Family entertainment centers refer to amusement places catering to families, typically sized to serve sub-regional markets of larger metropolitan areas. Family entertainment centers, frequently referred to as “FEC’s” includes such amusements as miniature golf, go-cart tracks, arcade and video games, with redemption prizes, and some form of food and beverage, among other things to do.
A characteristic of family entertainment center “things to do” is that the amusements are, almost without exception, off-the-shelf products from industry vendors. This is due simply to the scale of investment for FEC’s, that must match the limited customer support available in sub-regional markets.
A serious matter for design of FECS’s, is the type, layout, and staffing requirements, of the amusements included. These factors are particularly important, since the peak period business – weekend afternoons and Thursday thru Saturday evenings – are so much larger than the very limited non-peak business typical to FECS’s. Customer through-put during peak periods, is therefore, a vital factor in design.
Therefore, while there are few opportunities for sustaining competitive advantages for one FEC versus another, successful FEC’s typically offer:
Location with superior visibility, proximity, and access to customers – this can be difficult since the economics of FEC’s are not attractive compared to most other forms of urban land use.
Design with superior thematic decor – if the rides, games, and attractions are all the same, from one FEC to the next, a factor perceived to be distinguishing by patrons is the fun factor in the overall decor.
Built to include five or more superior “anchor” activities – there simply must be enough to do so that patrons can return again and again to easily achieve an hour or two length-of-stay without being bored, or waiting too much in que lines.
Operated with superior sales strategies, to reach customers – the successful FEC’s have an ever-present promotional program in place, varied by daypart and weekparts, targeting specific customer niches. Without constant work on awareness, FEC’s can see business decline as their potential customers seek other forms of leisure-time entertainment.
Operated with superior comfort and security for patrons – many FEC’s function as drop-off centers for tweens and teens, making on-site security an important factor in an FEC’s success.
Operated with superior food and beverage options for guests – parents are more likely to bring a family to an FEC if the parents can enjoy a snack, meal, and/or drink of high quality.
The FEC industry has typically included a large number of non-chain individual venues. However, in the last three decades, there have been a number of attempts to create FEC’s based on well-known consumer brands (LegoLand Discovery Centers, Club Disney, DisneyQuest), as well as well-financed attempts to create multi-unit chains on all-new brands and intellectual property (Wannado City, GameWorks, Adventure Landing).
There are also a number of products that have been successful, that can be included in the FEC category, although are just as appropriate considered as themed restaurants. Examples of such products include Chuck E. Cheese and Dave & Buster’s.
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