How a Business Built on Laser Tag, Bowling and Arcade Games Pivoted to Virtual
Main Event Entertainment is innovating to create solutions for the health of the business - and their customers.
Who are you and what's your business?
I'm Sarah Beddoe and I'm the Chief Brand Officer at Main Event Entertainment, the Plano, Tex.-based social entertainment brand with 44-centers across the US, known for our huge venues with multi-level laser tag, state-of-the-art bowling, virtual reality, arcade games, billiards, events and great food. More than 95% of our locations have opened in the last four years, as we now operate in 17 states and have Virtual Experiences available to guests nationwide.
How has your business been affected by the pandemic?
The events of 2020 have transformed our daily lives in many ways, especially social behaviors and interactions. When we closed our locations in March, we immediately went to work on not only putting together the most stringent safety and sanitization plan in the industry but also began to view what our unique experience could look like outside the four walls of our centers. We recognized an insight when we hosted live "Virtual Birthday Parties" on Instagram every day our locations weren't open. The engagement we received and the joy we witnessed around that initiative inspired us to think about how else we could help people make connections and build memories with us outside our physical space. It was at that time that we began to put together what has become Main Event Virtual Experiences. Essentially, we were able to imagine a way for our guests to connect with their coworkers, family or friends through a series of games that range from trivia-led happy hours to team building escape rooms and mind-twisting board games. The virtual events test guests in a variety of ways, using logic, skill, strategy, straight-up knowledge and pop-culture expertise. The four group-based games include The Main Escape, The Brainy Bunch, WFH Challenge, and So Trivial.
What are you most proud of?
Our brand is recognized as being the category innovator. We are constantly trying to inject new ways for people to make connections through our brand, and to be the first Family Entertainment Center to create custom Virtual Experiences is something I'm very proud of because it's so core to what we do. Beyond that, I'm so proud of how our team bonded together during this pandemic to create solutions not just for the health of our business, but for the health of our millions and millions of customers. What the Covid-19 pandemic has shown us is the need for human connection, and I couldn't be more proud of our brand's ability to bring that to life every day in our centers and now virtually across the country.
What advice would you give entrepreneurs looking for funding?
It's your idea, so believe in it! It's sometimes just a matter of finding the right like-minded partner to bring an idea or an initiative to life. My starting point is my own network. They say sixth degrees of separation is real, so start close in and you'll be amazed at what you find one or two steps away.
How to prepare for a pitch?
Pride makes us artificial and humility makes us real. You're the expert on the subject of your business, so own that, but also be adaptable to the right opportunity.
What has been your biggest challenge and how did you pivot to overcome it?
The biggest challenge was the decision to close all our centers across the country and the impact that would have on our team members. At the end of the day, the health and safety of our team members and guests is most important. I'm very proud to work for a company that took this challenge as an opportunity to find new ways to engage with guests both during and after the shelter-at-home was put in place. Our new Play Smart, Play Safe strategy is truly world-class and the response we received from our guests validated the hard work and investment we put into making our centers clean and safe for everyone when they were ready to return. Beyond that, the launch of "Food & Fun" delivery packages through UberEats and DoorDash was a new innovation for the industry, Virtual Experiences by Main Event was a concept no one else in our business was doing, our contactless ordering and gameplay came early on in the "new normal" when many brands weren't at that point yet, and the introduction of the first-ever Main Event app featuring the "Dinner Bell" functionality continues to focus on allowing our guests to spend time connecting while we handle everyone else.
Where do you see this company in a year? In five years?
Our focus is continuing to build and grow a world-class team that powers us to grow to a point where we are the most admired family entertainment company in the country. By investing in our people we know that they will invest in our guests which enables us to continue to invest in the business. We are still a very young brand with a long runway ahead of us!
What does the word "entrepreneur" mean to you?
It takes guts to be an entrepreneur. I believe guts, combined with brains, is a very powerful combination. Many entrepreneurs have that in them, and that's what often makes them so successful.
Is there a particular quote or saying that you use as personal motivation?
"If you are working on something that you really care about, you don't have to be pushed. The vision pulls you." – Steve Jobs
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