By: Howard McAuliffe
Nearly every day I see a video game or arcade on TV.  In addition, there are often multiple generations in the arcades I visit.  Grandparents of today grew up with pinball and parents with video games, so there is no generation gap for arcade customers.  Many of the operators and manufacturers are making money, and building new and better projects and equipment.  This is all great news!  While enjoying the success, lets remember that we have more customers and attention on our industry, so we would be wise to take ownership and responsibility for maintaining our mostly positive reputation.  The Fair Play Pledge is a good start towards ensuring fair play in facilities.  However, as an industry, let’s work toward evolving rapidly but sustainably into the future.  Lets face it we tend to lag the retail world and other industries in sophistication and execution.  Here are a few things to consider:
  • Learn systems to measure assumptions- There is a lot of experience and knowledge in our industry, lets make sure we are backing up our assumptions with real data. For example, is a penny a point the best value for a ticket?  Is your ticket value really a penny a point?  There are several other established principles that need to be continuously tested.
  • Analyze Customer Data- How can we objectively measure customer behavior. Retailers are using traffic measuring devises to see measure how consumers flow through a space.  We can learn a lot about our customers with today’s technology, much of which we already have on location like Debit Card Systems.
  • Focus on Customer Experience While Growing- Many successful FECs, especially in the bowling world are adding locations, in some cases several at once. It is much more difficult to manage a chain than it is a single location.  Focusing on delivering the same customer experience is essential, even if it means growing more slowly.
  • Save a Few Dollars- My father always tells the story of a real estate lawyer he met during a major real estate downturn, he had a bumper sticker that said “God, please give me one more boom and I promise I won’t spend all the money this time.” Many in the industry are making money, it would be wise to save some of it.  Human nature is to seek more of everything, checking the impulse to over extend and over leverage in business and personal finances would be wise.
Times are good, and it is a lot of fun to be part of the good times. Technology is changing, so it is important to learn about the possibilities and invest in the future.  Balancing investing in the future, with planning for harder times is not easy or particularly fun but it is important.  I believe we will and our industry will be one of the most exciting and profitable industries to be a part of for decades to come.