How to scale a leisure & entertainment business

Ok whilst a billion may be a little optimistic, let’s not beat around the bush – nearly all operators in the leisure & entertainment industry are in it to maximise profits. Clearly, one of the ways you can do that is to scale your business to more locations or a wider product offering.

We’ve worked with a wide range of customers that have scaled whilst using BookNow Software, and in fact it’s something we’ve done when our CEO Luke owned a leisure business before forming BookNow Software. So with that in mind, we wanted to look at a couple of essential tips for scaling your business, using both our own experience and that of some of our customers.

Use your data

We cannot emphasise this enough, data is arguably the most important thing when it comes to growing your business.

This should be applicable across the business, from top selling experience, impact of marketing, best performing demographics, your top selling second spend items, where customers hear about you and much more.

Simon Wilkinson, managing director of Boost Trampoline Parks is one customer we have who runs an extremely data driven business, and it’s shows with the success the business has had since its inception in 2018 – so it only seemed fitting we reached out to Simon to get his thoughts on this topic:

“Don’t scrimp on the data. As an example, create a map of the entire customer journey, from how they first hear about you, to when they depart your site. Look at every juncture and see where you can measure your service provision; from web & social traffic stats to exit surveys & NPS scoring. The more the merrier initially.”

With this data, it’s time to go to work on it… label each piece of data with the following points;

  • What is it telling us
  • How regularly can we receive the data – avoid responding erroneously to data light on sample size
  • How can we influence the service provision based on this data”

If you’re using a good venue management solution too, the chances are you’ll have a built-in dashboard functionality which will allow you to have your key pieces of data pulling in.

Simon refers to this as an impact hub:

“Create an ‘impact hub’ where the data coming in influences the strategy of the business going forwards. An example might be where a customer service issue leads to a direct change in the way the teams are trained. The speed with which this data can positively impact the service provision is one measure of the health of your operation.”

Find your USP

When looking to scale your business, it’s integral you have a USP – what are you doing that’s different, or better than everyone else in the same space?

Whilst the UK already had a number of venues like Topgolf, Flight Club & Junkyard Golf that offered a competitive leisure experience geared towards young adults, there wasn’t a venue that offer multiple activities under one roof; enter Boom Battle Bar.

“We have seen an increase in experience led activities, a more Instagrammable concept and a shift in drinking culture towards competitive socialising in younger clientele who generally aren’t attracted to traditional pubs and bars. It was these changes that led us to establish Boom: Battle Bar.” Said Boom Battle Bar Founder, Elliott Shuttleworth.

A competitive social experience is something our CEO Luke Sims has commented he would pursue if he was to make a return to running a leisure business “Reinventing something traditional that already has an audience base”, were the words he used in an interview with the Safer Parks Initiative at the end of 2021.

In terms of identifying an opportunity for a USP, and as alluded to earlier, our CEO Luke also built the first trampoline park in the UK, noticing the opportunity to introduce them to the UK after visiting one with his family in the USA, and then quickly scaling to have multiple locations throughout the UK.

So what can we learn from this? There are a few things we would take away when examining what USP you can offer:

  • Is there an opportunity for something completely new to the market?
  • Is there something that already exists that you can do better?
  • Can you combine multiple product offerings to create a unique offering?
  • Can you revamp an existing experience and give it a unique twist?

As you can see, there is more than one way to skin a cat and create a unique product offering so get creative and get scaling!

Be prepared to adapt

Sometimes even the best laid paths to success need to take a detour. That’s why it’s incredibly important to be prepared to adapt if things aren’t going to plan, or how you envisioned.

Looking at our customer Topgolf, the business was originally founded by two brothers in the UK who played golf but found the driving range experience mundane, so the first Topgolf location was launched just outside of London in 2000.

Whilst Topgolf did well and expanded to a few more venues, it really took off after some key people within the business identified an opportunity to appeal to a larger audience by introducing event space, larger kitchens and restaurants – ultimately creating a full on entertainment venue that now appealed to an audience much wider than just golf fans looking for a fun driving range experience – making Topgolf a hot destination for a range of occasions such as friends nights out, family day outs and date nights.

Nothing exemplified the success of this new strategy more than the six hour wait time that the Dallas location had within six months of opening!

Today, Topgolf now has 70 locations around the world including the UK, USA and Australia with plans for continued growth. Without this emphasis on providing a wider ranging offering to guests, and a willingness to evolve then reaching that sort of milestone may never have been possible.

Use your customers

Simon from Boost Trampoline park also added; “Lastly, don’t ignore the less easily measured – word of mouth is more powerful than the majority of our advertising strategies.”

And this doesn’t surprise us at all. Few things have more power when it comes to scaling your business than good word of mouth marketing from previous guests. In fact, some research suggests 92% of consumers believe recommendations from friends and family over all forms of advertising. That’s a staggering number.

This isn’t just a direct face to face chat with friends where your venue is recommended, but also includes things like social media posts, Google reviews, Tripadvisor and so forth.

So in terms of how you can ensure you maximise how much word of mouth benefits your business there are a couple of ways we would always suggest to businesses:

  • Encourage customer reviews and testimonials and then share these on your website and social media accounts
  • Have prompts around your venue which encourage guests to take pictures that are shareable on social media (like the example from Rush below)
  • Then make sure you share this user generated content within your own marketing
  • Offer incentives for reviews (e.g. 20% off your next visit for a review on your chosen platform)

In short, treat your customers well and you’ll likely reap the rewards of a happy and growing customer base.

If you’re looking to scale your business having a good venue management solution is integral. To find out how BookNow Software could benefit your business as you scale we’d recommend giving our product tour a quick watch by clicking the graphic below.

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