’Tis the season for people to spend money. Lots of it. With planning, some of those free-flowing holiday dollars can come your way. Here are seven ways family entertainment centers (FECs) have found success during the holidays.
Set up shop at the mall
Odyssey Fun World establishes a kiosk at a nearby mall from Black Friday through Christmas. It costs roughly $3,000 but is well worth the price, says Clint Paraday, general manager for the FEC with locations in Tinley Park and Naperville, Illinois.
Employees staff the bustling booth selling gift cards, explaining their birthday party packages, and getting valuable face time with local folks doing their holiday shopping. “You may be in their backyard, but they still never heard of you,” he says.
The newly opened Planet 301 in Paterson, New Jersey, generated some early excitement with a special holiday craft table, says managing director Stacey V. Tsapatsaris. For two weeks before Christmas right inside the entrance of the 32,000-square-foot facility, kids could create works of art with precut foam, paint, crayons, and jingly bells—all under staff supervision. Parents appreciated the gesture, and Tsapatsaris says she plans to do it again for 2011.
12 days of deals
Taking a note from the popular Christmas carol, Andy Alligator’s Fun Park in Norman, Oklahoma, offers a different special promotion for each of the 12 days leading up to Christmas Eve. For example, guests get free mini-golf on day two and buy-one-get-one-free large pizza on day 12. “We want to give them something special,” explains Kyle Allison, the FEC’s general manager. “These are our gifts to our customers.” To promote the event, they post on their website and Facebook page a mini-calendar with all the deals.
Fun for the family
Holiday parties shouldn’t be considered an adult-only event anymore, Allison says. These days more and more area businesses and groups opt to hold family-friendly functions at his venue during December. “People want something new and different,” he says. “They just don’t want to have a banquet dinner somewhere.” Plus, a still-sluggish economy means party organizers look to save money wherever they can. An FEC comes much cheaper than the standard hotel ballroom, Allison says, so it can cash in on people’s penny pinching.
Black Friday blowout
The day after Thanksgiving is the biggest shopping day of the year. So why can’t FECs reap the rewards of the spending spree? Last year Paraday offered a steep 50 percent discount on birthday parties if parents booked them on Black Friday. About 30 guests took advantage of the major deal, he says.
“The holidays aren’t huge for birthday parties, so we wanted to create awareness and get our name out there,” Paraday details.
However, he admits he misfired with a previous Black Friday discount. In 2009 the first 200 guests who arrived before noon got a free ride wristband. Unfortunately, only a few dozen showed up. Paraday learned people were too consumed with shopping to stop by, and he consequently changed to the birthday booking.
July in Christmas?
Of course, most people focus on the holidays during Christmas, but you can sell your facility in other ways. Fun Center in Clearfield, Pennsylvania, hosted a luau party on one December weekend for those already starved for summer, says FEC president Josh McCahan. Customers dressed in beach clothes or a swimsuit earned discounts like a free $5 game card or 10 percent food discount, he says. There were some giveaways, and beach-balls scattered throughout the facility added to the summery vibe.
Don’t be scared to manipulate prices or offer deep discounts during the holidays, Paraday says. “You’re going to be paying for the labor regardless, so why not keep them busy? Having more people in your facility means they will spend more on other things like concessions.”
For the week between Christmas and New Year’s, when most kids have off from school, Planet 301 features 50 percent discounts on all arcade games and a $100 discount on any party package. Tsapatsaris’ idea helped with her attendance numbers and everyone left with a buzz. “People want to go where people are,” she says. “The more foot traffic the better.”
Contact Contributing Editor Mike Bederka at mbederka@IAAPA.org.
- Be festive. Cover your FEC with decorations and lights, and put reindeer ears and Santa hats on your employees. Drab walls and glum staffers won’t put anyone in the holiday spirit.
- Show your charitable side. Donate game cards or passes to charities.
- Say cheese. Hire a photographer to take pictures for guests’ holiday cards.
- Game on.Tailor redemption merchandise for the holidays, and change out the prizes in the crane games. Remember guests might be playing for gifts, so it can’t hurt to throw up some extra signage enticing them to try (extra hard) for the iPod resting behind the glass.