The complete guide to a Family Entertainment Centre (FEC) Booking System

The booking and management market for Family Entertainment Centres (FEC) is a complex landscape, with a huge range of offerings all providing different levels of functionality and subsequently, pricing. Whilst most FEC operators immediately consider just booking, a good piece of software can manage your whole business for you – this was always our vision when we built BookNow Software, and how we sought to differentiate ourselves from the standard booking systems available at the time. 

With that said, we wanted to put together a complete guide for FEC’s and other leisure businesses to consider when surveying this marketplace – our hope is that this can give you a steer on key features and functionalities and help you decide what is most important to you and your business!

Bookings 

What better place to start than with bookings! It’s probably the reason you’re looking at solutions like us, as a good booking engine is the first port of call when it comes to purchasing software for your business. 

A booking system should be easy for your staff and customers to use, look modern, professional, branded and easily integrate with your website from an online perspective. The booking system should all be fully integrated so that online, phone and walk-in bookings are all updated on the system in real time.

For customer bookings, the user journey should be extremely simple to use and a customer should be able to get from the start to the end of the booking process in under six screens, to avoid drop out.

You should also consider that a lot of customers use mobile devices as their main purchasing device, so the booking system front end should be designed with mobile first in mind. 

Obviously a huge aspect of bookings for FECs and other adventure parks is the ability to provide party and group bookings, needless to say any booking system worth its salt should be able to cater for this – payments for group bookings are also an area we have carried out some development work in, giving customers the option to split payments across a group which saves the person booking having to pay everything up front on their card.

CRM and Customer Segmentation

Customer Relationship Management (CRM) solutions are what underpin all businesses, as obviously without a customer base none of us would have a business! 

A good CRM system gives you great insight and understanding of your customers, and can track all communication with your customers. It will also allow for segmentation of your customer base, which means your marketing efforts can be hyper specific to each segmentation group and increase your likelihood of converting them into a sale.

You can also use the data you have on customers to nurture the ones who haven’t been in a while and try to entice them back with a promotional offer, and send out marketing emails in the build up to their birthday to encourage a party booking at your venue, as you capture this data from bookings.

Cashless Payments

With things like Apple Pay becoming so prominent, cashless payments were growing rapidly even before the coronavirus pandemic – however that seems to have sped things up even further. 

However, thinking of FECs specifically, a lot of the visitors inside the venues are far too young to have their own bank accounts to make payments with. So the solution to this is to allow parents of children to load up RFID bands with a monetary value which their children can use in the venue to purchase food, drink or merchandise eliminating the risk of them losing cash – or trusting your child with your credit card! This is a perfect solution when sending your children to a party booking.

Additionally, a huge trend since mid 2020 is allowing the customers the ability to scan a QR code on a table and place an order for food and drink and pay for it on their mobile device – helping business owners cut down on staff needed for waiting.

This order can then go through to your kitchen or bar staff and the order can be prepared. We found this was a huge feature for our customers last year, and is heavily used by the vast majority of our customers who provide food and drink, and we’ve seen it increase food and drink sales by up to 20%.

Food and Drink Sales and Management

As we’ve previously looked into, a good food and drink offering can be a huge revenue driver for FECs and other leisure businesses – however a lot goes into providing a good offering, from a software perspective. 

Firstly you need a good stock management system to manage all of your supplies, with the ability to send automated emails when stock gets low, ensuring you don’t get caught out – especially during busy periods! 

As covered above, your booking and management system can also manage your food and drink orders for your business, sending these from a customer’s mobile device (as mentioned above) or a remote terminal straight to the kitchen, with all sales reported back to the system for you to analyse.

Gift Cards & Promo Codes

We’ll cover these separately – so firstly we all know how much customer’s love a deal so it makes sense that we find most of our customers heavily utilise the ability to provide promotional codes to their customer base to entice business. A good booking and management system should be able to manage multiple promotional codes with no problem, with expiry dates or ensuring customers meet specific conditions when using them (e.g. first time customers). 

Gift cards are a great item to sell to your customer base, particularly around the holiday season when gift card sales historically spike – we also saw a lot of our customers sell a heavy amount of gift cards during the pandemic, but hopefully that isn’t a scenario we’ll need to worry about again! Like promotional codes, this can be managed online through customers adding their gift card number to the order or submitting the gift card to staff if visiting as a walk-in.

Integrations

Whilst a good booking and management system will allow you to manage your whole business, there will always be a number of other software which business you use – for example, finance teams may use Quickbooks and your marketing team may love Mailchimp – so it’s important that you can use a system which can integrate with these types of solutions, with the required information feeding out to each system, providing you one platform to run your whole business. 

The need to integrate was one reason we chose to build our online booking system on Salesforce, as it has the AppExchange with over 10,000+ integrations and we also have the ability to integrate with any other solution which has an API, which has allowed us to work with industry specific solutions in the bowling and karting sectors for example.

Marketing

You can have the world’s best FEC, however if you don’t market it no one will ever visit! With this in mind, it’s important that your family entertainment centre booking system offers built-in marketing, as well as the ability to integrate with your marketing team’s favourite solution as mentioned above.

Whilst most customers use their booking and management system to send out marketing emails, the area we most advise on is to set up automation. There a few reasons for this:

  1. It’s proven to deliver results.
  2. Blocking out a few hours to focus on your email marketing and build an automation flow will mean you can spend the rest of your time focusing on other areas of your marketing. 
  3. Set it and forget it for “evergreen” automations – what we mean by this is that some automations, like birthday campaigns, can be set up once and then left alone as they’ll always be relevant – obviously if they aren’t performing well, you’ll need to revisit them but the idea is the automation saves you having to spend time on manual tasks weekly or monthly. 

However, emails and automation is just one aspect of your marketing and you’ll want to make sure that your booking and management system has the ability to integrate with your Google and Social Media Advertising accounts so you can track conversion and ROI to work out where your marketing is most effective.

Memberships

Membership schemes are a must have for all family entertainment centres and we’ve seen them increase the revenue by up to 8% in customers who have decided to introduce memberships to their businesses. 

Customers love memberships as it means they have the option to go to an activity centre whenever they like, without worrying about additional costs or booking every time. And in terms of the operator, there are a number of reasons to consider a membership scheme outside of just increased revenue which we’ve previously covered here.

Multi location Management

Owning multiple locations, or having aspirations of owning multiple locations presents a unique set of challenges, such as:

  • Detailed reporting on all locations
  • Managing stock and pricing models across locations taking demographics into account
  • Restricting access at location level
  • Migration of systems and support
  • Franchise management

That’s not to say the above don’t apply to single site businesses, but are just amplified at multi-location venue level, so are areas we focus on when training customers who will be using our solution to manage multiple sites. 

We often find that multi-site business owners are the ones who find the most value of our solution, because the scalability and customisation aspects of BookNow tend to work well in larger environments where a dedicated person in a business is responsible for the booking and management system.

Operations

Whilst a few of the things we’ve already looked at do fall under the umbrella of operations, like food & drink and bookings for example, there are also a number of other things to consider that you may want from a booking and management system that fall under operations remit.

For example, can the system you use track and save health and safety incidents you may have at your venue? You may also want the ability to control your schedule and block certain days or parts of your FEC off from booking on any given day. Can your solution help you track maintenance and checks of equipment, recording the date and time of the check via simple QR Code scanning?

All of those little features which may not seem like much, can make life of an operations team much easier.

Point of Sale

Point of Sale (POS) is a key area to explore before you decide on a booking and management system. The reason for this is certain providers can only work on certain pieces of hardware, or offer their own which is the only hardware their software can run on.

We’d recommend choosing a solution which is hardware agnostic, which means it will run on any piece of hardware so you can rest assured you’re covered should you upgrade systems in the future.

Once you’ve established if your software is hardware agnostic, you’ll also want to check other key features such as:

  • Can you sell your bookings, gift cards, F&B and merchandise from one system? 
  • Can you manage waivers for your customers on the POS?
  • Can you easily manage cancellations, refunds and schedules?
  • Are all sales updated in real time across your system?

All of the above are key features of a well rounded POS system, but please send us a message via the form below if you have any questions on POS systems!

Payment Gateway Providers

Finding the right payment gateway for your business can be a difficult task with providers all offering different rates and different operators for each region. 

Because there’s no one size fits all when it comes to payment gateway providers, we work with a wide range of different providers so we can ensure you get the best fit for your business – it can be frustrating if you’re locked in using one payment gateway which might not be the best fit for your business, but your booking and management system provider only works with them. 

If you want to read up a bit more on a few payment gateway providers we work with, you can view some of our most popular ones on our integrations page.

Pricing

It’s obvious to say, but pricing is a huge determiner of the success of your family entertainment centre. Get it wrong, and you risk putting guests off with high prices or risk not making enough profit on your bookings. 

A booking and management system should also give you great power over pricing, with you easily able to implement dynamic pricing which allows pricing to fluctuate on busy and quiet periods, ensuring you can adapt to trends in your marketplace.

Reporting & Analytics

We live in a time where there has never been so much data available to us, so it’s key that you are able to get all of the data you could possibly need from your booking and management system provider – it’s your data after all! The data you get here will help you get insight into business performance and customer behaviour, and allow you to use this information to influence your marketing. 

However data is only as valuable as the action it causes, so we always work with customers to ensure they know how to interpret the data and can boost key performance indicators for their business such as revisitation rate – which we’ve covered in depth here

With BookNow, you can have your reports display in easy to read dashboards, giving you all of your key metrics in one place.

Self Service and Ordering

We’re sure you’ve seen this in place in pubs and restaurants you’ve been in since lockdown restrictions were eased, and as mentioned above, we rolled out QR Code ordering and payment for customers which has resulted in fantastic success for their businesses – on average, we’ve seen customers food revenue increase by over 20% through the usage of this feature.

It makes your customers’ lives easier, and you and your team’s lives easier and it’s absolutely a feature we think is here to stay for the long haul – and so do the BBC!

Waivers

Certain FECs such as Trampoline parks or adventure parks require guests to sign waivers before visiting the venue – a good booking and management system will allow customers to do this during the booking process, and then have these waivers all stored on the system. 

Your staff can then pull these up when guests check into the park, as each customer should have a waiver assigned to them.

Webstore

Finally, a good management system should allow you to sell additional products or services through your system – for example upsell food promos for customers to buy prior to attending your venue.

Your system should also be scalable with your business, so you can sell items even outside of a booking if that’s something you see adding value to your business. We’ve seen our customers do this and open up revenue with branded merchandise. 

We hope this guide has given you a greater understanding of what is possible from an FEC booking and management system – as you can see, you can do far more than just online bookings! 

If you’d like to have an initial informal conversation about our solution, feel free to drop us a message via the form below or by sending an email to [email protected]

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