Cashless Payments: Why it’s Important and How to Make the Most of Your System
From my time as an owner/operator to working FOR a card system to now, my stance about card systems has not changed or wavered. They are the only way to go almost always, and the revenue increases I have seen after adding card systems solidify that opinion. If you do not have a cashless solution, you need one, and I will explain why. Use as many features as possible to maximize your revenues if you already have one. Make sure you take the time to engage your card system company and learn about the features.
First, I want to clarify what I mean by “cashless.” Cashless doesn’t mean that you no longer accept cash. Cashless means that you are minimizing cash in your employee’s hands.
Here are the top 5 reasons you should not operate an arcade without a debit card system.
ROI (Return On Investment)
In any business, one of the key metrics is how quickly a piece of equipment or investment will pay for itself and start turning into profits. Most locations I have asked this question about have reported quick ROIs. Many of them have reported as short as a three to seven-month ROI. That is comparable and often competitive with many arcade games and quicker than many larger attractions. Because game distributors know this and understand that you will make more money with a card system than without, they often recommend cutting a couple of games from your arcade wish list and investing in a card system instead. Although they make a little less on the initial sale, most of your distributors understand that the relationships you make with your vendors are long-term partnerships, and the more successful you, as the business owner, are, the more you will be able to afford down the road. Most financing companies will not only finance your card system, but many have financing specials that can defer payments or interest. With such a short ROI and competitive financing programs, the answer “I can’t afford it” really doesn’t apply. In reality, you can’t afford NOT to do it. If you do not have a card system, you are likely leaving a considerable amount of money on the table. This doesn’t just apply to larger FECs anymore.
These systems typically make financial sense for location games with about 8-10 games or more. Some of this depends on your throughput and demographics. If you are wondering how a system would pencil out for your location, I would recommend you talk to your arcade distributor or an industry consultant. They can help you evaluate your current numbers, figure out average game room increases when a system is installed, and help you project your ROI. I understand that there are locations that are successful and profitable that are still using tokens and tickets. I have heard the old adage, “if it isn’t broke, don’t fix it.” To me, that is the same as if your customers came in and offered you $20 for a specific product or service, and in response, you negotiated with, “no thanks, I would prefer if you just gave me $15, I don’t really need the extra $5. $15 got me a lot of stuff 20 years ago, so I’m good with that amount.” Just as you should upgrade and stay current with your décor, lighting, music, and games, you also should grow with technology so you aren’t left behind.
The obvious place that is the most visible where you will save is in the cost of paper tickets and tokens. Tickets are expensive. Printing them, shipping them, storing them, securing them, shredding them, and disposing of them. Not only are the actual tickets expensive, but the labor is expensive. Stocking tickets in the games throughout the day and fixing ticket and token jams. I have yet to meet ANYONE who says that they LOVE their ticket eater machine. With a card system, you save on hard costs and labor and increase customer satisfaction. I have never seen a customer who had to wait at a game for an attendant to unjam or stock tickets who was thrilled with that part of their experience. The more seamless the process, the more fun your guests will have. You will also save on the repair costs of your games. Ticket dust takes a toll on your games, and your game maintenance and repair costs will typically drop after installing a card system.
Make More Money
On average, game rooms see a 20-30 percent increase once they install a card system without utilizing any extra marketing features included in the system. So many more options with a card system lead to revenue increases. For example, you can adjust your game pricing in smaller increments. Rather than increasing or decreasing by a full quarter (or token), you can adjust your games up or down by dimes, nickels, or even pennies. If you choose, you can use credits rather than cash value and make a credit worth whatever amount you want. There isn’t that mental barrier for the guest of having to drop in more than four tokens or quarters to play a game. No matter what game or cost, it only takes them one swipe or tap to start the game. This opens up the possibility of dynamic pricing, where you can offer an increased price during peak hours and decreased pricing during slower times. This can be set directly in your system, and you don’t even have to think about it.
Card systems also allow for the packaging of attractions, games, and food and offer the option of time play. All of these things can increase revenues in your game room and increase customer satisfaction. On top of this, most card systems offer many marketing, VIP, and Membership options and programs. I won’t go into these as each system has some unique features in this area, but all of the systems will offer some great marketing options to increase revenue that are not possible without a card system.
On top of everything else, there is also “float” to consider. Float is the amount of money, attractions, and tickets that is left on game cards and never redeemed. There is a reason that when a company gives you a rebate check these days, it is usually in the form of a gift card rather than a check. They do this because they understand that some of that money will remain on cards, get lost, and never get redeemed. This is the same thing that happens in your center. If you have tokens, likely most of them will get used before the guest leaves. No one wants to walk around with a bunch of tokens in their pocket and save them for next time. This is not the same with a game card. When investing in a card system, you will want to discuss the proper ways to account for your float with your accountant.
Real-time reporting is so important to your business. Having the ability to be notified the moment that a game is put out of service will help you make more money. The reporting measures in your card system will help you keep your game room up and running efficiently and effectively. You won’t have to wait until the end of the week to know when a game is paying out incorrectly. You will know at any given moment how much money you are making so you can properly staff and maintain proper labor costs.
Theft control will help you save money and be more profitable. When I first started in the FEC business, I took a class at IAAPA. The instructor said, “if you think your employees aren’t stealing from you, you are wrong”. It’s true. Maybe it’s just a tootsie roll from redemption, or maybe they are hooking their friends up with that unsecured bundle of tickets. The card system offers you visibility into everything your employees are doing. Whenever a cash drawer is opened or a card is swiped, you can keep your guests honest, as it will also track their transactions. How many times have you heard from someone that they dropped a coin in a game and it didn’t let them play or didn’t pay out tickets properly? Without a card system, there is really no way to verify that. With a card system, you can see exactly what they played and how many tickets were dispensed. You would be surprised at how many installs I’ve attended where the employees say, “oh, man…now I can’t take candy anymore” when they hear about the redemption inventory controls.
Times change. Savvy business owners understand that and are flexible enough to change with the times. Unless you still use a pager, a pay phone, and an 8-Track, ensure you treat your business like the rest of your life. Research and utilize the latest technologies in your business. Don’t get into that trap of “I’m going to do it this way because that is how I’ve always done it.” You will get left behind.
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Amber Lambert is the Regional Sales Representative for Betson Enterprises. She began her career in the amusement industry 12 years ago when she started her own family entertainment center she built from the ground up. She also managed a corporate-owned family entertainment center, held a sales role with an industry supplier, and is active in industry associations.