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Thoughts on the Future of LBEs & Digital Out-of-Home Entertainment

Recently Kevin Williams, publisher of The Stinger Report, an ezine that covers the digital out-of-home interactive entertainment industry, contacted me and several other industry leaders and asked about our take on the future of location-based entertainment and digital out-of-home entertainment. Following was my response:

When we talk about the digital out-of-home market, it covers an extremely broad range of location-based entertainment venues. Our company’s focus is on the community-based models, commonly referred to as family entertainment centers, which is an unfortunate categorization, as the industry also includes children’s- and adult-type venues.

As I have been writing over the past few years, I think the trouble with a large segment of the industry is that it focuses too much on the entertainment equipment, whether it be the games or the attractions, and fails to understand the significance of what drives guests to seek an out-of-home experience, which is far more about socialization than the entertainment. Entertainment only facilitates out-of-home socialization; it is not the end all.

I have been writing about the importance of food, as it can be a major differentiator for the out-of-home versus at-home entertainment experience. We know food is a motivator of why people leave their homes, multiple times more than they do for entertainment. Food and drink is the real social network of the ages; it is the ageless bonding agent that connects family and friends. If we just look at movie-going versus destination dining, having a sit-down meal in a restaurant, the destination dining drives 17 times the attendance. Marry entertainment that facilitates socialization with great food and drink in a great atmosphere (another factor most venues fail to properly focus on) with great guest service and you have a winning combination for community-based venues.

As far as digital goes, I believe the future of out-of-home entertainment is in its ability to extend the experience in both time and place into the virtual world as well as using technology to enhance the bricks-and-mortar experience.

Kevin is more than correct with his thoughts that LBEs have to be ‘unachievable@home’ (a term Kevin coined). However, there is more to it than that. It also has to be compelling enough for people to expend their time, effort and expense to leave the comfort of their caves and all its digital and far less expensive entertainment options.

The future is bright for community-based entertainment and dining venues. But the formula that works is no longer the carnival in a box. It’s all about a fully integrated social experience where the ‘entertainment’ is only one part of the formula and not necessarily the key driver of attendance.

About Randy White

Randy White is CEO and co-founder of the White Hutchinson Leisure & Learning Group. The 31-year-old company, with offices in Kansas City, Missouri, has worked for over 600 clients in 37 countries throughout the world. Projects the company has designed and produced have won seventeen 1st place awards. Randy is considered to be one of the world's foremost authorities on feasibility, brand development, design and production of leisure experience destinations including entertainment, eatertainment, edutainment, agritainment/agritourism, play and leisure facilities.

Randy was featured on the Food Network's Unwrapped television show as an eatertainment expert, quoted as an entertainment/edutainment center expert in the Wall Street Journal, USA Today, New York Times and Time magazine and received recognition for family-friendly designs by Pizza Today magazine. One of the company's projects was featured as an example of an edutainment project in the book The Experience Economy. Numerous national newspapers have interviewed him as an expert on shopping center and mall entertainment and retail-tainment.

Randy is a graduate of New York University. Prior to repositioning the company in 1989 to work exclusively in the leisure and learning industry, White Hutchinson was active in the retail/commercial real estate industry as a real estate consultancy specializing in workouts/turnarounds of commercial projects. In the late 1960s to early 1980s, Randy managed a diversified real estate development company that developed, owned and managed over 2.0 million square feet of shopping centers and mixed-use projects and 2,000 acres of residential subdivisions. Randy has held the designations of CSM (Certified Shopping Center Manager) and Certified Retail Property Executive (CRX) from the International Council of Shopping Centers (ICSC).

He has authored over 150 articles that have been published in over 40 leading entertainment/leisure and early childhood education industry magazines and journals and has been a featured speaker and keynoter at over 40 different conventions and trade groups.

Randy is the editor of his company's Leisure eNewsletter, has a blog and posts on Twitter and Linkedin.

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