We are often asked what is hot or what will be the 'next big thing' for location-based entertainment facilities (LBE), so we thought we'd share our thoughts on the five major trends (in no particular order) we believe will be the foundation for successful LBEs in the future.
Execution: By execution, we mean excellence in the implementation of concept, design and management of the entire guest experience. It's really the details that make the big difference. According to Disney, guests say they return to Disney World and Disneyland first for its cleanliness, second for its friendly cast members (Disney's terminology for its staff) and third for the entertainment. That's right, the entertainment comes in third. Disney wins because of its incredible attention to the execution of offering guests a clean and friendly entertainment experience.
Here's what Disney imagineer John Hench had to say about Disney's approach: "What's our success formula? It's attention to infinite detail, the little things, the little, minor, picky points that others just don't want to take the time, money, or effort to do."
Every other type of out-of-home consumer destination - hotels, restaurants, stores, shopping complexes, hospitals - are continually raising the bar on standards of excellence in environment, service and over all quality of experience. As a result, consumer expectations for quality, service and the little details that make the real difference are rising. LBEs that offer superior execution of their entire guests' experiences, down to the smallest details, will be the ones to succeed in the future.
Family: Families are looking for opportunities to have bonding experiences together, to socialize and have fun together. In the past, many LBEs thought their market was teenagers. The facilities that have succeeded in the past and will continue to do so in the future will be those that focus on families and offer them experiences the entire family can enjoy together. (The exception to this is LBEs such as Dave & Buster's that focus on young adults.)
Bowling: Bowling has always been the most popular form of indoor recreation for families. This is rather amazing considering the dark, dingy smoky and worn out condition of many bowling alleys. Many LBEs are now including bowling as one of their anchor attractions, served up in a much more appealing atmosphere designed for contemporary families. Bowling is a perfect family anchor, as 2-year-olds to 80-year-olds can play (it's intergenerational), it has a length-of-stay element, is a great value and centers as much around socialization as it does the play.
Food & Beverage: Regular readers of this eNewsletter understand our thoughts on food and beverage. To put it succinctly, to be successful, your LBE needs to be perceived as much as (if not more so) a dining destination as an entertainment destination. Dining drives frequency far more than entertainment. And the old snack bar concept of nachos and cheese, pizza, hot dogs and hamburgers no longer cuts it with today's sophisticated families. The bar has been raised with consumers by all types of restaurants with ambiance or quality-of-place (the environment), fresh and quality foods, exciting flavor profiles and great service. With a few exceptions, LBEs need to generate 35% to 60% of their revenues from food and beverage to succeed.
Edutainment: Our contemporary educated consumers feel time pressured and are increasingly demanding a 'twofer' when they go out for entertainment. They want to have fun and learn something at the same time (see story What's happening with edutainment?). Consumers want to enrich their lives and those of their children with their limited leisure time. Edutainment content is becoming a must, especially with college-educated families who command the lion's share of away-from-home entertainment expenditures.
So that's it in a nutshell: the five trends we believe will drive success in the LBE industry in the future.