THE WORLD'S ONLY MAGAZINE DEVOTED EXCLUSIVELY TO THE BUSINESS OF BOWLING
6 ISSUE AT HAND
You Can Take the Boy Out of the Country, But…
The 5 Cs of Credit Why understanding them is important.
By Scott Frager
PUBLISHER & EDITOR Scott Frager firstname.lastname@example.org Skype: scottfrager
ASSOCIATE PUBLISHER David Garber email@example.com
OFFICE MANAGER Patty Heath firstname.lastname@example.org
By Ben Jones CONTRIBUTORS
• 14 lucky recipients of Bowler’s Ed grants • Pinstripes is on an expansion roll. • Bowling books for kids of all ages.
36 COVER STORY As One Door Closes, Another Opens Could opportunity be knocking for the bowling entertainment industry? By Sean Krainert
By Patty Heath
David Garber Patty Heath Ben Jones Sean Krainert George McAuliffe Robert Sax Sean Stormes Joan Taylor
EDITORIAL DIRECTOR Jackie Fisher email@example.com
ART DIRECTION & PRODUCTION Designworks www.dzynwrx.com (818) 735-9424
FOUNDER Allen Crown (1933-2002)
BEYOND BOWLING 42 Columns 44 Keep the Fun Rolling
18 BUSINESS Taking the Bait Mastering the six challenges of demand creation, hook, line and sinker.
50 Going All Out for Fun at FatCats
56 Interesting Interview
with Richard Gottleib
By Sean Stormes
Second Chances David Small reinvents his bowling centers. By Joan Taylor
12655 Ventura Boulevard Studio City, CA 91604 (818) 789-2695(BOWL) Fax (818) 789-2812 firstname.lastname@example.org
HOTLINE: 818-789-2695 SUBSCRIPTION RATES: One copy of International Bowling Industry is sent free to every bowling center, independently owned pro shop and collegiate bowling center in the U.S., and every military bowling center and pro shop worldwide. Publisher reserves the right to provide free subscriptions to those individuals who meet publication qualifications. Additional subscriptions may be purchased for delivery in the U.S. for $50 per year. Subscriptions for Canada and Mexico are $65 per year, all other foreign subscriptions are $80 per year. All foreign subscriptions should be paid in U.S. funds using International Money Orders. POSTMASTER: Please send new as well as old address to International Bowling Industry, 12655 Ventura Boulevard, Studio City, CA 91604 USA. If possible, please furnish address mailing label. Printed in U.S.A. Copyright 2017, B2B Media, Inc. No part of this magazine may be reprinted without the publisher’s permission.
MEMBER AND/OR SUPPORTER OF:
ISSUE AT HAND
You Can Take the Boy Out of the Country, But… Do I sound any different? You may notice a slight Kansas drawl in this and future columns as my family and I have moved out of the big city and back to the country. After 30 years in Los Angeles, Jackie and I decided to jump off the hamster wheel of big city life. We wouldn't have believed the world's most renowned psychic if she would have predicted this move a few years ago. However, with our good fortune of having two kids studying at the University of Kansas and our third entering middle school, we knew this was the right time. With the change of scenery comes changes in my job duties. It was with bittersweet feelings that I respectfully advised the principals/partners at Pinz Bowling Center this past April of my plans to relocate and immediately went to work assisting with the recruitment of a new GM. A smooth transition at the center was of prime importance to me personally and professionally. I have absolutely adored my role as general manager these past six years. Operating a highprofile center was an opportunity of a lifetime, and I will be forever grateful to the Pinz partners who so willingly and confidently turned their business over
to me. Getting a small taste of bowling center proprietorship has helped me grow personally and professionally in more ways than possible to put into words. There may have been one or two of you who noticed that David Garber filled in for me while I was dedicating myself to this transition: selling a home, buying a home and moving our family to Leawood, KS. And, as always, the unflappable Patty Heath held down the proverbial fort while all of this madness was going on. I wish to thank and congratulate the entire team at IBI who showed immense dedication and leadership in nurturing and growing this magazine while my bandwidth had been allconsumed by my other duties. I am as proud as heck (we never cuss in Kansas) of my team. And special thanks to you, our amazing readership and advertisers, for your eyeballs and for your time reading IBI each and every month. We are grateful for your support this past quarter century.
– SCOTT FRAGER, PUBLISHER AND EDITOR email@example.com
4Your Bowler of the Month This month we highlight three bowling buddies. Verdes Tropicana Bowl in West Palm Beach, FL, is home to three friends who bowl in the center’s Tuesday senior league: Bob Koch, 90, was a Marine and New Jersey police officer; Frank Falcone, 91, was from Massachusetts and sold cars; Sid Sherman, 99, was a furniture salesman. All have two things in common: their love of bowling and their distinction as very active nonagenarians. Howard Engel, league manager told Conner Mitchell of the Palm Beach Post, “They’re super competitive. They do not want to lose.” The trio agrees that the key to longevity is to keep busy and don’t stop moving, and, we might want to add, bowl. November singles out Sherman who will leave the fold to become a centenarian. Happy Birthday, Sid! You can now show the other two ‘kids’ how to do it!
Bob Koch (from left), Frank Falcone and Sid Sherman at Verde’s Tropicana Bowl.
Do you have a special bowler at your center we can highlight? Email Patty at firstname.lastname@example.org. 6
EXPANSIONS, OPENINGS & NEW BEGINNINGS
PINSTRIPES BISTRO, BOWLING & BOCCE NATIONWIDE EXPANSION
In April 2011, IBI ’s cover story was Dale Schwartz and Pinstripes Bistro, Bowling and Bocce. As a follow-up: Pinstripes opened its eighth location, the second in the Washington D.C. metro area, since its founding in 2007. The Bethesda, MD, location is the first of five 2017/2018 openings planned, including first-time entries into the markets of Cleveland, OH, Houston and Fort Worth, TX, and San Mateo, CA. Founder Dale Schwartz’s vision is to create a welcoming, country-club-style venue where guests can unwind, connect, eat, and play. As quoted in markets.businessinsider.com, Schwartz said, “People need to connect with other people, in person. Bowling and bocce are inherently social games. These traditional games fulfill a nostalgic need for connection, first and foremost with each other, but also with the perceived simplicity of the past.” With four locations in its home-base Chicago, and locations in Overland Park, KS, Edina, MN, and Washington, D.C.’s Georgetown neighborhood, the goal is to open four to five new locations per year for the next several years.
A SALUTE TO PAST AND PRESENT Thunderbird Lanes, home to the mid-1990s TV show Beat the Champ, in Troy, MI, is gone but not forgotten. It has been converted into headquarters for 24G, a social media marketing and digital creative agency that provides experiential events. The ten-year-old firm consolidated its operations to the 44,000-square-foot space, incorporating its history as a bowling center. Wood from the 35 lanes was repurposed into tables and counter tops, used throughout the office space. Retro 24G headquarters’ open space in Troy, MI. signs reminiscent of Thunder Bird Lanes’ glory days were used to section off an eatery and bar area. No office space is complete without at least 10 working bowling lanes and décor, including colorful bowling balls and the iconic Thunderbird Lanes sign inside the front lobby. Time marches on but sometimes it takes the good stuff with it.
CAPE COD PLANS A NEW AMUSEMENT VENUE Food and bowling are the consummate couple. New England’s Ryan Family Amusements and Chapin’s restaurant announced plans for a multi-level entertainment complex in the Cape Cod Mall in Hyannis, MA. The joint venture will include ten pin bowling, state-of-the-art arcade games, two-story, 24-player laser tag, and a private three-lane bowling area. The plan is to open in spring 2018 in time to celebrate Ryan Family Amusements’ 60th anniversary.
CHARITIES SAVE LOCAL CENTER The idea of saving a town’s bowling center for the greater good seems to be a recurring theme. In IBI ’s August issue, local citizens purchased Spare Time Alley in Osmond, NE. In the September issue, Vets Inc. purchased Gaylord Bowling Center in Gaylord, MI, keeping the center under local management. Now, two charity organizations, Christian Services and HOPE – Helping Other People Efficiently, in Lancaster, SC, have purchased Lancaster Bowling Center. The two have teamed up to run the center to raise enough money to pay for the building and provide help to families in need. Another example of bowling nourishing a community.
AMAZING JAKE’S HAS GONE UNDERGROUND 10-year-old Amazing Jakes is undergoing a $4.5-million renovation in Mesa, AZ. The 87,000-square-foot venue will be rebranded Jake’s Underground. The new attractions will include a dual-level laser tag arena, VIP bowling suites, eight mini bowling lanes, an open-space bumper car arena, a custom-designed, carnival-style ride, more than 170 arcade games, midway games, a full redemption store, and an expanded kid zone. F&B will also be revamped with an à la carte menu, new entrees, appetizers and specialty desserts, plus two full bars. A 9,400-squarefoot event space will be added for large parties accommodating up to 3,000 guests.
WATCH LAN-OAKS LANES HITS THE BIG SCREEN The 16-lane Lan-Oak Lanes looks largely the way it did during the 1960s, which was the perfect setting for Winky’s World in When Jeff Tried to Save Kendall Goldberg directs Jon the World, being shot by Heder in When Jeff Tried to the World at Lan-Oak director Kendall Goldberg. Save Lanes. Starring Jon Heder of Napoleon Dynamite and Jim O’Heir of Parks and Recreation, the feature-length film revolves around a man trying to save the old-school bowling alley he’s always known and loved. Goldberg is a recent graduate of Chapman University’s Dodge College of Film & Media Arts, outside Los Angeles, and a recipient of several short film awards. Coincidentally, actor Jim O’Heir bowled at Lan-Oak as a kid. With any luck and a lot of work, this could be another Big Lebowski or Kingpin. Next step—distribution.
BOWLING: MIA Where’s Frank? Well, he’s definitely not at the bowling center on league night, nor will he be, much to the consternation of his three friends. Geico’s ‘great rates for great rides’ has given Frank a new road to travel. With his leathers, his bike, and the open road, he leaves his league buddies in the dust... or on the lanes. Geico: Bowling’s nemesis.
Ebonite International has named Dave Wodka as its new global marketing manager. Wodka has been in the bowling business almost all his professional life: PBA member since 1991, plus working for Bowling Distributor, South Point Bowling Center, Las Vegas, manager of a 32-lane center, and on staff at Ebonite since 1993. He will relocate to EBI’s worldwide headquarters in Hopkinsville, KY.
International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions (IAAPA) announced that Karen Staley, senior vice president of IAAPA EMEA (Europe, Middle East, and Africa) Operations has assumed the role of senior vice president of North American operations, replacing Richard M. Jackson who recently left. Succeeding Staley as vice president of EMEA Operations will be Jakob Wahl. Staley, a member of IAAPA since 2004, will relocate to the global headquarters in Orlando, FL. Wahl, a member since 2009, will work from the Brussels office to support EMEA member services. Helix Leisure, parent company of Embed, LAI Games, and The Locker Network, announced changes to the senior management of its Dallas-based U.S. operations. Ted Parsons will now transition into the role of Group Director of Business Systems. Helix Leisure’s COO, Luke McKimmie, said, “Since early 2010, Ted has led Embed’s enormous Ted Parsons growth across the U.S. market and was instrumental in the successful establishment of Helix Leisure Group and the subsequent merger of its companies in 2014.” At its annual association meeting in October, the AAMA elected new members and officers for a new two-year term. Holly Hampton takes over as the association’s president, following Chris Felix. She becomes the first woman to hold the role in AAMA history. Holly Hampton
BOWLER’S ED AWARDS Per Terry Bigham of bowl.com, 14 schools and organizations were selected to receive a Bowler’s Ed grant, which features mobile bowling equipment and a curriculum kit for grades K-8. International Bowling Campus Youth Development established the grants to provide a true bowling experience, plus enhance cardiovascular health, coordination, and endurance while showing the children how much fun they can have
bowling. IBC Youth Committee chair Melissa McDaniel said, “It’s a great way for us to bring the sport to the next generation and teach children about teamwork, math and so much more.” The schools and organizations selected to receive the Bowler’s Ed kit, valued at $2,200, covered 10 states plus Canada. In 2016, 65 grants were awarded to public/charter schools and organizations in 29 states. IBI
ß BITS & PIECES ß ß ß Main Event’s CEO Steps down Ardent Leisure’s U.S.-based Main Event Entertainment centers announced the retirement of its CEO Charlie Keegan, taking effect this November. Keegan has been involved with Main Event since 2006. No reason was given for the abrupt resignation. However, he will consult for the business over the next 12 months to facilitate an orderly transition. Over the course of his tenure, Keegan took the Main Event Entertainment concept from six centers in Texas to a leading entertainment company with 38 centers operating throughout the U.S. ---------------------------------------------------------------
ColorSplash is Brightening Centers Flatbread Company, a restaurant chain in the Northeast, has added four lanes of candelpin bowling to its Salem, NH, location and utilized ColorSplash VersaLamp LED lights over the lanes. Other centers recently boasting the lighting system are: Victory Bowl, Mankato, MN; Starlight Lanes, Flagstaff, AZ; Quinnz Pinz, Middletown, NY. ---------------------------------------------------------------
Denison, TX, will have a new, Brunswickequipped center Schulman’s Movie Bowl Grille announced a new 66,000-square-foot entertainment center in Denison, TX. The facility, to open in 2018, will feature a HeyDay Entertainment center, offering 24 Brunswick lanes, eight All Digital Dine-In Movie Theaters, a 6,000-square-foot interactive arcade, a multi-level, high definition laser tag center, and a full-service restaurant, Billy’s Grille & Bar. ----------------------------------------------------------
Sinkhole in Palmyra In the Land of Oz, the Wicked Witch of the West melted. In Palmyra, PA, the street and parking lot in front of Palmyra Bowling Center and the Sinkhole Saloon is sinking, oddly apropos. The hole is 45 feet in diameter and growing. Repairs have been slowed due to the discovery of asbestos in the blacktop material. ---------------------------------------------------------------
Ardent Leisure battered by Hurricane Harvey Ardent Leisure reported that five of its Main Event bowling and games centers in the Houston area were damaged by Harvey, worse than 2005 with Katrina. Three centers were expected to reopen within a week’s time and a fourth within two months, while the fifth had extensive damage. There were an additional three centers outside Houston that had minor damage. 16
BOWLING BOOK CORNER Who doesn’t love Curious George? He and his friend, The Man with the Yellow Hat, are staples in just about everyone’s memory bank of childhood books. This little monkey has done just about everything, so, of course, there is a bowling escapade. Curious George Goes Bowling by H.A. Rey is a child’s first book of bowling. “Little hands will love this lift-theflap book. The Man with the Yellow Hat is entering a big bowling tournament, and George wants to make sure his friend’s ball is as clean as possible for the competition. As usual, George’s ‘help’ doesn’t go quite the way he intended!” With that review, this sounds like a perfect stocking stuffer for a little tyke. It’s almost Christmas!
You don’t have to be a four-year-old to love little Mitchell. Hallie Durand has created a wonderful character that just about everyone can relate to. In Mitchell Goes Bowling, Mitchell loves to knock things down, so bowling would seem to be the perfect activity. Not being able to bowl as well as his father, he gets discouraged and a little pouty. However, Dad knows just what to do to help Mitchell feel better, and he also helps him learn about good sportsmanship. See? Your Christmas shopping is almost finished!
TAKING THE BAIT Mastering the six challenges of demand creation, hook, line and sinker.
By Sean Stormes rowing up when only three network television stations provided escape (maybe four if the rabbit ears captured PBS), suffering through oft-burned stove top popcorn and clunky rotary telephones, neighborhood entertainment – at least for my friends and me – meant sports, specifically basketball, baseball, football and street hockey. Yes, this was the northeast, and yes, it snowed more of the time than not. And yet, in spite of the elements, we were outside from sun up to sun down. That is, unless you were my brother. He didn’t see the point in all of this hand-to-hand competitive combat. Rather, he relentlessly honed a singular skill: rolling a 10-pound Brunswick Black Diamond down a slick alley at South Side Recreation Lanes in Syracuse, New York, mastering the sport to the point of appearing on the popular “Syracuse Bowls” TV show a few times. In the 1970s, the bowling experience wasn’t more innovative than the aforementioned rabbit ears, meaning smoke-filled
alleys, pickled sausages near the cash register for fifty cents each, and league bowlers filling the evenings. Dick Weber, Don Johnson, Mark Roth and Earl Anthony dominated the sport. What a simple time that was. Today, though, is a different day. Welcome to the third millennium, where competition for consumers’ dollars has never been so fierce. And yet many B2C companies, including Apple, Tesla and Chick-fil-A, seem to have mastered the demand creation source code, thriving year after year regardless of economic conditions. What are they doing to dominate their respective categories? To be clear, they have solved the following six dilemmas, each a top challenge and need for the bowling center operator, too:
IDENTITY CRISIS When I speak to bowling center
1 leadership, I begin with an all-important and revealing
question: Why does this business exist, and what kind of difference are you trying to make in people’s lives? If there is no higher calling, how can leadership expect to rally
BUSINESS the troops around a common cause? Why would they genuinely care? If there is no true north – Dr. Jeckyll one day, Mr. Hyde the next – how can leaders know whether or not to expand into other areas? As important as it is to know “who you are,” it is equally important to know “who you are not.” When identity is crystal clear to all stakeholders, costly waste and rework is greatly reduced, increasing profitability. Please remember that the business objective is not to grow, as counterintuitive as that sounds. Rather, the objective is to fulfill the purpose.
UNSURE OF WHAT TO DO WITH ALL THAT DATA Between
POS and card reader systems, to name just two, the amount of data created each hour of each day can seem overwhelming. Is data viewed as a valuable corporate asset that if interpreted accurately can drastically reduce mistakes and the number of low-ROI decisions, while simultaneously increasing high-ROI decisionmaking? What is required to make sense of the plethora of data, and to leverage what it is telling you?
LITTLE TO NO INSIGHT INTO THE IDEAL CUSTOMER “Know
thy customer” should be a leadership obsession, for it is the not knowing at the core of stagnant or regressive growth and profitability. Who is your “dream customer?” What are their characteristics and attributes? What is the methodology used to determine such an important and critical profile? Let’s take birthday parties, for example. Does any operator really understand mom on a deep level, able to then leverage that information to enhance the experience and drive increased length of stay, revenue and profit per person, and increased visits?
4 INABILITY TO CREATE DEMAND
It is an indictment of possessing little to no value when companies have to sell and market so hard to drive traffic. Why aren’t your dream customers choosing you without having to be persuaded or 20
convinced? Said another way, what is the unprecedented value the company provides that makes it an adventure people can’t live without? Who are your “scouts,” the outlooks and spotters tasked with seeing what others miss – the keystone of designing unprecedented value? Trend spotters, specifically, are invaluable to an organization. How else can you break from and stay ahead of the competitive herd? Also, please consider which vendors are helping, hurting or are oblivious to this important requirement. Do you have true business partners, aligned with helping to achieve your purpose, or mere vendor partners only looking out for themselves? Co-destiny can be a powerful competitive advantage.
UNAWARE OF WHAT PEOPLE “BUY” Today’s consumer seeks
the following in the companies it patronizes. 1) A purpose-driven culture that aligns with the customers’ belief system. If the identity crisis hasn’t been solved, how can they know what you believe – what you stand for? 2) Does your guest experience create remarkable, indelible memories? If not, why? And how would you know? How simple or complicated is the guest experience? The harder life is for the customer, the less likely they are to return or become “sneezers,” the all-important influencers. 3) How is community being created for your dream customers? There’s power in numbers, particularly with a village of advocates who rally around a higher calling. That passion creates unprecedented value for the operator. 4) Telling the right story is as much science as it is art. Forget traditional marketing where you’re constantly trying to tell a story about your business. Rather, what is the story you want and need the dream customer to tell to themselves, and others? Who do you need your dream customers to become, and how are you investing in them to ensure that outcome?
EMPLOYEE CHURN Perspective is key with this hot button topic.
Why does Costco, for example, choose to pay its people 30% higher than industry average? Could it be that employee retention is a corporate strategy, saving the wholesale club hundreds of millions of dollars if they had to replace people at the rate competitors do? Could it be that the money saved in recruiting, hiring, training, and other employee turnover-related hidden costs more than pays for the increased wages, not to mention the positive impact on customers? Additionally, when an identity crisis is evident, and it most often is, why should young people (or anyone) consider this bowling center employment any more than a disposable job? How are you driving high employee engagement? In closing, the halcyon days of enticing consumers with pickled sausages and specials on league night are long gone. Today’s dream customer demands more – much more. And with some education, critical thinking, hard work and rabbit ears, I’m betting that you will also solve the demand creation and profitability puzzle, beginning with these topics. ❖ Sean Stormes leads The Third Door, a profitable revenue growth strategy firm. A nationally recognized authority on helping progressive leadership design, develop and deliver purpose-driven business models that create strong marketplace demand, he founded his company after a distinguished 27-year executive career rooted in key growth areas including executive management and strategy, continuous improvement, sales, and marketing. Sean is a published author, sought after keynote speaker and a former nationally syndicated guest columnist to the American City Business Journals. SeanStormes.com.
d n o c e S s e c n a h C By Joan B. Taylor
The new concourse at Noblesville.
ents v n i e r all m S d i v ters. n e Da c g lin w o b s i h
Small has doubled its revenue over the past three years. How? elcome to David Small 2.0. He bought his first “First, I reduced the league fees in the house. People thought bowling center in 2009 and eight years later, I was nuts doing that, but I thought it was overpriced for what he owns five Indiana centers: Heritage Lanes the center offered. It worked. We grew from (Kokomo) and Championship Lanes (Anderson) 775 league bowlers to 1,390. We also installed are traditional bowling centers; Landmark Lanes new QubicaAMF BES X scoring and automatic and Pro Bowl West are FECs. Currently, bumpers.” He put in a new, full kitchen, open his fifth center, Three-2-Fun (Noblesville) concept bar, and family restaurant with an is being transformed into an FEC. updated menu. “I don’t believe in bowling Small has never entered into his alley food,” Small said. “I believe in highpurchases lightly. “I get phone calls every quality food. We design our menus around week for me to buy people’s bowling each one of our markets based on centers. First, we assess if it might fit within percentage of leagues, open bowlers, our business model and cash flow profitability and children. It depends on what the model. Everything I do is a formula. So when center’s demographics are. Teenagers a proprietor calls me, I basically take his or her love our boneless wings, artisan pizzas, cash returns and P&Ls and drop them into my Italian beef, half-pound burgers and our formula worksheets. There needs to be a cash wraps. Small children go for our secret flow 3.5 times the debt service.” If the financials bowlers. all with his m S id v a recipe chicken fingers, peanut butter and jelly tamales, are good, Small then meets the owners and D and our cookie monster - two homemade chocolate cookies tours the center, seeing potential for upgrades and filled with ice cream dipped in hot fudge and served with assessing what the market can bear. caramel and whipped cream. Grownups lean more toward One example is Heritage Lanes, purchased in March 2014.
New logo at Noblesville location.
breaded tenderloins, smoked brisket, fish tacos, boneless wings and the half-pound burgers.” Small installed new furniture and had both the exterior and interior repainted. More recently he added a new parking lot. It’s no wonder that Small is the youngest member of the Multi-Unit Bowling Information Group (MUBIG), having joined at age 41. Similar work was done at Championship Lanes. With Landmark Lanes, Small says, “The only things we haven’t changed are the bowling lane surface and the machines. Everything else was redone at the 24-lane center: the concourse, kitchen, bar, restaurant, restrooms, approaches, ball returns, and interior and exterior work.” At each center, the masking units are customized to the town and to the center. “It makes them gorgeous,” Small says, “and makes us a real part of the community.” Small announced that Three-2-Fun is going to be his showplace. “It’s being converted into a full FEC, and we’re spending $1.9 million on the renovation.” The demographics based on the local school system and annual household income indicated that converting the bowling center was the smartest thing to do. “We’re adding 7,800 square feet to the building. We are installing a first-of-its-kind four dimensional, two-story laser tag area. There is a 75-game zone midway arcade with a full redemption store and Embed technology. The concourse is new, including all new furniture, and there will be eight lanes of VIP suites and four lanes of mini-bowling. The restrooms are casino style, featuring granite, terrazzo and ceramic tile. The family Renovated seating at the Kokomo center.
restaurant includes a 3,000-square-foot, outdoor dining patio. The parking lot and surrounding landscaping are new. We are updating our 9-hole, indoor, glow-in-thedark golf course as well.” Small uses the same contractor for every job, Lucas Rhees d/b/a All Seasons Construction based in Kokomo, who, Small says, “Does every project perfectly.” Small applies the same philosophy to each center. “We don’t believe in customer service. I feel it’s a maudlin and overused, tawdry expression. There’s no way to measure
it. At the Fun Time Centers Corporation, we believe in guest relations and experienced management.” The proof is in the bottom line, as his centers will all show a 10% increase in league play this fall season. It also works with employee retention. Small shares, “If we pay more than standard minimum wage, we attract and retain better people, and it slows our turnover rate down. We offer insurance and 401k profit sharing to all of our employees. We are even having nice, contemporary uniforms designed for our Three-2-Fun employees, designed by Mike Eid and Sarah French at Classic Products.” Above all, of course, financing is the key. “Proprietors need to have a good relationship with a partner at a bank. I
David Small has remained loyal to his vendors and contractors. Additionally, he uses the same bank for all of his financing and the same construction company for all five centers’ renovations. Here is a quick list: Bowling Equipment Manufacturer: Brunswick equipment, lane beds, house balls, pins, etc., except for his AMF Center (Kokomo). Scoring company: QubicaAMF Furniture: Qubica AMF Flooring/carpeting company: Flagship Carpets Lighting system, LED lights: Local providers Indiana Michigan Power and Duke Energy Arcade debit card system: Embed Technology Top Five redemption/arcade games: Big Bass Wheel Fish Bowl Frenzy Gold Rush The Giant Crane The Ultimate Punching Bag Key Machine Apparel, pro shops, cosmic lighting systems, sound, shows, masking units: Classic Products. 28
present numbers for potential purchasing to Vicki Pearl from Security Federal Savings Bank in Logansport, Indiana. She does all my deals. The key thing is that they are willing to take the risk with me. They have loaned me almost $6.5 million, and I pay my bills. I believe in management by the numbers.” Along with reinventing these centers, Small 2.0 has plans to morph into 3.0. That version of himself will operate even more centers successfully, and he plans to branch out into consulting for other proprietors who want to renovate and upgrade. After all, he only has 188 lane beds to care for today. ❖
Joan Taylor is a multi-award winning bowling writer based in East Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania.
FIVE CS OF
WHY UNDERSTANDING THEM IS IMPORTANT.
By Ben Jones
re you an attractive borrower in the eyes of your bank? Are you and your business financeable? From start-ups seeking that elusive first loan to mature businesses that would like to grow, the process of applying for a loan and understanding the decision criteria applied is often the difference between a “yes” and a frustrating “no.” The lending process often isn’t viewed or experienced as collaborative or mutual, but it should be. For me and my team at Live Oak Bank, the loan approval process is exactly that– collaborative and transparent. Lending institutions are in the business of renting you money for a fee (interest rate and term), and their return (ROI) is dependent upon your ability to repay the loan. Repayment is dependent upon your business’ success. This is an equation of mutual benefit. In my experience, borrowers want to know two things 30
about the loan application and lending process: “Am I approved?” and “When do I get the money?” The corollary of this from the lender’s perspective is: “After Mr. Borrower gets the money, is he going to be cooperative/good to work with?” and “When unforeseen circumstances arise, will the situation become my problem, or will we work together to find solutions?” As a lender, I want a partner who is there through thick and thin and helps to find solutions and options - someone who is accountable and pleasant to be around. The Five Cs, some of which are different, based on the lender involved, provide a solid guide for business owners when seeking capital. While the Cs are not the only criteria, they form a great foundation for avoiding mishaps and wasted time. What follows is how I define and consider the Cs when evaluating a loan request.
Banks, lenders and institutions often ask prospective borrowers to invest in the project or to invest in the equipment which they are seeking a loan to acquire. The investment made by a borrower is referred to as capital or equity investment. Banks ask for capital investments because they want to know that the borrower has “skin in the game,” and with that, the borrower exhibits clear commitment and assumes a portion of the risk.
This refers to hard, tangible assets that are owned by the business or individual that can be pledged to secure or partially secure the loan amount. These are the kinds of assets a bank can have a security interest in and can evidence their interest by filing a lien or uniform commercial code (UCC). A personal, unconditional guarantee is not considered a form of collateral but rather is a credit enhancement. A personal guarantee obligates the person signing the note to be a secondary source of repayment on the loan obligation in the event of default. The terms of a personal guarantee are generally negotiable in conventional lending and not negotiable when securing a loan through the SBA process.
This addresses a business’ ability to meet its expense and debt obligations in a timely manner. Making principle and interest payments on the outstanding debt obligations, after supporting the business with payment of all expenses, reflects a company’s cash management capabilities and capacity. Individuals are also subject to capacity with debt-to-income ratios, meaning how much you owe in relation to how much you earn. The lower the ratio the better.
Think of this in terms of the overall health of the business and of the borrower. Considering the individual borrower: Is she in good health? Is there a succession plan in place or management transition action plan? Is the physical condition of the property in a good state of repair? If not, does the condition present opportunity or challenge? Is the geographic location of the business stable and viable over the term of the loan? Is the market expanding and what about the competition outlook? Is capital moving into the local economy or into the industry in question, or is money becoming scarce?
From this banker’s perspective, a person of good character is someone who is humble and honest, who lives up to his obligations and faces challenges with a will to succeed. In my opinion, a distinctive sign of character is when a person is adaptable to change and focuses on challenges with calm intensity. The measure of character is certainly intangible, and one of the ways institutions evaluate character is by assessing how individuals and their businesses perform in economic downturns and challenging business cycles.
Each lending institution has its variant and interpretation as to the importance and application of the Five Cs. The emphasis placed on each of the Cs is not equally weighted, not applied with equality and is highly subjective. How the Cs are ultimately applied depends on several factors wrapped in the lending philosophy of the bank funding the loan. Internal credit policies for loan approvals address desired collateral coverage. Cash flow and portfolio risk tolerance often reflect an institution’s understanding of an industry. Subjectively, factors that come into play in the decision process include how the institution views its role in the community and comfort level with the people involved, such as a mortgage broker or even the bank’s own lending staff. Each of these are areas to explore and understand before going too far 32
down the application road. Want to know how the Cs are applied by your bank or institution? Ask! Ask about your bank’s loan approval criteria, ask how they prioritize the Cs and ask when all factors are equal, which of the five Cs is the tie-breaker. For me, at Live Oak Bank, the C that’s weighted the most is Character. ❖
Ben Jones is General Manager and FEC Specialist of Entertainment Center Financing at Live Oak Bank, co-creator of F2FEC and has been in the FEC business for over 30 years.
D E ON
S E S O L C R O O
S N E P O R THE
AS BIG BOX STORES DECLINE, THE ENTERTAINMENT INDUSTRY IS DISCOVERING A GOLDMINE OF REAL ESTATE â€“ THE PERFECT BACKDROP FOR THE FEC. By Sean Krainert he ebb and flow of the national economy and its sectors has recently revealed a prime landscape for FECs to flourish. For every deficit and downside in one industry, a door of opportunity opens in another. This natural evolution is directly tied to continual social changes and technological advances. Inside this big picture is the inevitable change in how retail is consumed and the reemergence of the experience economy as FECs take over former big box chain structures and mall spaces. As the source of major spending power for the retail economy transitions over to an online platform, its previous physical real estate is offering new value to the entertainment industry. For example, a consumer can purchase a pair of jeans in a physical store or on the Internet. The choice is dependent on preferences, but the end result is the same: they will have acquired a new pair of jeans. The driving power behind the FEC is that the experience it offers cannot be replaced by technologyâ€”rather, it can only enhance the experiences from within for the consumer.
COVER STORY BIG BOX STORES: DECADES OF SUCCESS While big box stores are now notorious for news headlines highlighting their demise, they once had their time in the sun. When discount shopping emerged in 1962, three retail pioneers created a new way to shop: Wal-Mart, Target and Kmart. These enterprising retailers stepped up and made a move that would change retail shopping forever, opening up the decades-long era of big box stores and enclosed malls. Discounted prices were not the only way these behemoth stores cornered the suburban market. They marketed shopping at their stores as a family activity. At the time, these buildings averaged 50,000 square feet (compared to today’s average of 200,000 square feet). The sheer size of these stores overwhelmed and impressed, and Americans purchased what they thought was everything available under the sun—and, at the time, it was. Soon these stores became anchors in larger malls, benefiting the smaller retailers by their shiny attraction. For decades, this retail phenomenon didn’t have a hitch. That’s until technology took consumerism to an entirely different level, and social change embraced it.
REDEFINING THE MALL: ADAPTIVE REUSE FOR GHOST BOXES Big box stores draw their name from their typical architectural characteristics: free-standing, cuboid-shaped stores set in the middle of a sea of asphalt. When abandoned by closures,
Level 257 is a perfect example of an FEC moving into a big box location.
these structures became known as ghost boxes. According to The Fiscal Times, American retailers are going bankrupt at the fastest rate since the Great Recession for a number of reasons. And, as they lose relevance, there is a dramatic increase in commercial real estate coming to the market. For FECs, it’s a golden opportunity. “As retail continues to come under pressure from Amazon and other online resources, landlords of spaces that were historically out of reach for FECs will actually be looking to the entertainment industry to help fill a growing number of vacancies,” says Bill Diamond, president of Diamond Properties, a commercial real estate business. According to Julia Christensen, author of Big Box Reuse, the footprint of a big box store extends beyond the space occupied by the building or even the parking lot. In many cases, “roads are widened, stoplights put in... entire bypasses might be created. So all of this invested infrastructure remains after the retailer leaves the building behind.” The result is a great deal of embedded energy both in and around big boxes, which in turn also creates a strong incentive for adaptive reuse. Adaptive reuse refers to the process of reusing an old site or building for a purpose other than what it was built or designed for. And while FECs fit the bill perfectly to recreate use in these megastructures, they aren’t the only ones redefining these empty spaces. Other projects that have taken up residence in these ghost boxes include new libraries, schools, churches, gyms, and while still only in theory, developments including farming and rainwater and solar energy collection surrounded by efficient green housing. IBI
COVER STORY This puts the entertainment industry, and FECs in particular, on the list of pioneering innovators creating pragmatic and successful developments that play a bigger role in the environment and economy. One of the main reasons behind their success is that the entertainment industry is unique and has thrived since its beginning, due to its ability to evolve with the times. While physical retailers are closing their doors left and right, the mall itself is not dying. Rather, these spaces are being redefined with the help of a spectrum of industries, Bill Diamond, commercial real estate including food, beverage, hospitality executive. and entertainment businesses. So, while anchor stores, and smaller ones as well, are dramatically decreasing in size, the ones that have remained are being revived by the presence of entertainment pacesetters, such as FECs.
MALLS’ TRANSFORMATION TO MIXEDUSE SPACES MIRRORS BOWLING’S TRANSITION INTO FECS When the traditional bowling center started a decline in its relevancy and appeared as an outdated source of entertainment, it was the FEC that emerged, offering consumers more than what bowling alone could. Since its booming emergence, the sport of bowling has become even more popularized with its presence among other features including destination dining, redemption arcades, escape rooms, music stages and more. Instead of these activities overshadowing bowling, they brought in the masses and gave bowling a front row seat in their line of attractions. The same can be said for what FECs in former big box stores can bring to the remaining retailers of these diminishing malls. According to JLL Retail, approximately 36 million square feet of vacant space is back on the market due to department store closings in 2017 alone. Instead of focusing on the unfortunate closings of retailers across the nation, the flipside is extremely exciting. The fact is that the space, which a successful retail mall once occupied, is still prime real estate, presenting ideal structures that are an exceptional stage for mixed-use developments.
THE EXPERIENCE ECONOMY One reason that FECs have the corner market in succeeding in these spaces is that they are based on the experience economy: a concept where businesses go beyond selling a product or service, and focus on the customer experience. A business may still be selling retail 40
items or services, but they are showcased to the customer in a way that is enhanced, turning it into a memorable experience, rather than a simple purchase. The idea itself was pioneered by Mr. Walt Disney. He offered his guests an unparalleled experience, appealing to all of their senses. This initial defining creator of the experience economy, transforming financial transactions into personal experiences, is the cornerstone of thriving entertainment businesses today. Isn’t that what FECs are all about? You bet they are! As shopping for merchandise can easily be accomplished from the comfort of one’s home, visiting retail stores is no longer a desirable activity. According to an article in the Chicago Tribune, American’s shopping habits are changing as they shift spending to experiences, not stuff. As these consumers spend less on goods, and more on experiences, successful businesses are responding. Rather than merely selling products and services, they are upping the competition and selling their brand by presenting consumers with memorable, and unparalleled, experiences—the driving motivation behind all FECs. While they don’t need it any more for retail, consumers still love a one-stop shop—a good thing as FECs begin to step foot into these spaces of previous malls across America. Just as consumers of the past stepped into big box stores, consumers today know that when they walk into an FEC, they are guaranteed to find something they like. “Things are cyclical. Entertainment started out on main street, but as rents rose, the industry was forced to move to less expensive locations. But as the retail industry goes through a major change, entertainment will find itself being a sought-after tenant, whether for malls, strip centers, or even suburban office properties,” says Diamond. In the next issue of IBI, come back to find out about a number of thriving FECs that have taken residence within some of these ghost boxes across America. And they can tell you from experience—it’s an opportunity that shouldn’t be passed up. ❖
Sean Krainert is a freelance copywriter living in the San Francisco Bay Area specializing in real estate, hospitality and mental health writing. He is also an alumni of the Wichita State Shocker bowling program.
According to George “
f you think you know everything, you can’t learn anything.” The person who shared this quote with me is lost to the fog of memory — it was years ago, but it has stayed with me as great advice. I’ve got a few years in the Fun business (going on 39) and I have made enough mistakes to become an expert, but I still know I have to keep learning. Example: In 1993, the company I then led introduced Virtuality to the U.S. Virtuality was the world’s first commercially available virtual reality (VR) simulator. We invested a lot but had to scramble to exit that venture with our shirts on. Fast forward to today when new VR systems are all the talk in our industry. With my VR experience in mind, I might say, ‘Been there, done that. VR won’t work in FECs.’ However, I’ve seen enough attractions that didn’t work the first time out but went on to hit home runs years later. This year Beyond Bowling is previewing our sixth IAAPA trade show. This magazine is dedicated to helping bowling centers understand FECs and to be the best FEC/BEC possible. With that mission, IAAPA, the largest trade show in the world for new entertainment products and ideas, is a natural venue to promote to our readership. Check out my preview article inside. Speaking of being the best you can be, be sure to read Robert Sax’s feature article on FatCat’s, the multi-state FEC operator. FatCat’s has been around a long time, but they never stop the pursuit of learning, leading, and recently, adding bowling as an attraction. I stepped out of the box recently to sit down with Richard Gottlieb, a toy industry thought leader, for this month’s Interesting Interview. One quote from Richard struck me: “I like to say that the toy business is a 19th century business desperately trying to break into the 21st century.” That’s a recipe for disaster, especially in today’s fast changing world and demanding consumers. Fortunately, leaders like Richard are pushing their colleagues to open their minds, look at old things in new ways, and innovate. Good advice for us all. Enjoy!
George McAuliffe Principal, Pinnacle Entertainment Group
From David’s Desk t’s that time again. IAAPA (International Association of Amusement Parks & Attractions) is gearing up for another great show, November 13-17, in Orlando, FL. This is truly the largest show for all things dealing with amusement attractions, theming, guest service, redemption/arcade games, and of course bowling. What I find exciting about the IAAPA show is the fact that more bowling proprietors are attending, and the nonbowling proprietors who attend are finding more bowling. While the number of traditional bowling centers is holding steady, boutique bowling centers are popping up like the moles in the Whack-a-Mole game you find on the midway. These more intimate venues have figured out what all of us in the bowling industry knew for as long as we have had the bowling bug—bowling is the key attraction that keeps people from two to 100 years old coming back in the name of friendly competition. Bowling is the lynch pin that keeps visitors to BECs and FECs staying longer. The longer people stay, the more they will eat, drink and spend money on other fun things, such as laser tag, arcade, escape rooms, redemption stores, go-karts, and so on. From past experience, I know that attending an IAAPA show can be daunting with so many exhibits, far to walk, and so little time to see it all. To make the show a bit more manageable for bowling proprietors, George McAuliffe, an IAAPA and industry expert, has put together the must-see booths for this year’s show in his IAAPA preview article. I look forward to seeing you at the show. This is an exciting time with so many new possibilities changing the face of the industry. Cheers,
David Garber Associate Publisher International Bowling Industry
Keep The Fun Rolling! The IAAPA 2017 preview is here
By George McAuliffe
he Orlando Convention Center once again will host the hugely popular IAAPA trade show. IAAPA (International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions) is the premiere show for the fun industry. Products to appeal to every sector of that industry, from gumball operators all the way up to international venues like Disney, are all under one roof – except for the Ferris wheels and roller coasters outside. The show runs November 13-18. One of the great challenges for those attending IAAPA is simply getting through the entire show. I’ve heard that there are nine miles of aisle ways lined with vendors. Last year’s show drew almost 30,000 attendees, so the show floor can be crowded.
A Few Tips to Manage the IAAPA Experience
to assess each new game, and meeting with other suppliers on project related matters. That makes the days go by pretty fast. We still strive to walk the entire show aisles looking for ideas, products and inspiration that we can apply to future projects. For major topics with specific people, we schedule time for meetings because the show is simply too busy to count on most exhibitors being available when you happen to walk in, or to have to return again and again to an individual booth.
The FEC and BEC worlds are looking at three particular things on the attraction side this year:
Dress Comfortably: Orlando weather is usually fine for the show with temperatures in the 80s. Rain is always possible. Once inside the convention, one can work up a sweat just walking the aisles. Comfortable shoes are a must — all that walking and standing on thin carpets over concrete floors takes a toll. Plan Ahead: Talk about diversity! With such a wide audience profile, there are all kinds of vendors; from food service, to theming, ride manufacturers, security specialists, and on and on. IAAPA has a seniority-based space assignment system. As a result, some vendors are not always where you expect them to be. The Coin-Op pavilion is a big help in this regard with most FEC – and BEC – related vendors grouped together (or nearby). The Coin-Op pavilion is located in the lower left hand corner of the show floor from aisle 100 through aisle 2000. Most of the game manufacturers, merchandise distributors, and others serving our niche can be found there, but others are scattered. Visit www.iaapa.org in advance to find your must-see exhibitors and view a map of the trade show floor. Have a Strategy: I used to try to walk the entire floor by the end of the week. It seems to be tougher and tougher to accomplish, mainly because our business has evolved. We now allocate time between meeting with our Pinnacle Insiders, clients and industry partners, researching specific new attractions, visiting every game manufacturer 44
1. New Games
This first is the same as every year: new games. IAAPA is the place where game manufacturers show their new products, so visiting each manufacturer is on the to do list of most people I know. Here’s a sneak peek at selected exhibitors.
BAYTEK, Booth 1015
Arguably the leading manufacturer in the marketplace today as they celebrate their 40th anniversary, Baytek has a few things up their sleeve in
IAAPA PREVIEW terms of new product for IAAPA. However, in keeping with tradition, they are keeping advance work close so you’ll have to visit them in the booth to see for yourself. Baytek is legendary in our industry for producing hits like Big Bass Wheel and Ticket Monster. These greats are still top performers, along with Quik Drop, a current Top Ten producer, and some of the staples from the Skee-Ball line which Baytek recently acquired.
COASTAL AMUSEMENTS, Booth 1024
Coastal will have its usual wide array of great games on display. Its latest is IceMan, a videmption water game that is reportedly doing great numbers in its early locations. This game has been out for a while internationally where it did great numbers. We like this as a solid piece and expect long term ROI.
STUDIO 41b, Booth 3260
Studio41b is a company built on two key principles: creativity and innovation. Their passion is to design and develop imaginative environments and cutting edge products, all while their clients have a fun experience along the way. Studio41b offers a wide variety of products and services, such as escape rooms, laser tag arenas, attraction development, scenic design, architectural elements and signage. At this year’s booth, guests can experience a sample escape room. The latest Studio 41b escape room themes are Sorcerer’s Study and a submarine game called Off the Radar.
CREATIVE WORKS, Booth 4271
The folks at Creative Works strive to deliver the WOW Effect and create memorable experiences for family and bowling entertainment centers, which makes their booth fun to stop by as they apply those same principles to their trade show presence. As leaders in laser maze attractions, laser tag and mini-golf playfield design, along with general theming, IAAPA is a busy show for the Creative Works’ team. That promises to be even more the case this year with the popularity of escape rooms on the rise. Creative Works’ theming and creative talents place them as a leader in the emerging escape room sector.
EMBED/HELIX LEISURE, Booth 1336
The leading provider of debit card systems for BECs, Embed will be showing new tools for entertainment operators. Part of the Helix Leisure group, Embed is well into its second decade of developing and deploying out-of-home entertainment software and card systems. At this year’s show, they will feature their full line of reader options, including the flagship smartTouch reader as well as new reporting capabilities through Tool Kit and DNA, the newly-introduced reporting and analytics features. 46
LAI GAMES, Booth 1033
As you will read below, Virtual Reality (VR) technology is high on the interest list for this year’s IAAPA, and LAI has an interesting entrant into the VR lineup. Known as VR Virtual Rabbids The Big Ride, this is a two-seat VR simulator with dual headsets as the gateway to a full immersion, 360 degree experience. LAI tells me that the attraction has tested at Alley Cats and at Dave and Buster’s with excellent results. It sure looks like fun.
SHAFFER DISTRIBUTING, Booth 2004
Shaffer continues to ride “unmatched execution” to new levels of respect in executing family and bowling entertainment centers. Their client list of high-powered BEC owners continues to grow as they deliver on great game rooms. Their consulting and sales teams will be on hand to brainstorm projects.
BRUNSWICK BOWLING, Booth 2206
In the bowling business, experience is everything. Brunswick Bowling Products has led the global bowling industry for more than 125 years. Brunswick is justifiably proud of its formidable experience, product functionality and performance, superior value, and long-term ROI, with products installed in more than 70% of the world’s bowling centers. Brunswick products are specifically designed to drive traffic, increase length of stay, attract group events, and increase sales. Brunswick will be featuring its complete line of products at IAAPA, which includes Sync®, its revolutionary new scoring and management system, pinsetters and higher-scoring lanes, and the Center Stage furniture line featuring the latest styles in bowling center furnishings. The company’s team of sales specialists will be on hand acting as strategic partners, wholly committed to their customers’ success.
QUBICAAMF, Booths 406 and 606
The other leader in the bowling world, QubicaAMF, will be conducting its consultative approach to guiding clients through the process of adding a bowling attraction to a new or existing facility. The Suite Spot mini-bowling lounge concept continues to be a solid FEC attraction and will be on display in the booth again this year. It’s had another great year as centers large and small see mini-bowling as a good investment. QubicaAMF tells us that IAAPA is probably the best show for them in terms of the variety of audience. They will be in the booth in force to have time for all the interested traffic.
LIVE OAK BANK, Booth 454
Live Oak Bank has quietly become a leading lender to the amusement and bowling industries. Its sharp focus is getting deals done for FECs, BECs, roller skating centers, small parks and water parks nationwide. Ben Jones, a former operator and amusement
IAAPA PREVIEW park industry leader, leads the lending team. Live Oak provides financing for the purchase of new games and attractions, remodeling, expansion, refinancing to improve cash flow or a combination. They are becoming a household word in our industry as they’ve shown their flexibility and understanding of operators’ borrowing needs.
REDEMPTION PLUS, Booth 404
Redemption Plus always surprises with new ways to help their customers remain relevant and ahead of the game, and over the past 20 years they’ve learned how a great guest experience generates repeat visitors and increases the bottom line. This year the company will be taking visitors to its booth through its innovative Story Boards, merchandise assortments strategically grouped for a theme, visual display, and customer type. The company’s Story Boards are another great tool for FEC managers. They are great time savers and sales drivers that solve for boring redemption displays – product selection is based on data analytics. Visit their booth and review game-changing systems to help run your redemption program more easily, insights into how to increase your bottom line and to elevate your business strategy, and an opportunity to refresh and modernize the look of your game and redemption rooms by meeting with their design specialist.
version is now out and performing in several BECs and FECs. Triotech, long a leader in high fidelity and VRlike simulators, is in booth 954. Check out their XD Theatres which come in four- and eight-seat versions and are appearing in the larger FECs in increasing numbers. Other booths worth visiting are Zero Latency in booth 1675, VR Studios in booth 3679. Also, search virtual reality on the IAAPA 2017 website.
ESCAPE ROOMS: Perhaps the most talked
about trend in FEC attractions, escape rooms are beginning to develop a track record among early adopters. Studio 41b, has completed several escape rooms for FECs. Creative Works is another source with several units up and operating. They will have four
2. Leading Trends A NOTE OF CAUTION: One of the downsides of the IAAPA show is the wide expanse, at least for those who allow themselves to get swept up in the frenzy. Most FECs and BECs are community-based and serve a population within a twenty-minute drive time. Many attractions at IAAPA are designed for tourist attractions and resorts. The visiting and consumer spending pattern is entirely different from spending patterns at an FEC or BEC. In general, extremely expensive attractions, for which a high ticket price must be charged, may perform well in tourist attractions with steady visitors, but these high-priced attractions are not for BECs, as sales performance is hard to sustain over time. VIRTUAL REALITY (VR): VR has been on our radar screen for the last several years as we’ve watched technology costs drop, headset technology improve, and systems develop. This is the year we expect to see several fullyformed versions which have developed a track record. Be sure to catch Virtulux Omni in the UNIS Booth (631, 831); this 48
separate escape/puzzle experiences completed and offer a turnkey, professionally designed and executed package for operators.
3. Seminars While the IAAPA Expo trade show is the premiere show for FECs, the seminar program is equally prestigious, having formed its reputation over many years. You’ll find sessions on operations, marketing, guest services, new trends, virtual reality, and a lot more. Again, visit www.iaapa.org and navigate to the Expo seminar program. ❖
George McAuliffe has created and operated family entertainment centers from 2,000 to 150,000 square feet as a corporate executive, entrepreneur and consultant. He is president of Pinnacle Entertainment Group and leads the company’s strategic advisory team. Readers can visit www.grouppinnacle.com for more information or contact George at email@example.com or 314-422-7197.
Going All Out for Fun FEC chain FatCats is the place to let loose and have fun. By Robert Sax
n Utah in 1999, two entrepreneurs and longtime friends were brainstorming a new family entertainment experience that would provide “all out fun.” Dave Rutter knew the restaurant business, and Sean Collins had a bowling equipment company. The concept, they chose to call FatCats, combined bowling, miniature golf, and arcade games with a bar-and-grill restaurant. The name was a playful take on a now-defunct FEC in Denver called Fat City. Two years later they opened their first FatCats center in Salt Lake City. The local community eagerly embraced FatCats, where families of all ages and skill levels could enjoy a variety of fun activities. Encouraged by the positive reaction, Rutter and Collins opened two more Utah locations; Provo in 2002 and Ogden in
2007. The fun has been all out ever since. “When most people think of bowling alleys, they just think of red shoes and bowling,” Collins told the Deseret News shortly after the opening of the Provo location. “This is an entirely different experience.” The newspaper described its late-night atmosphere as “the city’s hippest night spot... FatCats seems more like a casino or a dance club than a bowling alley.” By 2015 the chain had fattened up to six Dave Rutter, partner locations with stores in Westminster, CO; Rexburg, ID; and Gilbert, AZ. As Rutter and Collins became increasingly involved with additional restaurant and entertainment projects, they drafted Dave Card as CEO. An experienced financier and development executive, Card had been helping raise
ALL OUT FOR THE SILVER SCREEN
funds for their Costa Vida restaurant chain, which had become a growing franchise enterprise. Card now handles the day-to-day running of FatCats. “All out fun” remains the company motto, and he says it has been the key to FatCats’ success. Card describes the attitude as, “Let’s come here and just let loose and have all out fun. Leave the world behind. This is a fun place. “ There are certainly a lot of ways to have fun at FatCats, starting with bowling. Every location has at least 16 lanes, with some locations offering more than 30 lanes. It’s mostly open play for adults and children, Sean Collins, partner although casual leagues are offered. For young adults there is Thunder Alley, a combo of cosmic bowling and live DJs between 9 pm and midnight. Food and drink specials round out this valuepriced night club alternative. Glow mini-golf, laser tag, bumper cars, and billiards are other popular activities. There are lots of arcade games, of course, with some locations boasting special arcades just for kids. Customers also love the varied food choices available at FatCats. Instead of one or two choices, the company offers food from several popular chains including The Pizza Factory, Strikers, Pintoros Pizza Café, Champzz sports bar and Rutter and Collins’ own Costa Vida restaurant franchise. Customers can eat at the restaurant or choose lane-side service. 52
The FatCats mix now includes first-run movies, which the founders hadn’t envisioned in their initial concept. Card says FatCats got into the movie exhibition business almost by default. When the partners purchased a struggling bowling alley for their Rexburg location, they learned that the town also lacked a modern first-run cinema. That prompted them to remodel and upgrade a six-screen cinema next door, although they were new to that business. Movie exhibition is complex and the leading FEC/cinema combos have been started by organizations that are rooted in the business, like Frank Theatres and Schulman Theatres. But the FatCats owners were willing to learn, says Card. “They spent exhaustive time in learning the industry from others who have the expertise. [They] have grown it from the ground up pretty much learning-as-you-go.” FatCats brought in consultants that helped with operating knowhow, theatre design and choosing Dave Card, CEO locations. Despite a steep learning curve, the addition of movies was a success. “We thought this is a model that may actually work in other locations,” says Card, “so we opened up a second one in Gilbert that had eight screens attached to it.” The cinemas show current Hollywood films at affordable
FEATURE prices and boast such state-of-the-art amenities as stadium seating with extra wide aisles and reclining seats, digital and 3D projection, and Dolby surround sound. There is an extensive concession menu, and patrons can choose in-theater dining as well. Movies have been a strong draw, with ticket sales alone contributing as much as 40 % of revenues at locations with screens. Concessions, which are included in food and beverage sales, constitute another revenue stream. As a result, FatCats plans to include a multi-screen cinema in all future locations.
REWARDS FOR HAVING FUN AND DOING GOOD
FatCats prides itself on offering customer rewards that reinforce the fun. Staff members regularly distribute complimentary cards for arcade play or give free rounds of mini-golf to customers for just having a good time. The promotion has generated a lot of positive mentions on social media from customers. “We’re getting great reviews from the
customers,” says Card. “[They say] these guys go above and beyond.” People who go above and beyond for their local community get rewards too, through a new program with the theme “It’s fun to do good.” FatCats seeks out local companies, non-profits, and community groups that do public service projects. Then they invite the volunteers in for bowling and a party, all paid for by FatCats. The message is, “You guys work hard to serve other people, let us serve you,” says Card. Rewarding folks has in turn rewarded FatCats with very loyal customers. Where competing cinemas and FECs have opened up nearby, Card says FatCats’ business has stayed steady. “I think they’re very loyal to the environment,” he says. “It’s just such a family-friendly, great environment. It’s a little bit of a Disneyland feel to it.” According to Card, customer reviews on social media have been very positive, with comments such as, “I had no idea there was a place like this around that I could feel so comfortable in coming to,” and, “Everyone, of all ages, that was here was having a great time.” 54
Now that FatCats has mastered its formula for all out fun, they have big plans for the future. “We’re going to break ground on a couple more, probably in the next six months,” says Card, “and then be on a trajectory of two new centers a year.”
The founders of FatCats wanted to build a place where hardworking families could go for a good time, and, by all accounts, they have succeeded. All customers have to do is be willing to leave their worldly cares behind for a few hours and just have fun. Red bowling shoes are optional. ❖
Robert Sax is a writer and PR consultant in Los Angeles. He grew up in Toronto, Canada, the home of five-pin bowling.
The Business of Play Richard Gottleib, CEO of Global Toy Experts and publisher of Global Toy News, shares his experience with IBI.
By George McAuliffe Richard Gottlieb is a prominent toy industry commentator and CEO of the Global Toy Group, which is the parent company of Global Toy Experts, Global Toy News, and the World Congress of Play and Global Toy Enterprises. Global Toy Experts is a worldrenowned consultancy and resource for toy industry analysis and strategies. George recently met with Richard to explore ideas and was struck with Richard’s big picture vision of toys as play and entertainment, which led to this interview.
1. Tell us about your business. I like to say that the toy business is a 19th century business desperately trying to break into the 21st century. We are making progress with more digital and robotics products as well as some VR and AR, but we have a long way to go. Still, business is good — the industry was up 6% last year. We just have to weather some major adjustments in the bricks and mortar retail world.
2. How did you get your start in the toy business? I was going to be an English professor and write novels, but, as we all know too well, life rarely goes where we intend it to go. I love working in the business of play, consulting with toy companies all over the 56
world, speaking at conferences, and writing about the industry. Who knows, someday I may write a novel about the toy industry.
3. What’s kept you at it through the years? I enjoy solving problems, particularly the good kind. The business of play, I am sure you and your readers can attest to, is constantly providing us Richard Gottleib with challenges that most people cannot even comprehend. I also like the people and the global nature of the business. Working in play has provided me with some pretty exotic experiences and has brought me in touch with some extremely interesting people. I love it.
4. We ask all of our interviewees: If you had to boil it down to the top three reasons for your success, what would they be? I am a student of the business. Things change so fast today that I have to stay hungry for knowledge and accept that what I knew yesterday may have no application for today. I show up. I make sure to be present and socialize at trade shows and conferences. It’s the best way to keep up with what is happening and to constantly add to my contact list. I try to help wherever I am able. I give free advice to people when I can and find that it feels good to give. It also helps when they end up being successful and remember me.
INTERESTING INTERVIEW that mean for toy manufacturers and the general health of the toy business? It is of course destabilizing, but Toys R Us’ challenges do not derive from a lack of interest in play but simply from the company having way too much debt, some heavy duty competition from Amazon and Walmart, and an in-store experience that is less than inspiring. They need capital to make changes, so it is hoped that by selling off some assets and restructuring some debt, they can get back to being successful.
9. Any specific threats or opportunities toy retail developments may pose to the bowling/family entertainment industry? If there is a toy store in the same area as an entertainment center and the toy store closes up, it creates a toy vacuum. I think the bowling/family entertainment industry should be looking at how to use an entertainment/toy store synergy to increase revenues and profits. 5. Your roots are in toys. How do you see your world connecting with the world of bowling and family entertainment attractions? I have always preached that I want to be selling toys wherever people congregate. For example, someone may only visit a toy store once a month, but they may be in the bowling alley every week. Also, all of entertainment — digital play, toys, and play centers—are converging. I think that there are opportunities for play centers to be active in the world of toys and vice versa.
6. What do you like about the BEC model? I like that it provides high value entertainment for the entire family and that each member of the family can enjoy themselves to their own level of skill and expertise. I also like that the games allow for players to increase their skill levels, so that they can gain an expertise and feel greater self-esteem. All that moving is good for your health, too.
7. From a play perspective, what is important for center owners to know? That they can potentially add profit centers by licensing their IP into the toy industry and entertainment channels. They can also sell more toys than they think, adding a whole new profit center.
8. Toys R Us just announced a Chapter 11 filing, a reminder that retail in general is under threat. What does 58
10. Your vision for the toy industry in the next five years? In this day and age, five years is too far out. Having said that, I look for more synergies between play and entertainment, more robotics, more artificial intelligence, and some new, e-commerce toy providers
11. Any other wisdom you care to share with our readers? Don’t think of yourself as being in the bowling or FEC business. That is too narrow a vision in today’s world. You are in the business of play and entertainment, and you compete with any other business that sells play and entertainment. In today’s world, the competition is for time and attention rather than revenue. If you can get a consumer to give you more time and more space in their brain, the revenue will follow. ❖ Thanks for the astute perspective, Richard. I’m sure you have gotten our readers thinking.
George McAuliffe has operated family entertainment centers from 2,000 to 150,000 square feet as a corporate executive and entrepreneur. As a consultant he has helped hundreds of clients add or improve redemption game rooms and FEC attractions. He is currently the principal of Pinnacle Entertainment Group whose clients include Embed, Redemption Plus and Shaffer Distributing Company. He writes for RePlay and International Bowling Industry magazines and speaks at FEC industry conferences.
PARTY & GROUP ENHANCEMENT SOLUTIONS
QubicaAMF’s The Suite Spot™ is an industry-first solution that brings all the benefits of QubicaAMF’s expertise in bowling innovation to the larger entertainment world. Combining next-gen features of the popular Highway 66, the mini bowling solution powered by BES X, and Harmony Infinity, the industry’s first reconfigurable furniture line, The Suite Spot™ will send your VIP, family, group event, corporate and birthday party business soaring—and leave you celebrating. Visit QubicaAMF.com to learn more.
BACK OFFICE MANAGEMENT
Brunswick’s Sync offers the best-in-class back office management. Included is a snapshot of center performance; tabulation of sales by category; total lineage by frames/hours; and flagged trouble spots. There is access to flexible reporting for all financials, lane usage, and inventory, plus Sync’s comprehensive audit preparation differentiates between taxable or nontaxable and product or department. Sync interoperates with GS-X and string pin pinsetters, facilitating split/spare pickup practice by serious bowlers and pros, plus resets any combination of standing pins, all controllable at the front desk. Learn more: brunswickbowling.com/products/sync.
ATTENDANT-FREE VR ATTRACTION
Virtual Rabbids: The Big Ride is the industry’s first attendant-free VR attraction, developed from the ground up by LAI Games to operate like any other coin-op game. It was created in partnership with Ubisoft, featuring the wild and wacky Rabbids. It offers three unique experiences for an all-ages attraction. With true 360° views with action in every direction, riders are immersed in a unique experience every time. The Big Ride features premium components such as HTC Vive headsets and D-BOX Motion Platform, and each seat is monetized for maximum revenue potential. Experience it for yourself at IAAPA, booth 1033 or contact Allison Timberlake, firstname.lastname@example.org.
NEW CONTEMPORARY CARPET
Astro Carpet Mills introduces a new contemporary pattern called MAJESTIC. As with all of Astro’s carpeting, MAJESTIC is made with 100% nylon and has Stain-Away stain protection that can withstand more than 50 hot water extraction cleanings. Call (800) 542-4189 today for more information, or check out Astro’s website www.astrocarpetmills.com.
BOWLING CENTER LOANS
As an owner of a bowling center, you have a special challenge of keeping a classic game fresh and fun. Sometimes that means buying new equipment or remodeling your space. Live Oak Bank’s team of entertainment center lending specialists is uniquely positioned to help you reach new growth. Live Oak Bank offers bowling center loans up to $5 million for modernization, expansion, refinance and more. They’ve made the loan process transparent and will get the funds to you fast. Loans are also available for equipment, furniture upgrades, and other working capital needs. Contact Live Oak Bank to learn how they can help you achieve the bowling center of your dreams or visit them at IAAPA, booth #454. Liveoakbank.com/bowling-center-loans.
MIDWAY GAMES AT THEIR BEST
Coastal Amusement’s newest ticket redemption game, 3 Ring Circus, is a skill-based, three-player attraction that allows each player to reel and win tickets. Each station is color coded and branded with a circus animal. A progressive bonus feature, as well as a mystery bonus, adds to the excitement. Each player station on 3 Ring Circus is equipped with hundreds of RGB LEDs and a 21.5” LCD HD monitor which will draw in crowds to watch the gameplay. 3 Ring Circus boasts attractive carnival-themed artwork and carnival music which has been famliar for decades. Test your skill at booths 1024/924 at IAAPA 2017.
NEW REDEMPTION GAME
Beat the Clock is Bay Tek Games’ newest redemption game. This Hasbro-licensed game is the PERFECT addition to any game room, with its familiar fast-moving, piece-popping fun! Players have a set amount of time to match the shape in the center screen. Once you find the match, push the large bubble button and don’t stop there! Try to match all the shapes before your time is up. The diminishing jackpot will drive excitement and encourage friendly competition, including the option to beat your best time. Don’t worry, the virtual game board screen changes with each game, so memorizing isn’t an option. For more information, visit baytekgames.com.
Steltronic is proud to announce that its Focus scoring system is now interfaced with ORACLE, also known as MICROS®. With the popularity of the MICROS® terminals as a point of sale system for food and beverage, Steltronic has now interfaced to the MICROS system allowing the cashiers to open lanes, rent bowling shoes, pool tables, and POS products. Everything within the Focus software is interfaced with the MICROS terminals to process payments. “We are YOUR bowling center management specialists.” For more information: (800) 942-5939 or email@example.com.
Visit Redemption Plus in booth #404 at IAAPA. There you’ll find Storyboards, a series of merchandising layouts backed by analytics, on display and information on how to incorporate this solution into your redemption program. Each Storyboard is merchandised with a narrative to engage your guests and make finding the perfect prize a piece of cake! Value Architects, Justin Michaels and Ann Krull, are anxiously awaiting the chance to hear about your business and how Redemption Plus can better serve your center. Aimee Dolehanty, Digital Experience Architect, will also be ready to chat about redesigning your redemption or game room. Opening a center? Come see how Redemption Plus can take your center plans to a new level.
eBowl.biz is always on the cutting edge of what engages and sells. Go beyond just having a Facebook page to one that will help grow your business. Facebook for Bowling EXTRA includes thousands of targeted ad impressions in your marketing, social media posts, Fan Blasts, and birthday campaigns to increase your youth and adult party business. Discover why bowling centers in 40 states are using eBowl.biz! Call (541) 549-0999 or go to www.eBowl.biz for a demo.
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READY TO TAKE CONTROL OF YOUR ONLINE REPUTATION?
www.BowlingReputationManagement.com to learn more, or call us at (541) 549-0999
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Exclusive Phenolic Kickback Plates Front 15” x 33” Rear 19” x 23 ¾” $ 89.00 each (includes screws and instructions) FESI Solve-It Ball Wheel Liner @ $90.00 /roll 070-011-905 Waffle Distributor Belt w/ lacing $58.00 each Toll Free (800) 445-1090 | P (609) 267-2833 | F (609) 267-466 www.festrikezone.com | Resurfacing-Repairs-Supplies
CLASSIFIEDS EQUIPMENT FOR SALE Qubica and Steltronic auto scoring; power lifts; synthetic panels; bumper/gutter; glow machine; ball polisher; A2 machines. Installs available. Knotritellc@gmail.com. 16-lane package ready to be installed; will separate. Knotritellc@gmail.com. NEW & USED Pro Shop Equipment. Jayhawk Bowling Supply. (800) 255-6436 or jayhawkbowling.com. REPAIR & EXCHANGE. Call for details (248) 375-2751.
EQUIPMENT WANTED LANE MACHINES WANTED. We will purchase your KEGEL-built machine, any age or condition. Call (608) 764-1464.
EDUCATION & TRAINING PRO SHOP TRAINING. Classes always forming. Jayhawk Bowling Supply (800) 255-6436 or jayhawkbowling.com.
SERVICES AVAILABLE Looking for an influx of new league bowlers for your center? You need THE BOWLING LEAGUE GUY! Bowlingleagueguy.com or call (757) 390-2129. Drill Bit Sharpening and Measuring Ball Repair. Jayhawk Bowling Supply. (800) 255-6436 or jayhawkbowling.com.
LOCKER KEYS FAST! All Keys done by code # Locks and Master Keys E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org TOLL FREE
POSITION WANTED Certified Brunswick mechanic versed on all American and Japanese serial machines and ZOT conversions. Seeking part time or full time in the Denver and central Colorado area. Will furnish all tools and equipment. 43 years experience; excellent references. Call (303) 948-8770 or (303) 870-5860.
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CENTERS FOR SALE OKLAHOMA: 16-lane center, complete remodel with top-of-line equipment. Includes laser tag, huge game room, bar, and snack bar. Lucrative. firstname.lastname@example.org. SOUTH DAKOTA: high traffic, wellestablished center, Lucky Strike Lanes, in Spearfish. Recent upgrades: new electronics, scoring, remodeled bathrooms and new roof. Also included is mini golf course. Rick Weller, Northern Hills Real Estate Co., (605) 641-1987. FLORIDA: Central. Attractive, mid-sized center with revenues trending up. Owner retiring. Call David Driscoll (352) 735-8065. CENTRAL IDAHO: Busy, updated, 8-lane (synthetic) center: electronic scorekeeping, league play & 50-seat restaurant with drive thru. Easy highway access. Assumable loan. Call (775) 720-2726 for more details.
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CLASSIFIEDS PROPRIETORS WITH AMF 82-70 S.S. & M.P. MACHINES Save $$ on Chassis & P.C. Board Exchange & Repair! A reasonable alternative for Chassis and P.C. Board Exchanges MIKE BARRETT Call for Price List
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AMF • BRUNSWICK EQUIPMENT COMPLETE PACKAGES WORLDʼS LARGEST NEW – USED SPARE PARTS INVENTORY ALL AMF BUMPER PARTS, XS Q-BUMP, DURABOWL AND GEN II IN STOCK
Danny & Daryl Tucker Tucker Bowling Equipment Co. 609 N.E. 3rd St. Tulia, Texas 79088 Call (806) 995-4018 Fax (806) 995-4767
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Published on Oct 27, 2017