Family entertainment center, the role of management systems

19 August 2023 - 10:30

Mike Dawber (Intergame) takes a peek behind the curtain to seek out the hidden but vital network of back-office management systems that are key to a successful entertainment centre.

Written by Mike Dawber - InterGame
© Pxfuel

© Pxfuel

Behind the bright lights, neon signs, enticing music and beguiling sounds, every successful Fec - Family entertainment center has efFective, if not glamorous, “back-office” systems going on behind the scenes which allow the location to run efficiently, maximise the revenue and, just as importantly, keep customer happy by improving their experience.

The fun business is, at the end of the day, still a business, and as such operators always need to be aware of how to maximise efficiency and revenue with a good back-office management system. As Rohan Mathur, marketing head of cloud-based software maintenance firm Metaagrow, says: “A good back-office system allows companies to streamline their business processes, reduce operational costs and increase productivity.” 

Sebastian Mochkovsky, Ceo of Sacoa Usa, concurs, saying back-office management systems are “essential for Fec operators looking to improve their efficiency and profitability. These systems provide operators with real-time data on sales, inventory and customer behaviour, allowing them to make informed decisions and optimise their operations.” 

For Alex Goldman, vice president of US sales at IdealOne, a good back-office system is “massively important” to the operation of a Fec, as it gives access to data and the means to fully utilise that data to ensure the most efficient use of assets. He said: “Most business owners are incredibly busy multi-taskers making a thousand decisions a day. Having quality data to base some of those decisions on is a must.
“Revenue reports reveal which games are earning their space on your arcade floor. You have that data at your fingertips, it changes everything – how you invest in new games, how you prioritise maintenance and repairs. It’s simply essential.”

A back-office management system can improve an operator’s efficiency first and foremost by automating processes, with cashless payment methods enabling better, less labour-intensive use of resources. It is more important than ever, given the extremely tight labour market, that operators prioritise the jobs that staff need to be doing over those they don’t. 
Goldman, at IdealOne, summed up how Fecs can improve efficiency in three words – or rather one: “Automation, automation and automation.”
He added that the pandemic has forced “a giant leap in the world of automation and an expectation that customers should be able to pay using cards or other cashless means.
Increasingly, people are drawn to methods which remove personal interactions in their transactions. Once we get the hang of these things, we tend to find them more efficient and trustworthy.”

This is a theme taken up by Mochkovsky who said: “Fec operators should embrace digital and cashless systems to streamline their operations and enhance the customer experience. These systems can reduce wait times and improve transaction speeds, leading to increased sales and customer satisfaction.”
A further advantage of automation, said Metaagrow’s Mathur, is that “it leads to fewer errors, faster processing time and improved accuracy. It also enables better communication and collaboration among different departments, reducing bottlenecks and improving overall efficiency.
“With a system such as Metaagrow, an operator can keep a track of the total downtime of their machines and see how many maintenance tasks have been scheduled for the technicians. An operator can also track the number of issues and incidents that happen at their outlets and what is their present status.”
Mochkovsky added: “The pandemic has certainly highlighted the importance of systems like Sacoa’s Crm, online sales, online party and event booking modules in enabling operators to adapt to changing circumstances and keep their businesses running smoothly.”

Renee Welsh, Ceo of Embed, remarked that surveys have shown that on data alone, staff spend about a third of their time doing tasks that can be automated. Embed’s Stats solution is a business intelligence dashboard jointly developed with Amazon Web Services to help operators view and analyse data, as well as automate reports.
She said: “Operators should be aware of how much data can transform the business, revenue streams, operations and the bottom line when it’s smart, cloud-based and efficient.”

The potential for data exploitation is emphasised by Scott Sherrod, Ceo of cashless systems specialists Intercard, who said: “By spending 15-20 minutes a day reviewing reports generated by a cashless system, operators can find missed opportunities. Data mining, system security, inventory control, merchandising and marketing, price management, ongoing training, support and system updates are all an integral part of maximising a Fec operation. You can’t do that as easily or efFectively if you are still running with cash or tokens.”
Sherrod adds that there is the added advantage for operators that card users tend to spend more, especially if they pre-purchased their game cards or attractions online. Operators can also use kiosks and card readers to upsell guests and promote special offers like happy hour pricing.
He added: “By using more sophisticated technology, operators can manage more efficiently with less staff. Features such as remote game management, online booking and kiosks can reduce check-in lines and free up staff from traditional administrative tasks such as handling cash.”

Mathur from Metaagrow outlined two ways good data use can improve an operation of a Fec or bowling alley.
He said: “Firstly, back-office management systems help an operator to know where the assets are located, what is their working condition, how many are under breakdown and most importantly how much time it is taking to become operational again. With a system like Metaagrow you can view complete information about your asset life cycle and its performance, total downtime, etc.
“Secondly, back-office management systems help the operators in managing their inventory more efFectively by providing real time visibility into stock levels, enabling companies to make informed decisions about stock that is available and those that need to be updated.”

It is important not just to collect data but use it efFectively, a point stressed by Welsh, of Embed.
She said: “Lots of time is wasted in unsuccessful data activities. With a system like Embed’s Stats system, operators can maximise the work week by automating reports, viewing data through a cloud-based platform anytime, anywhere across different business locations and make critical, data-backed decisions that will drive greater revenue and greater profitability.”
While in a narrow sense this can obviously improve the “bottom line,” operators should be aware that good management system frees up staff to focus more on the guest experience and therfore, happier customers.
Operators with Stern Pinball machines can greatly improve their efficiency through Stern’s Insider Connected system, which enables them to view tech alerts remotely at any of their connected locations. This includes alert history as well as critical events like the opening of a coin door. This allows operators to improve uptime and reduce the cost of unnecessary service checks, improving revenue and reducing service trip costs.
Zach Sharpe, marketing director of Stern Pinball, said: “Companies should use new technology as a powerful tool that can make the workflow of every department run more efficient which ultimately serves the end customer positively.
“If an operator is not utilising the power of Insider Connected at their locations, they are leaving money on the table through missed upsell opportunities (additional coin drop as well as food and beverage sales) and maintenance cost reduction (removing unnecessary service checks through tech alerts).”
As well improving operational efficiency a good back-office system can enhance profitability by maximising revenue from customers.
An operator can also use loyalty programmes to encourage customers to make repeat purchases by offering rewards, discounts or other incentives. By rewarding loyal customers, an operator can increase their customer retention and maximise revenue potential from each customer over time. So much for getting the most out of existing customers, but of perhaps even more value is attracting new customers and business.
Social media is also an essential way to boost custom. Platforms like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram are great channels for operators to promote their events and offers. These platforms allow operators to target specific demographics, create engaging content and run specific ads that lead consumers to a targeted landing page for conversion. Operators should also engage with their audience by responding to comments, messages and reviews. Email marketing is a cost-effective way to reach out to customers directly. Fecs can create targeted email campaigns to promote their events, offers and discounts. They can also use email marketing to keep customers informed about upcoming events and new attractions.
For the future the trend is for holistic back-office management systems that connect customers easily to more of an operations products and services with increasing use of all-in-one kiosks.

Mochkovsky from Sacoa said: “In the future, we see Fec operators adopting more self-service kiosks to reduce staffing requirements and costs, as well as embracing other technologies such as mobile payments and digital marketing tools to enhance the customer experience and drive revenue growth.” The OneKiosk from IdealOne will not only allow customers to put funds onto their cards, it will also act as a sales point for food and beverage outlets on site and sell entrance tickets or access to other attractions.

Goldman said: “People enjoy exploring the options and prices themselves rather than having to ask a staff member and they might also see options they hadn’t considered purchasing before. It’s a win-win situation for operators.”
Mathur at Metaagrow sees operators using systems that cover the entire ecosystem of their business. “They will be using systems that are improving their day-to-day operations and at the same time improving their staff productivity, ensuring great customer experience. Operators will want to automate their entire business and make data driven decisions,” he said. “Using Metaagrow or any software helps the operator to efficiently manage his locations very easily and can be done on the go.”

For Welsh at Embed the future is SaaS (software as a service): “It is proven with the increase of customers who transition manual processes to cloud-based systems. More operators are future-proofing their businesses as operators see the virtues of SaaS and how these solutions can transform revenue streams, operations and profit.
“Embracing the tech of today paves the way to become an Fec of the future – a business that is ready for the kind of elevated and hyper-personalised experience consumers will demand.”

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