Surmounting disruption

A number of this issue's articles discuss, there are enormous disruptions impacting out-of-home leisure venues, including community leisure venues (CLVs) of all types and family entertainment centers (FECs). And those disruptions are occurring in increasingly shorter timespans.

28 years ago when our company first entered the CLV industry after working in the shopping center and mall development and management industry, developing successful FECs wasn't all that difficult. There were some basic formulas and rules to follow, and as long as the trade area was adequate in size, the centers were successful. Things didn't change much from year to year.

Things are a lot different today. Many CLV models are proving to have increasingly shorter lives. The consumer and the leisure-entertainment landscape are changing at a fast clip.

That is the reason our company spends so much time and money researching change of all types including for the lifestyles, behaviors and values of consumers and in consumer industries besides entertainment to identify trends that will impact our clients' CLV projects. In fact, we are often looking beyond the current trends to better understand what the future holds and what customers will want next.

Today, when you are developing CLVs and FECs, you need to be a bit of a futurist to be successful. Just copying the model that was conceived a few years will probably mean you will be somewhat or totally obsolete by the time you open, and if not, in just a few years. And even if you have an existing CLV, you still need to be that futurist to stay ahead of the rapidly occurring disruptions.

One example of how we address disruption with the CLV projects we design and produce for our clients is Davis Farmland in Sterling, Massachusetts. Back in 1994 we worked with the 5th and 6th generations of the Davis family to develop Davis Farmland. It created an entirely new CLV agritainment model and category as a for-profit children's discovery farm. Over the years we have worked with them to keep the project relevant to the changing consumer with renovations and additions. Just last year we upped their food and beverage offerings with Kansas City barbeque to make that a new anchor attraction.

Disruption has come to the fall corn mazes and pumpkin patches from many directions, including more and more farmers offering them. For many years the Davis Mega Maze, which started back in 1998 across the street from Davis Farmland, was the only fall agritainment game in town. By last year they had a number of competitors. As a result, in consumers' eyes, corn mazes have become a bit of a commodity in their market area making it difficult to compete on quality and command the premium price that requires.

So this year we worked with the Davises to totally repositioned their fall venue with a new brand identity different from the typical agritainment corn maze offering as the Davis Mega Farm Festival that includes local craft beers, six different award wining Kansas City style barbeque meat selections, and live music. Of course, there are still the fall classics such as kettle corn, apple cider, cider donuts and fried dough. We're pleased to report that it was a sensational success.

We're already begun planning with the Davises to add new components and food and drink for what the festival offers next year. Today, it's even truer than in the past due to the accelerating pace of change, if you're not getting better, you're getting worse (in the eye of consumers).

Another one of our projects that is addressing disruption to the FEC and bowling-entertainment center models is Ocean5 and its Table 47 destination restaurant, both positioned as highly sustainable, a first in the industry, plus other innovations. The project is designed to attract a much broader age demographic than some of the newer restaurant-entertainment models such as Punch Bowl Social. More on that project after it opens.