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Know the market you are targeting, but don’t forget the adults

There are basically three primary target markets for family entertainment center type venues. Adult venues, almost all of which target younger adults, have always achieved the highest per square foot sales, basically due to both the alcohol and adult-only households having the highest per person spending on community-based entertainment. Children’s centers typically target children around age 8 and younger. They can be very profitable as attested to by the success of Chuck E. Cheese’s. There is a third market beside kids and adults. It’s the family market that basically targets families with children 12 and younger. To be successful there, you need to cater to both the children and to the adults. That’s where many family-oriented FECs miss the boat. They tend to dumb down the décor, ambiance and even the food and beverage for the kids, so the facility is not really a destination that adults want to go to. Yes, we can make it a little more tolerable with beer, what we call the dad pacifier, but still, it’s the kids that end up driving the decision as it’s designed for them, however it’s the adults who hold the veto power.

We have found over our 22-years working in the community-based entertainment industry that to really be successful with the family market, the facility needs to be designed to adult standards. You need to take the business to a more sophisticated level so it also has an adult appeal for the parents. The family market is the primary target market, but properly designed and managed, you can even attract the adult market as the secondary market versus a place like Dave & Buster’s that has a primary market of adults and captures some family market as a secondary market. Either way, you still need to decide who your primary market is and design for them. In the restaurant industry, a comparable would be Red Robin that has achieved the right level and mix of appeal, targeting the family market, while maintaining a level of experience that also works for adults, at least for the adults that come with the family. They didn’t dumb the place down as a kid restaurant.

Actually the same holds true for children’s entertainment and edutainment centers. Although targeting children, you also have to offer the adults a good experience. When we design children’s edutainment centers, we tend to consider them as two separate areas, one is the children’s play and discovery areas and the other is a adult-friendly and appealing café area. But even in the children’s areas, the interior décor is designed to adult standards. Actually Chuck E. Cheese’s has a lot of features that are designed to cater to the parents and meet their needs. That’s why they achieve one of the highest per square foot sales in the FEC industry (other than the adult venues) and one of the highest EBITDAs in both the FEC and restaurant industries.

Households with children account for almost half (46%) of all community-based entertainment spending. Don’t miss out on success with either the children’s or family markets by forgetting it consists of not only children, but also adults.

About Randy White

Randy White is CEO and co-founder of the White Hutchinson Leisure & Learning Group. The 30-year-old company, with offices in Kansas City, Missouri , has worked for over 550 clients in 36 countries in North and Latin America, Africa, Asia, Europe and the Middle East. Projects the company has 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 experience destinations including entertainment, eatertainment, edutainment, agritainment, 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 100 articles that have been published in leading entertainment/leisure and early childhood education industry magazines and journals and has been a featured speaker at conventions of over 20 different leisure trade groups. Randy is the editor of his company's Leisure eNewsletter, has a blog and posts on Twitter - https://twitter.com/whitehutchinson
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