Industry Leaders Share Their Perspectives on Success in the Industry
By George McAuliffe, President, Pinnacle Entertainment Group
For most of us, the IAAPA show means more than just gathering to see the latest products. It is usually combined with setting strategic priorities for the year ahead. I thought it might be useful to gather a variety of voices to provide their perspectives on industry issues. I revisited a number of interviews I conducted in recent years and have repurposed them here (thanks to International Bowling Industry magazine for allowing me to share these remarks with RePlay readers).
What would you say are the top factors for an FEC’s success?
“Great location, great product offerings, great people and execution. Also, deal with those individuals and companies that have a passion for the business and will bring you ‘value’ above the goods and services they offer.”
–– Kurt Harz, retired VP Sales, Brunswick Corporation, April 2015
Can you boil it down to the top three factors for today’s laser tag success?
“Throughput. Laser tag is a game that takes relatively little time to play. The second would be societal acceptance and trends. Third is the technology. Today we have affordable equipment that interacts with players as they proceed through the game.”
–– Jeff Schilling, founder, Creative Works LLC, February 2015
What are the top three factors behind your company’s success?
Chris: “#1 is customer service. We present…the same games, serve the same food as other restaurants, but it’s the service where you can distinguish yourself.”
Jack: “I’d rank reinvestment #2. It’s critical to stay up to date. The regulars appreciate regular improvements in ‘their place.’”
Chris: “Third has to be great value. Stars & Strikes is always looking at the value equation.”
–– Chris Albano and Jack Canouse, Partners, Stars & Strikes, November 2015
Do you have any pearls of wisdom you care to share with our readers?
“Consistency lets us deliver a guest experience that guests will return for. Get out and see how others operate. Invest in learning what is going on outside your place. It is the best money you can spend!”
–– Rick Iceberg, Principal, CJ Barrymore’s, August 2015
What are the top reasons for your company’s success?
“We do something new every year. We pay attention, watch trends carefully, understand what we need and look to replace our weakest link. Once we decide for sure, we make it happen. Moving quickly starts the payback sooner.”
–– Marc Wiese, General Manager, Airway Lanes, August 2016
What are the next phases for the BEC? Vision for the next five years?
“Anticipate change! Adjust the ‘way we have always done things.’ Reinvest in facilities to keep them exciting and engaging. The ability to create a social environment that is captivating and cannot be replicated at home or on a phone will remain at the forefront.”
–– Scott Shaffer, President, Shaffer Distributing Company, May 2016
What’s kept you in the business through the years?
“Whoever said that as long as you love something it will never feel like work knew what they were talking about. The intellectual challenge of fitting the pieces together so that they work and managing change might be the two key things, along with the great people I’ve met and worked with.”
–– George Smith, CEO, Family Entertainment Group, February 2016
Rank your top three components of the BEC and tell us a little about why you like them?
“Redemption arcade… and we all know why we love this component. We like all of the activities, whether bowling, laser tag, go-karting, escape rooms, ropes courses, etc. We look at these activities independently, and then depending on the space we’re renovating or building out, determine which of them makes sense to add to the venue.”
–– Bill Diamond, Principal, Diamond Properties, August 2017
What advice would you give a proprietor who is considering allocating space for an arcade/redemption center in their existing bowling venue?
“First, do your homework. Go to the trade shows and conferences. Visit other locations to see what’s happening. Second, make sure you are willing to make the additional effort required. Third, know the demographics. If you’re in the wrong market or location, you can’t fix that after opening. I’d also say get help. If you don’t know an area, hire someone who does. Get good counseling.”
–– Pat Ciniello, Chairman, QubicaAMF, and Principal, Bowling Management Associates, May 2017
What are the top three things that VR buyers should consider when selecting a system?
“First, the quality of the experience. It sounds simple, but it must first be fun to make people want to play again, and multiple titles help drive repeat play. Second, support infrastructure. Third is curb appeal. Some systems are designed to be behind walls. We believe VR should be visible and attractive to the rest of the game room, attracting people to watch others having fun.”
–– Armando Lanuti, President, Creative Works, November 2018
Give us your top three favorite things about the business.
“Well, our core job is to help people have fun. That’s a great place to be in life. Next, would be working with our management team, we’ve got some great people. Third is the fact that I’m my own boss. I can wear flip flops to work every day.”
–– Justin Ripp, Principal, Shenaniganz, May 2018
Apple has been focused on photo booths for 25 years now. To what do you attribute your longevity and success?
“Like any business, you have to stay relevant to your customer’s locations and to their customers, the end users. Over the years, we rode the change from chemical to digital photo finishing. Today, our booths are a gateway to the internet, a marketing tool with access to social media, a fulfillment center with after-sale options online.”
–– Allen Weisberg, CEO, Apple Industries, August 2018
It’s not easy to be successful, in any business, for 60 years. What are the top three reasons for your success?
“We apply three principles to everything we do: cleanliness, customer service and equality. Equality means treat every league bowler the same. Nobody walks out of our building with a product. We have to deliver a consistently great experience to all; every customer is entitled to it equally.”
–– Anthony Taormina, Managing Partner, Our Town Alley, August 2019
How does your corporate experience translate to the redemption merchandise business?
“It’s finding the pain points and coming up with solutions. In the corporate world, I saw what it took when a company doubled the number of employees, or added a product line, or grew organically. The right growth mindset means never thinking the way you always did it is the way you do in the future. That won’t get you to the next level.”
–– Michael Nowak, Principal, Rhode Island Novelty, Inc., May 2019
What’s your advice to readers to help them stay relevant long term?
“Do the right thing. Plus, change and invest in the business. Look outside the industry for inspiration to drive your growth long term, like hospitality companies that provide outstanding entertainment experiences, and apply these learnings to your business.”
–– Corey Dykstra, CEO, Brunswick Bowling Products, November 2019
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 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.