as they had curated their attractions for the whole family.
"There was a demand for adult parties—everything from birthday parties to bachelor and bachelorette parties," she continues. "Millennial adults love nostalgia, and these kinds of parties really bring that to the table. They have more fun than the kids do!"
Billy Criscione, general manager at Ghostly Manor Thrill Center in Sandusky, Ohio, says they've had quite a few requests in the last two years to host 30, 40, and 50-year-old birthday parties.
"We'll do an after-hours party for adults so they're not dodging little kids out on the skate floor or if they just want a more discreet setting," he explains. "We've just been able to accommodate to the requests of our customers. And that's really what you have to do is listen to your customers and what they're looking for if they can't find it in your area."
Offer Diverse Packages
Having a wide selection of party packages to choose from is also important. At iPlay America, Unglert says they currently offer eight packages that cater to different age groups. These include their most popular Mega Party Package and their teen-focused Freedom Party Package.
"Rather than having a structured party with a party host, this party package offers that desired teenage 'freedom,'" she details. "Guests celebrating with a Freedom Party have the flexibility to do what they want at the times they want to and focus on the rides and attractions they are more interested in, along with time to play in the arcade."
Jessica Doty, president of operations at Andy B's Bowl Social, says they have revamped their birthday party packages to fit the needs of their guests, and include packages for teens and adults. She says it's important to have a good website advertising what your birthday party packages offer.
"And then the availability of them to book online [is important]," she adds. "A lot of people like to do things without having to talk to somebody over the phone now—they like to do things on the internet. And I think having those is a big thing in increasing birthday party sales."
Don't Forget Add-Ons
Although party packages include basic party needs, there are numerous ways for FECs to bring in more revenue through add-ons.
According to David Wallace, president and founder of Turfway Entertainment Management LLC, the birthday coordinator at their various FEC properties is responsible for calling back every birthday party booked online to try to sell add-ons like grab bags, electronic tickets, and food and beverage.
"[We] pre-sell a lot of food opportunity on the front end by telling them, ‘Hey, you're coming in during a very busy time; our kitchen is going to have a line at it to order food—why don't you go ahead and order for adults a couple of platters?’" he says. "You can choose ahead of time so the food comes out as your pizzas come out so everyone can eat at the same time. That makes things a lot easier."
Doty says at Andy B's Bowl Social, they offer a variety of add-ons, including a push-pop style ice cream dessert they created. "We offer additional game cards, free play cards that don't include redemption, [and] laser tag packages that our sales team is trained to upsell to all of our birthday party packages," she adds.
Create a Special Feeling
FECs need to make sure that groups booking birthday parties with them receive excellent customer service and a feeling they are special.
Wallace suggests FECs hire someone devoted to handling parties who can provide that excellent customer service, which involves answering the phone and responding to every email request or online booking. "It will come back to you in some cases tenfold if you have a dedicated person that's sourcing, responding, and selling to those parties—it will drive your revenues up considerably," he adds.
Additionally, find a way to make the birthday guest of honor—no matter their age—feel special. For example, at Ghostly Manor Thrill Center, the guest of honor gets to take a ride in the giant skate car on their roller rink floor.
"By putting them in that skate car, that's a unique item in itself that nobody else has in the area that kind of sets you apart from any of the other birthday party venues," Criscione says. "Every venue needs that component for the birthday child to make them feel one step above just a regular old birthday party."