Twenty years ago the experts and consultants exalted the virtues of building the Big 5: go-karts, batting cages, arcades, bumper boats and miniature golf. It was also a time when the economy was starting to boom and money was there for the asking. All a bank needed to know was that Walmart was planning to build in your town. Sounded like a rock solid business plan! What could go wrong?
Just like day trading, house flipping, investing in .com companies, multi-level marketing and a host of other ventures, the Big 5 worked for many savvy operators. For others, not so much. It is critical to have the right combination, and even more critical to be able to manage the right combination. All of the attractions can turn a profit by appealing to the right demographic at the right time. If the FEC mix mostly appeals to 15-24-year-old males, the potential profit pie shrinks. Too many trained employees required to operate an attraction will cut into the net profit pie. Insurance, taxes, general maintenance, specialized maintenance, government regulation, parts inventory, advertising, marketing and utilities will also like a slice of the net profit pie. There is nothing more discouraging than a hungry entrepreneur looking at crumbs. A high-grossing business is nothing without a strong net profit. Due to some kind of Jedi mind trick, blinders or rose colored glasses, a business can keep its doors open months, sometimes even years, before it becomes evident the business is actually losing money.
Miniature golf is one of those activities that appeals to a very large market. Anyone can play minigolf. Young, old, handicapped, athletic, not athletic, singles, groups and couples on dates can enjoy mini-golf. Corporate events, birthday parties, school trips, tournaments and charity fundraisers are all ideal activities that can include mini-golf. The appeal of mini-golf is widespread. When was the last time you saw a grandparent, parent, teenager and child engage in an activity where everyone had fun and nobody got embarrassed? The last time you watched a movie with a teenager there was probably a scene that made for a very awkward moment that nobody really wanted to acknowledge. Embarrassment in mini-golf comes from a missed putt inches from the cup. On a date, miniature golf is not the only game being played. Interaction is crucial for a successful memorable experience.
A family can go to an FEC and have an absolute blast riding karts, hitting balls and playing video games and blow through a small fortune in a short period of time. By extending the visit another 30-40 minutes, a sense of added value is added to the trip. All of a sudden a brief costly burst of fun became an evening out. For a few dollars more, a family will perceive the FEC as a good deal and will become frequent fliers. Miniature golf is the perfect fit to add value.
Miniature golfers are an adventuresome bunch. While they may not set out to hit balls in a cage, drive balls at a range, ride karts, or play video games, they will do all of this while knocking down an ice-cream cone, and never break a sweat. Fast forward 20 years and the Big 5 has expanded to laser tag, bowling, ropes courses, mazes and zip lines, and miniature golfers are up for all of it!
Miniature golf expands the market pie and the synergy it creates increases revenue for other attractions, often by 15-30 percent or more. That’s good. What about on the operation side of the business? Typically one employee can handle day hours during the week. A second employee can be added during evening hours and on weekends to keep things flowing smoothly. Hand out a ball and putter, take in money, and say thank you. Not super technical. A daily maintenance schedule will keep the course looking fresh.
Does your FEC have any land not being used? Miniature golf can be built in squares, rectangles, circles and whatever other shapes that have been long since forgotten from high school geometry. Take a trip down memory lane to that geometry class to see your site in another perspective. The land is already owned or leased.
Maybe your FEC consists of all indoor activities. People who drive by see a parking lot, a building and if the town allows it, an eye-catching sign. Miniature golf can be that sign! A cool waterfall, some fountains and beautiful landscaping make a great billboard. Imagine a billboard that attracts new business and makes money! A savvy operator will turn that real estate into revenue!