A Splash of Creativity
Some of the best promotions just require a spark of creativity rather than gobs of money.
That’s what Jeremy Hoyum discovered when he took ice cream, cereal, sprinkles, M&M’s, whipped cream, chocolate sauce, and cherries and threw them inside a colorful cotton candy shell.
With dollops of imagination, the owner and operator of Jake’s Unlimited in Mesa, Arizona, created a viral hit with the Unicorn Taco.
“We had no clue of the speed at which it would take off,” Hoyum admits.
First, the local news covered the wacky dessert concocted by his wife and daughter. Then came the major outlets like Foodbeast and BuzzFeed, and soon after a popular influencer posted about the Unicorn Taco on the video-sharing social network TikTok, a hit that garnered more than 4 million likes and 30 million views (and counting).
“We have people coming into the facility just to check it out,” he says.
The food and beverage landscape has shifted dramatically over the past few years, and family entertainment centers (FECs) now must consider the “Instagrammability” of the dishes they serve guests, he says.
“It used to be about quality and taste,” Hoyum says. “Now, you have to create something worth taking a picture of. It’s really about the experience.”
FECs should be “obnoxious and crazy” with odd flavors and unique combinations, and Hoyum also urges owners and operators to be audacious with promoting their food experiments, which can become easy upsell opportunities and revenue generators.
Employees began wearing T-shirts plugging the dessert when the Unicorn Taco took off, he says, adding staff should urge guests to take photos and tag the facility in any social media posts. Venues also need to promote the food oddities on their own channels.
Like Jake’s Unlimited, other FECs have successfully increased profits with promos that didn’t need a bank loan to implement. Check out these four ideas done on the cheap.
Warner Robins, Georgia, United States
Idea: Hawaiian Staycation
Natasha Lunce, owner of Monkey Joe’s in Warner Robins, doesn’t believe FECs should fight the slow weeks. “Instead, double down on busy weeks,” she says.
The facility developed a Hawaiian Staycation for spring break to capture additional revenue during a normally bustling time. From Monday through Friday, Lunce and her team covered the FEC in inexpensive Hawaiian decorations (including hundreds of beach balls) and played games like limbo, cornhole, and sack races. The staff also gave out leis and ran hourly crafts with volcanos and sand art.
Admission remains the same during this week, but guests can buy a staycation card for $20 per child, which includes unlimited trips to the FEC (normally $10 a visit), half-off arcade, and a spin on the prize wheel for items like a free slice of pizza, $5 game card, and 150 redemption points.
The promo attracted new customers and resulted in a 30% revenue spike, Lunce says. Five percent purchased the staycation card, visiting an average of three times during the week, and some customers just bought the card for the arcade discount.
Idea: Hop in for Fun
Cinergy Entertainment’s business had traditionally dipped over Easter weekend, so to reverse the trend, the company developed a promo to add value for the guest and connect to the holiday.
Its “Hop in for Fun” event incorporated several elements to help drive traffic during the sluggish time, explains Todd Maunsell, Cinergy’s vice president. Staff members hid a prize egg in locations the Friday, Saturday, and Sunday of Easter weekend. The observant customer earned movie, popcorn, and drink passes, as well as a free game card. To build marketing momentum, the FEC posted the winning customer’s photo on social media and urged guests to return for another chance to play.
In an online giveaway, guests registered on the facility’s Facebook page for a chance to win an Easter basket with goodies and movie and Cinergy swag.
And in the last piece, customers belonging to Cinergy’s Elite loyalty program received a $10 card to use during Easter weekend, Maunsell says. Customers redeemed more than 1,500 cards, and importantly, 70% of these guests added money to them (over $13 on average). Store game traffic increased 12% over the prior year as a result of “Hop in for Fun.”
Maunsell attributes much of the promo’s success to cross-promoting a consistent message across its social, in-store, and loyalty audiences, as well as being smart with the deal.
“You don’t have to run a discount in order to generate new traffic,” he says. “We just needed to hide an egg.”
Austin, Texas, United States
The indoor foam dart sports arena struggled with its Tuesday business, so it ran a simple “Twofer” promo where two players play for the price of one. The all-day Tuesday deal ran last summer, which Dart’em Up marketed heavily through social media, email, and printed flyers, says Richard McVay, the facility’s founder and CEO.
On Tuesday, Dart’em Up saw a 58% jump in net sales versus the previous year, and 49% of players upgraded their blaster in 2019 compared to 11% in 2018.
“The huge increase in upgrades was an unexpected boon to profits,” says McVay, who decided to make the promo a weekly mainstay because of its initial success. “Goals were met and exceeded.”
Wow! Zone Family Entertainment Center
Mankato, Minnesota, United States
Idea: Saver Booklet
Distributed to approximately 5,000 households, an area saver booklet helped Wow! Zone see annual jumps in sales, says Pam DeMarce, owner of the Minnesota facility. It didn’t cost anything to participate in the 47-page coupon book that also raised money for local schools. Wow! Zone filled about 10% of the pages, offering coupons for a free $2 game card, buy-one-get-one laser tag, a free bowling game, 10% off total purchase, and more.
Contact Funworld Contributing Editor Mike Bederka at [email protected].