Technology Updates to Make in 2019
By Aaron Brink August 8, 2019
Technology is advancing more rapidly every year, but it is easier than ever to use it to refresh your business’ look and feel, automate certain tasks or simply save money. Even small improvements can make a big difference to your customers. Here are ten technology updates that will help make sure that your family entertainment center isn’t stranded in a previous decade.
“The word ‘easy’ is the most important word in business today,” says Larry McLean of PartyWirks (www.partywirks.us). “Back in the day, you could hang an answering machine on the phone, put up the ‘closed’ sign at the end of the day [and be] confident customers would call or drive over with the required deposits and paperwork for their parties. You set the office hours and the location where business had to be conducted. Wow, does that sound like a long time ago in this day and age. The problem is, some business operators haven’t got the message that the tables have turned. Now the customer sets the rules.” They choose when and how to engage with a business on their own terms.
Putting control in the hands of the customer is a great thing if you’re ready for it. Making sure that your center has an easy to find, and easy to navigate, web presence is a requirement for a successful business. Information about your center is only the beginning with online booking tools, marketing programs and even merchandising available to enhance and expand your revenue streams. Even something as simple as a regularly updated photo gallery can help your business seem current and engaged. Spend the time and the money, if necessary, to ensure you have the right tools for your guests to interact with your services.
Parties are revenue drivers for any family entertainment center and your ability to keep those party rooms filled is vital to success. Scott Drummond with Party Center Software (https://www.partycentersoftware.com/) agrees, “60% of the buying decision is made before the customer ever reaches out to the business. With the massive increase in e-commerce over the last 5 years, this has made the online booking capabilities an even more important component to an FEC’s marketing and sales plan.”
For the customers, the booking process needs to be simple and available to them whenever the inspiration to make a reservation strikes. For owners, the information they provide, and collect, needs to be accurate and that’s where problems can arise for centers not using online booking tools.
“Trouble is that people, human beings, are usually between the owner and the customer,” notes McLean. “It can be like chasing cats. Staff answering phones is the real wild card. Do they have the information the caller needs? Is there a chance for a personality clash? Did they take notes and pass those notes along? Most hotels are solving this problem by letting guests book themselves online and guests love it.”
If you are not using social media, your business may be virtually invisible to a large portion of your target market. With a small investment of time, your center is able to engage directly with customers and advertise your brand of family fun to the world. Exposing more of what makes your center unique to interested internet users is good business and good fun.
Mike Carrillo, SVP, Chief Evangelist, FetchRev (fetchrev.com), underlines the importance of a comprehensive online approach, “A strong social media and website presence are table-stakes these days, and having a robust online personality that engages current and future customers, not to mention encourages them to take a desired action, is essential. We used to live in a world of ‘spray and pray’ billboards and print advertising (one message to many people) with hopes that consumers would see a message and respond. Today, we’re in a much better position to target customers in a more refined and meaningful way (one to one) that’s better for them and more cost-effective for businesses trying to reach them. If the potential of this direct one to one communication with your ideal customer doesn’t light your fire as a marketer, then your wood is all wet.”
Handling your own social media accounts can be very rewarding, but if you find the tasks to be too much, too often there are a number of advantages to working with a social media service.
“We stay at the forefront of digital trends and algorithms so you don’t have to,” writes Gabrielle Shaiman, President, TrustWorkz (trustworkz.com). “The core of what we do is ensuring our clients’ FEC is dominating its local online sphere. By being visible in local Google searches and appearing in the social media news feeds of residents in your area, for example, we increase brand awareness and drive calls-to-action, which lead to increased foot traffic, party bookings, and overall revenue.”
Point of Sale
While not as flashy as a new DJ booth, an updated POS system can streamline many day-to-day bookkeeping tasks. Save time and money by automating inventory, timeclock and other tasks.
“A POS system is one of the most valuable tools that you can have in many ways,”writes David Brewer, President, CSA Business Solutions.
Reporting: Just this past month many rink owners were able to go into their systems and see when they started seeing traffic on Mother’s Day in previous years. They would learn, for example, that they didn’t need to open until 2:00 p.m., or they didn’t need to stay open past 6:00 p.m.
Inventory control: A POS system makes it so much easier to keep track of what is selling and what is not and which items in the snack bar need to be discontinued and something else added.
Employee management: Allowing your employees to clock in and out makes it easier for payroll.
Tax and accounting: With the press of a button you can send your numbers to your accountant or into your tax filing software.”
Brewer also recommends that businesses review their payment card practices, “Many rinks across the country are still doing business the same way they did in the 50s. Many do not even accept credit cards for different reasons. Most see about a 23% increase in sales just by accepting credit card payments.”
There are other risks for owners as well, Brewer notes, “Many rinks have outdated or very old credit card terminals which pose a security risk and put the merchant in danger of hefty fines from [credit card vendors].” New machines would conform to the current and near-future security standards much more reliably.
2019 may finally be the year to update your arcade and game machines with a new revenue management system. Eliminating quarters or tokens, and the tedious jobs associated with handling them can now be done in a variety of high-tech ways. Debit cards and even cardless mobile-pay options simplify arcade game and reward management. Patrons will tend to pay with a card leading to a near cashless system. For those who do bring cash, you will be collecting money at a central location or self-service kiosks, which improves security. You’ll also gain the ability to easily track spending and play-time, helping to customize the offerings in your game room to maximize profits.
Security Cameras/Alarm Systems
Unfortunately, a good security system is a necessity for the owner of any facility. Guest safety and the security of the property are tough challenges to tackle, but your efforts will be aided by recent developments in camera resolution and digital storage sizes. Superior night vision and high-definition resolutions combined with smaller sizes guarantees that there are cameras for every situation. Digital storage, on and off premises, makes the collection, retention and review of security footage a snap. Security services abound to assist a new or existing rink in finding the right combination of sensors, cameras and other safety measures to fit their needs.
The lighting design in a facility works alongside your musical selections to enhance the mood of your guests and even plays a large role in their safety. There are more effective options than ever, from traditional approaches such as black lights, spotlights and neon to more forward-looking technologies like digital signage and projection mapping. Even just replacing older incandescents with LEDs can have an impact on operating costs.
Frank Proctor recently updated the lighting at Hamilton Skate Place and had this to say, “The lighting effects in your rink are important and don’t let no one tell you different [sic]. I was at the convention in Vegas the year after I finished the updates and was talking to [another rink owner]. I introduced myself and told him about my updates and his comment was, ‘I don’t want my rink to look like a nightclub’, and walked away. I didn’t do my lights to look like a nightclub. I updated my lights to keep up with today’s youth and what they expect. The customers were truly excited about everything and the wow effect is still there. We had customers telling us what a great job and how exciting it looked. People cant believe the rink is over 20 years old.”
The beating heart of any entertainment center is the workhorse sound system that has been tirelessly and faithfully entertaining families for years or even for decades. Owners can breathe new life into an existing setup with a music service handling the traditional DJ tasks of playing the latest hits and filtering the music for the right audience.
“Family entertainment centers are unique in that they promote classic family values that are timeless,” writes Nicki Ogaki with FEC Music (http://www.fecmusic.com/), “but they simultaneously exist in a rapidly shifting world with new tech and entertainment advances that challenge them to stay ahead of the curve and relevant. One of the features family entertainment center owners love is the mom-approved music. While they’ll certainly have access to PG and adult music for the late-night crowd, managers can set different filters for different times of the day throughout the week so only G-rated songs and videos play when young audiences are in the building. You’ll never get a complaint from parents about exposing their children to inappropriate content. New music is added every day, so you’ll [FEC owners will] never have to keep up with the charts. If Taylor Swift or Beyoncé drop another single or album overnight with no warning, our team has the songs in the player ASAP and is already reviewing any accompanying music video.”
Digital content displayed on a wall-mounted screen is a cost effective way of getting custom advertising in front of your patrons. A few televisions and the right supporting software really grabs attention.
Ogaki provides more detail, “Most establishments have televisions already installed, but the majority of them are wasting their screens. The solution is implementing your own digital signage—upload your own food and drink promotions, upcoming events, etc. that play between bright and engaging music videos that people are already paying attention to. Not only does it block other ads, but it’s actively encouraging your guests to spend more time and money at your entertainment center. By adding music videos to the FEC environment, our subscribers are not only modernizing their centers, but they’re firmly placing their FECs at the forefront of an audio/visual entertainment movement that’s happening right now. They’re differentiating themselves from the competition and establishing themselves as modern, relevant, and desirable destinations for today’s consumers.”
Keeping pace with technology will always be important for a family entertainment center. Whether you are making incremental changes or starting massive overhaul projects, technology updates will help to ensure the smooth operation of your center, and contribute to the overall enjoyment of your patrons well into the future.
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