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Tips & Best Practices for Family Entertainment Centers

5 Easy Ways to Increase Party Sales

I managed a million dollar birthday business.

More specifically, I managed birthday parties at a large FEC for six years and helped turn it into a million dollar a year birthday business. Yes, I was in Houston, the fourth largest city in the United States, but that also meant that we were competing with lots of other businesses in the same industry. I get asked all the time, “What was your secret?” It was very fortunate that we were clients to Trainertainment.  I received weekly training and coaching from Beth through her Sales Coaching program. I was also working for a really great facility, where I had the best party team anyone could ask for. We still had to get creative and work really hard to build our program.

I want to share with you five easy ways things we did to increase our party sales that you can use, too!

1. Upsells

Upsells are a huge reason we were a million dollar a year party program. There were only so many party times available; even if we packed them all in, we could only do so much, so we relied heavily on upsells. We sold logo cups with lids, which parents happily purchased so that all the sweet 4 year olds in the party wouldn’t spill their drink. They could also refill it later. Lanyards were by far the biggest hit! We learned quickly that with a game card system kids lost their card easily. Well, why not put it on a lanyard that they wear around their neck?! This one was so easy. All we had to do was have the parent think about their child losing their game card and having a meltdown! Goodie bags – an item that mom doesn’t have to run to the store and think about. It was a no-brainer to buy them. The great thing about working with people like Redemption Plus is that they customized our bags for us! We created artwork with our mascot and a bounce back coupon for their next visit. Upsells such as 3 for 5 gameplay, additional bowling time, food options, and theme parties are just a few items you can sell.

Our biggest secret….shhhh….don’t spread this one too much: When we cashed the party out we would create two receipts; their actual receipt reflecting their package pricing with add-ons, and an itemized receipt as if they had purchased everything a la carte. The parent could see the totals side by side and realize hey, it’s not as much as I thought. I would say we were able to upsell 7 out of 10 parties that way.

2. Birthday Party Club

I was a client of TrainerTainment before I came to work for them as Marketing Director, and each week my sales team had to report how many outbound calls we made to customers who had parties with us in the past. Yes, making those calls do work to get bookings, but sometimes I was frustrated to hear “well we did it there last year, we are going to try somewhere else this time.” I was always shocked because we were the BEST at birthday parties, and I knew they would be disappointed going somewhere else.

We started a Birthday Party Club to take advantage of the many people walking through the center on the weekends, who weren’t necessarily ready to book a party. Every Friday evening, Saturday and Sunday a party host set up a table and decorated with a sign that said: “Win a Free Party.” All parents had to do was sign their children up to be in our birthday club. For their birthday they would receive a special postcard in the mail with an offer to come and visit us for their birthday. We used this information to call them six weeks ahead of time and said, “I want to be the first to wish Jordan a happy birthday! Have you thought about where you are going to have his party yet?” Parents loved it! We planted that seed in their head that they needed to get their planning started. We were willing to do all the work for them!

The first year we collected well over 1,000 names and the great part was that we already knew they loved our center because they were past guests!

3. Having that “WOW” Factor

Adding that “wow” factor is what sets you apart from other facilities near you. I would say most FEC’s have the basics down; you have activities, food, and drinks. How good your center is compared to the person down the road is some of what makes you different. I truly think the differences are the smaller details and guest service.

If you have the best guest service, I am definitely more likely to come to your facility. But as a mom, I want to see the host going above and beyond the call of duty to make our party a memorable experience.  I want to see that every person in the center is telling my son a happy birthday and giving high fives. I want to see that the staff is knowledgeable and interacting with the people I invited. I want to know that they are pleased that we have chosen them over everyone else. I want the center to be clean. I know it doesn’t sound like much, but I can tell you firsthand that I have been places that didn’t do this, and I definitely said my friends not to go there.

That “wow” factor is what is going to have your party parents and their friends telling everyone on social media that they HAVE to have a party here. When they do and have rave reviews, advertise those! Publish those rave reviews on your birthday party page with a link so others can see that yes, we are amazing, and the best place in town to have your party.

4. Think Outside the Box

Parents can really go out all for birthday parties. Thanks to Pinterest, moms get ideas about how to customize their parties in very creative ways. Just think; a movie-themed party with cupcakes that look like popcorn buckets, actual popcorn buckets, movie tickets as invitations, and a concession stand with all your favorite theater candy. For some parents, the very idea of doing all that work makes them anxious (I am one of them, did it once and never again!). Why don’t we think of how we can create something that is over the top and outside the box?

It is really easy for us to have storage containers on-hand with boas, rockstar hats, glasses, inflatable guitars, and microphones, and include a lanyard to hold their game card (which is now their VIP pass), to have the ultimate rockstar party. Some of this can be a one-time investment, while others can be built into your package for them to take home. Now we have really become the one-stop shop, from beginning to end it is no fuss, no muss, just leave it to us! All you have to do is bring the cake!

5. Online Booking

I cannot stress enough that an online booking system such as Party Center Software is an absolute must to increase party sales. Parents today are so busy that they need to have easy access to the book at any time.

Let me paint a picture: 6:30 am out the door to take the kids to school, drop them off and get home around 8:00, work till time to pick up the kids at 3:00, soccer practice for one, baseball practice for the other. Rush home at 6:45 to cook dinner. After dinner, it is time for showers and homework. Then 8:30 pm rolls around, and it is time for the kids’ bedtime stories. 9:00 lights out. 9:01, mom and dad with a glass of wine laid out on the couch ready for bed. 9:05 rolls around, you sit straight up and say “Oh my gosh, Jordan’s birthday is in two weeks and I haven’t planned his party!” If you are shaking your head and giggling (as I am while writing this), you know exactly what I am talking about.

While I have been part of thousands of birthday parties over the years, and roll my eyes every time a mom calls three days before to book their party, I also feel for them. There is so much going on in my busy life as a mom that I need to be able to do it on my time, not theirs. Online booking is perfect! Parents can get online anytime, day or night and book their party right then.

After we implemented our online booking system about 70% of our parties would book straight through the web. Think about before– how many parties were lost because someone else had an online system that they could book right away?

I hope these will give you great ideas about how to increase your party sales in 2015. I would love to hear your feedback and any ideas you have, too!




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