We receive about a dozen inquiries a week from prospective family entertainment center (FEC), bowling entertainment center (BECs) and other type location-based entertainment (LBE) project developers. Due to the increased importance of the food and beverage offerings to the success of these type projects, our company refers to them as community-leisure venues (CLV), as the emphasis is no longer solely on the entertainment. Often, prospective developers ask us about site selection, feasibility studies, design or other aspects of our services. We often end up discussing the pros, cons and challenges of developing and operating a CLV.
Before diving in with your time and money, it is important to understand what it takes to develop and operate a CLV and to make sure it's a good match for your skills, abilities and lifestyle. We'd rather talk people out of getting started down the road of development than have them later learn it isn't a good match for them or have them run into a roadblock that prevents their dream from becoming a reality.
So here's a quick synopsis of the good and the bad news. First the good news:
Now for the not so good news, most of which is the flip side of the above good news:
Of all the barriers, raising money is what usually stops most projects dead in their tracks. It's a great business, but don't jump in unless you have some capital of your own, feel confident you can raise the financing (meaning you already have some solid avenues you know you will be able to pursue) and are psychologically prepared for the struggle to find the financing when you will be turned down by dozens and dozens of prospects.
A. The earlier the better. The biggest, and often irreversible or fatal mistakes are made the earliest in the development process. Critical success factors include site selection, the mix of attractions, layout and design, and realistic pro forma projections and development budgets. Many aspects of CLVs are totally counterintuitive, meaning the correct approach is often just the opposite of what intuition tells you. Our extensive experience and knowledge can help you make the best decisions to assure your success.
A. With some consulting firms-yes. However, the White Hutchinson Leisure & Learning Group prides itself in telling our clients the way it is. We tell our clients not what they want to hear, but rather what they often do not want to hear. If a project is not feasible or could have serious long-term competitive problems, or other mistakes are being made, such as the wrong mix of attractions for that market, we will tell you so. We would just as well tell you not to proceed as to proceed. Our philosophy is to help our clients make the best possible business decisions from their perspective. Sometimes that means not proceeding with a particular project at a particular site or with a CLV at all.
A. That is complex question to answer, as all projects are different and clients' needs vary. Market feasibility studies normally cost 1/2% to 1.5% or so of total project cost. Full market and economic feasibility, which includes concept plans, typically runs about 1% to 3% of total cost and higher for more complex or unusual projects. Comprehensive production/design and consulting services, including storyline and mascot development, themed architecture and interior design, food and beverage and management start-up, training, etc., is usually in the range of 8% to 14% of total development cost, depending on the size and type of project. Other more limited services vary widely depending on the project and client's needs.
A. Most of our clients retain us for an initial one-day consultation/charrette to review and discuss their plans, inspect sites, conduct a preliminary market analysis, discuss all aspects of development and the industry and generally help them get focused on a plan of action. Based upon that trip, we can then give you a definitive proposal for any additional services you need.
The one-day consultation costs $3,000* plus travel expenses. Randy White, CEO of our firm, usually flies in the night before and leaves as late the next day as possible or the next morning to assure a more than eight hours consultation. He usually wears our clients out before he leaves. We travel frugally as if it was coming out of our own pockets (otherwise we are not representing your best interests).
We also offer a preliminary market and site evaluation option to evaluate the market size and characteristics and competition to determine whether there is merit to proceed with a one-day consultation or full market study (available only in the U.S.).
The cost of a preliminary market evaluation is $1,200*. If you then contract with us for a one-day consultation for the same site within four months of the preliminary evaluation, the one-day consultation fee will be reduced by $500 since we will have already run the preliminary demographics.
* Fees current as of June 21, 2023. International projects normally require longer initial visits and travel times, so fees are higher.
A. No. Call us at +816.931-1040 (or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org). Randy White, our CEO, will be glad to discuss your project and answer any of your questions. On a number of occasions he has explained to prospective clients why their projects were not feasible. We trade on our integrity and reputation, not on trying to generate work for ourselves.
A. Absolutely. Independents can knock the socks off the chains if they pursue a market/guest driven program of excellence in design and operations, especially the food and beverage offerings. In fact, the majority of CLVs are owned by sole entrepreneurs.
A. Absolutely not. We have no ownership, nor will we accept any commissions, rebates or other compensation from suppliers. We have no conflict of interest in our advice to you. We often recommend particular equipment or suppliers, but only because we believe they are the best choice for you.
A. Assuming a good property is available for renovation, realistically about 15 to 18 months when lease negotiations and financing are factored in. For projects to be developed from the ground up, 24 to 36 months from the start of feasibility studies to opening under more idea situations.
A. Yes. Unlike most leisure/entertainment companies that specialize in only one discipline of development, such as architecture, feasibility studies, interior design, or training, the White Hutchinson Leisure & Learning Group takes a comprehensive, multi-disciplinary approach to our work. In the entertainment industry, we are referred to as "producers." As such, we oversee a production team that includes all the disciplines of feasibility, design, development, marketing and management of a center. Our production team includes the pure physical design disciplines such as architects, interior designers, landscape architects and civil engineers. Unlike design firms, it also includes market feasibility experts, financial experts, trainers and business experts plus many other disciplines that the typical development process ignores, but are really essential to developing a successful business, such as acoustical design, wayfinding, child development and education, storyline and theme development, menu and food service design, IT, horticultural design and safety experts, to list a few. Our comprehensive approach not only deals with the physical facility and its design, but more importantly with the entire guest experience, which includes helping you start up your management. Rather than think of the development process as just the design of a physical facility, we approach a CLV's development as the design of the entire business.
© White Hutchinson Leisure & Learning Group, Inc.