Designing an Experience : Parties by design

Industry data clearly illustrates that a well run family entertainment centre can post 30% - 50% of revenues from birthday party's. Larger centres can do as many as 60 - 100 birthday party's per week... multiply that by an average of $300 per party... and you can begin to see the potential for this enormous revenue generator.

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This kind of volume requires not only the space, and a local market to support it, but a strategic plan on how to market, and how to manage them once they come. Even if your market is smaller, the same advice is sound; Get them in, exceed their expectations, get them out and do it all over again as efficiently as possible. To accomplish this, we need to start with traffic flow.

The process of completing your business plan, and operations mix should give you a solid projection of the potential numbers of party's you can attract, how long those parties will be, and should thereby give you some clear direction of how many party rooms or party spaces you should have. Once there, your next task is to create a floor plan that maximizes traffic flow.

Layout and Design

Think it through from a full-time staff member's point of view. On the busiest day, when all the party rooms are booked and walk-in admissions are also full, what does the facility look like? Are there any flow bottle-necks where and why? This may be hard to visualize at this point, but by being aware in general of your own retail experiences, both from restaurants and other family friendly and leisure establishments you can start to get a sense of flow.

Draw the centre out, then pretend you're a customer, and a staff moving around the space, do you get stuck anywhere? Are there unexpected obstacles or points that you could think of as being a potential issue. 

  • What does the check-in / check-out area look like?

  • Will your guests be held up in long lines getting into the building?

  • Is there enough comfortable room inside to accommodate two groups of 20 or more?

  • Will those going out be serviced as well as those coming in?

  • Considering the check-in and check-out process, how long will each have to wait?

  • How many people can get to the concession area and how accommodating is the line-up process there?

  • What about food service to the party areas - are your staff having to wind their way through the crowds for every delivery, or is it smooth?

  • Same questions for your activity layout, have you created walk ways and enough space for spectators to stop and enjoy the fun?

You thought we were done? No there's a lot more to consider...


    How do groups get to their party rooms?

  • Do they have to fend for themselves or does a staff member assist?

  • Once they are in the party rooms, what happens next, when?

  • What if an extra adult shows up, is there ample seating?

  • Do you have a party manager responsible to entertain, encourage and manage each group?

  • How much time do you give them in the party room, and how do you help them vacate when that time is up?

  • Do they cross back through the facility or are there other options, like a back door area?

  • What happens if groups stay longer than they are supposed to?

  • If groups are kept waiting for their party area, how can you entertain them or cater to their frustrations

Now see the above through the customers eyes, what is the 'experience' like for them? Hopefully you will be busier than your expectations and by addressing some of these questions and others on the front-end of your facility design, you can create a fluid layout that maximizes your party traffic potential.

Your guests could do a party at home, but the mess, the time it takes to organize and execute including the clean-up is the major consideration for paying you to entertain them. And that word "Entertain" is a key factor in the success of your party strategy. Having the space available for a party, providing some paper plates and napkins with a good assortment of activities and fun for your guests is a good place to start. But, for great "Free" advertising (through a growing army of satisfied word-of-mouth customers) you need to go a lot further.

It goes without saying that your centre is clean and safe and you do your best to make it a comfortable experience. But what about your staff,... or should we say, your 'Ambassadors of Play' or some such other descriptive title. Hire and then empower your staff with a play attitude. This is a great industry, we get to play and have fun everyday, make sure your staff understands that, and is enthusiastic about doing it - consistently.

Then, find ways to use that enthusiasm to create a reputation for wildly fun and exciting party's. Encourage your staff to play with and get involved in the activities with your guests. Get them to lead while challenging your guests to try new activities and new ways of using old activities. Have them offer rewards for trying something new.

We can assume that most of your staff will be young adults, and may have younger siblings that will have a closer ear to your customer than you. Use that resource. Hold regular staff meetings and ask for their input, give your staff the ability to be part of your centre's success and reward them for their ideas and enthusiasm. The best new idea wins the "Master-of-Play" title for a week/month. Most importantly, get them involved with your centre and the groups by creating a work environment that they feel they can add to and be respected for, and they will pleasantly surprise you.