Areas FECs and arcades will need to look at once they are able to re-open the doors.
There is a lot of speculation as to when the economy will re-open for business. While we don’t have a benchmark to serve as a guide for a timeline on the current situation, the best thing businesses can do right now is to create a plan of action, knowing that in all likelihood when businesses start operating again, it won’t be the “normal” we were used to.
Venues face a range of questions as they look to re-open:
- Will people have, or want to spend money on entertainment?
- Will people feel comfortable coming back to my facility?
- What changes should I be considering in my product/service offering?
- What changes will I have to make in my operations?
Cleanliness and hygiene
Hygiene will obviously be the most critical area for business owners to consider. Most people’s fears are based on their perception of a situation, often fuelled by repressed fear, so make sure to publicize all the steps you’re taking to address these issues.
Advertise your changes
Address questions up front. Let people know the changes you’ve made to your policies and procedures around public hygiene and safety. Pull up banners around games, A-frame signage at the entrance, posters in the restrooms and public areas and menu inserts are all good places to communicate your commitment to public health and safety.
Hand sanitizer stations are great. Consider taking it a step further by getting a staff member to offer guests sanitizer as they walk through the doors of your venue. It adds a friendly personal touch and people are more likely to adopt use.
They say that if your bathroom is clean, guests will perceive your whole venue as clean. Spend time making sure the restroom facilities are well taken care of and stocked with essentials. Sinks built with hand sensors reduce the risk of contact spreading and paper towels repeatedly stack up as the best option for containing the spread of germs compared to hand dryers and jet dryers.
Solicit guest reviews
If you’re doing your part to keep quality safety standards in place, encourage and motivate guests to leave reviews on your venue through Google, Yelp, Facebook, Trip Advisor, and the like. Nothing sets a better perception in customer’s minds than a good review from a real person.
Be prepared to operate differently
People will have different expectations upon the world when they’re able to get back out for entertainment. It’s highly likely that your offering will need to change in order to bring guests back to your venue, and now is the time to start planning your strategy.
In a recent video interview as part of IAAPA’s COVID-19 education initiative, Michael Browning, CEO of Urban Air Adventure Parks, discussed some insightful ideas on the shape consumer audiences might take as they start returning to Out-of-Home Entertainment venues.
“I believe about 20% of guests are going to have pent up demand and be ready to rock. These are the early adopters. 60% of people are in the herd, with the remaining 20% lagging behind” said Browning. “Take the first 20% and turn them into brand ambassadors and leverage them to get the herd to come in faster.”
Take this time and build your strategy around pent up consumer demand and think of ways you can provide a great experience that your top 20% can share to drive more traffic.
Building Brand Ambassadors
If you continue to spend time building your brand on social media during quarantine, you can ride the momentum and offer incentives directly to a highly engaged audience.
Ideas for how you can turn early adopters into brand ambassadors:
- Offer bonus rewards for sharing social content.
- Create promotional flyers with content contests, pick weekly winners.
- Make a big deal out of your guests, film inside your venue and promote them
- Make sure guests know your location’s hashtag; Communicate it everywhere clearly.
- Create deals that incentivize repeat visits (daily free games, etc)
Depending on the phase of re-opening, restrictions or operating limits might still be imposed, so respond accordingly. Set up plans and be prepared for changes such as:
- Staggering hosted parties
- Limiting capacity inside the venue
- Dine-in food service availability periods
- Booking timeslots for attractions
Offer alternative product offers
Many operators have gotten creative on generating income during COVID-19 and some of these ideas might remain feasible during the first phases of re-opening or well into the future of your business:
- Equipment party rental hire on a select inventory of games
- Food delivery or pickup options
- Host virtual birthday parties
- Online trivia nights
- eCommerce or direct sales of your redemption inventory
High value offers
Arcades, FECs and BECs are lucky to be part of an industry segment that can offer a high value, social experience at a relatively low cost, especially compared to other entertainment options. Add on top of this the fact that people will not be likely to travel (they might not even be allowed), so the opportunity to promote your local venue is even better. Reinforce your marketing messages with these ideas and create even higher value packages to incentivize guests to spend their entertainment dollars at your venue.
Customer Management and Relations
Maintain Social Distancing
Set the right tone and add some social distancing floor stickers around your venues, specifically around areas where people are likely to line up. POS and prize counters along with popular attractions. Make sure they fit your theme and set a tone of fun in addition to safety.
Consumers have continually shifted towards digital ecosystems over the past decade, but not in such a dramatic fashion as during COVID-19. People are not only more comfortable with online transactions, they expect them. Make sure you’re taking advantage of online services that let your guests order food and/or packages for your venue. Create offers that your guests can only get online to leverage this trend.
Another area you can implement some safety protocols is around money. Any move away from cash is a good move. Incentivize your guests to pay with credit cards or mobile phone wallets instead of cash. Make sure to pay special attention to your kiosks, however. They provide a great area inside your venue for guests to self-serve, but they’ll also require a significant plan to maintain hygiene. Guests are more likely to help out in a scenario like this if you equip them with sanitary wipes and hand sanitizer next to these facilities.
Debit Cards vs Coin Op
Albeit a significant investment, it’s a much safer (and more profitable) environment to operate a card system. (Does Embed have any plans to offer ‘stimulus’ package to get new customers?). It might also be a good time if you’ve been thinking of moving to eTickets, which already offers a range of cost savings and a reduction in maintenance.
Masks and Gloves
Masks have long been frowned on in the US. Mandatory mask use is starting to be commonplace in certain locations. Mask and glove use may very well become a standard piece of equipment for FEC employees. They’ll help your guests’ comfort level and also helps employees feel safe.
Changing the way you operate, along with the need for new consumable items like masks, gloves, and sanitizing products obviously comes at an additional cost to your business, but can you afford not to make these changes? Making short-term decisions could have long term impacts. Stay well, and remember, we’re all #InThisTogether