Breaking New Ground
Looking for Something New In Your Community-Based FEC?
By George McAuliffe, President, Pinnacle Entertainment Group
Back in 1979, I took a temporary job managing an arcade. I didn’t plan to stay long, but I found the challenge appealing. It seemed there was always something new: from video to redemption to cranes, from mall-based arcades to stand alone FECs, from single to multiple attractions. You get the idea. I think the challenge of managing change is a big part of what keeps me around these days.
The typical FEC is community based, serving a fixed audience within a limited drive time. The FEC audience craves change. It’s a little like the movie business in that if you keep showing the same movie, the audience drifts away. In an FEC, keeping things “new” involves regularly adding new games and perhaps rotating menus in the restaurant. The best facilities use regular marketing, promotions and events to keep things fresh and exciting.
Then there are the bigger ticket items: attractions like play structures, park-style rides, advances in laser tag, ropes courses and upgrades from redemption counters to stores. More recently, escape rooms and virtual reality attractions like Creative Works’ Hologate or LAI’s Virtual Rabbids have been welcomed by facility owners and players alike. So, what else is out there? What’s next?
Thinking Outside the Box
We may have another major entrant to the attraction mix: For Modern Makers, which is a “create and play” concept with the dual potential to increase visits from existing FEC customers while attracting new ones (www.formodernmakers.com). Create and play is part of the growing arts and crafts industry (currently at $44 billion), as well as the DIY movement (which is trending towards $13.9 billion in additional growth). Hollywood has noticed. Comedians Amy Poehler and Nick Offerman recently launched a fun crafts-competition show on NBC called Making It. (Learn more at ew.com/tv/2018/07/10/amy-poehler-nick-offerman-making-it-pun-off).
Our company, Pinnacle Entertainment Group, has teamed up with For Modern Makers to introduce this “New Way to Play, Creative Fun for Everyone” concept to FECs. CEO Debbie Carty founded the company in her backyard some 17 years ago and it evolved into a mobile arts and crafts business while Debbie developed and tested the store model in two sites. The company has sold its first third-party location to “Tahoe Modern Makers” and the results have been good.
“We think For Modern Makers is a natural for family entertainment centers of all kinds,” Debbie said. “We have a turnkey solution for FEC owners to capitalize on the trend: from design to inventory to operations and marketing, we’re ready to go.
“We are a social business with a mission to create a safe and social playground using arts and crafts,” Debbie continued. “Our concept appeals to parents, as an antidote to the ‘screen effect.’ It’s hands on, interactive, and a lot of fun.”
In terms of the business model, there are seven distinct revenue streams:
• Daily In-Store Craft Menu: The drop-in craft menu accommodates any walk-in customer. The craft menu includes time-tested and current trending crafts such as ceramic painting, mod-podge, string art, stenciling on fabric, embroidery, and wood burning. Margins of the in-store crafts run between 70-90 percent.
• Creative Classes: Supported with a monthly schedule for website and social media, these classes include watercolor, macramé, hand sewing, drawing, cookie decorating, and more. Classes can be targeted for underutilized day parts and to specific guest profile.
• Parties, Events and Group Sales: The Create + Play program is designed to accommodate groups for parties and events. It’s often a two-part experience with the birthday person and Mom first selecting the crafts, then there’s the party itself.
• Gifts: For Modern Makers provides a selection of current, stylish, and affordable gift items (which also support parties). Some items might be incorporated into the redemption program.
• Arts and Craft Supplies: One of the items driving arts and crafts popularity is crafting at home. FEC attendees can pick up supplies for their home activities.
• Free Events: Events are designed to regularly promote the concept, attract customers for the various revenue centers and drive residual sales by attendees.
• Pop-Up: Reimagined from For Modern Makers’ original start up days, pop-ups promote the concept – and the entire FEC – to the community.
We love the possibilities for FECs. In some respects, FMM is very different from traditional FEC attractions. In other ways, it fits right in. Debbie tells us that the right selection of crafts and structure appeals to both genders, although mothers with children – who are most often the the decision makers – are a primary target. We suspect that the primary appeal will be to girls, which most FECs underserve.
We like the countertrend aspect as it fits right in with FECs themselves as a popular alternative to “cocooning.” People are looking for out-of-home, socially interactive experiences. It is also flexible in terms of size.
We will be working with For Modern Makers to develop proof of concept for the industry. If you are interested in participating in this phase or would just like more information, please get in touch.
George McAuliffe has helped hundreds of business large and small develop and execute arcades and FECs. He has personally operated family entertainment centers from 2,000 to 150,000 square feet as a corporate executive, entrepreneur and consultant. With his partner and son Howard, he recently launched The Pinnacle Insider to help a wider audience execute FEC operations at a higher level. Readers can become an Insider at ThePinnaceInsider.com.
George lives on the Jersey Shore with his wife, Julie, and has a passion for passing along what he’s learned in the fun business to the new generation of operators and suppliers.