With its drive and ambition, plus the assistance of an integrated cashless solution like Embed’s, Apex Entertainment may just live up to its name.
“We’re staying busy, a lot of good, positive developments in the pipeline and we’re looking to expand nationwide, so we’re excited,” enthused Joey Slawinski, Director of Operations at US FEC operator, Apex Entertainment.
Not a bad place to start, is it?
Expanding with Support of Embed Solutions
The chain of locations currently stands at two, with a third opening later this year and more set for 2020.
“We’re hard at work on our new Albany (New York) location opening soon, then we have another couple planned for next year, although I can’t go into too much detail at the moment,” said Slawinski.
Albany will be Apex’s third location, coming on the back of a 55,000 sq.ft venue in Syracuse, New York that opened last February and the company’s inaugural 80,000 sq.ft centre and HQ in Marlborough, Massachusetts.
Choosing the right areas to operate requires a considerable amount of research and insight, but so far, Apex seems to be getting it right. “We choose locations not just dependent on size but also on the right location in the right area. Sizes range from 5000 sq.ft to potentially 130,000 sq.ft but part of the decision includes what drives corporate business and the family aspect is huge as well.”
Of course, once you have a building, it needs to be filled with games, machines and attractions. “In terms of the fit-out, we try to maximize the square footage while also trying not to overwhelm our guests with a cluttered layout. At sites the size of our Albany or Syracuse locations, we equip them with all manner of things, for example, Albany has two escape rooms, which are new to us as a chain, and the arcade will have 70 games which is as many as in as our Marlborough location.
Larger FEC Footprints Equal More Opportunity
“It really just depends on the layout and our architects design. We’re always going to have a key group of attractions such as bowling, laser tag, bumper cars and an arcade in all our sites and this will continue as we expand, but it really depends on square footage – if you get into the 80,000-plus range, then you have the ability to have a multi level go kart track with perhaps a ropes course over it, so the larger it gets, the more options it gives us,” added Slawinski.
Managing this array of attractions and locations on a daily basis can be a daunting and a difficult task, but providing you have the right tools at your disposal, it can remove some of the headaches and even open the door to new opportunities.
Apex Entertainment has been using Embed’s integrated cashless business solutions since it opened its first location in Marlborough.
“Our group saw that there wasn’t really anything in our region where people could go and spend a day having fun, eating, drinking and playing games, so we wanted to create a destination, showcasing everything we had to offer. There was definitely a need for it in the community and being able to put something that was really fun for all ages was a big selling point for us. But ultimately we were sold on creating a seamless experience for our customers.”
Apex's Vision Was To Build A Destination
Slawinsky explained that before the FEC, the company had (and still does) a big complex with hotels, restaurants and retail, so Apex was really trying to build a destination. Its FEC fitted right in with the infrastructure that was already in place.
“I’ve worked in the industry for a while now and during that time, I’ve used Embed for several years, even before I started with Apex. So when my boss Marcus (COO Marcus Kemblowski) and the team had our preliminary discussions of what the build was going to be like, we chose Embed. The unanimous decision was made for a variety of reasons, but the main one was that it could integrate with our long term vision. Marcus was familiar with other platform providers out there, but our decision to go with Embed has been fully justified by the level of success and we’ve never looked back.
It’s the success that Slawinski speaks so highly of that, he said, was the main reason that he talks about Embed “every other day” in such a similar manner. “Their support is second to none – everything from initial development to custom integrations to bespoking our card purchases - it’s been fantastic to have the level of relationship that we’ve enjoyed during our time as partners.
Embed Fulfilled Business Solutions Others Couldn't
“They have a lot of features that I’ve not been able to find with competitors in supporting the app development that we’re doing internally and website integrations. The features they offer are far superior to that of other companies offerings, which makes it a lot easier to build that partnership when we have the flexibility of designing a lot of our own systems and still having them work seamlessly with Embed’s management tools.”
So with Apex’s third location set to come online imminently and the nationwide expansion that Slawinsky has teased, it’s clear that the operator needs a management platform that can grow simultaneously. Is he confident that his cashless purveyor of choice can grow with his network?
“We have multiple locations and Embed has made it easy to integrate them all together,” he assured. The flexibility of their integrated solution allows us to have real-time visibility and control across the multiple sites that we have.
As an example of that flexibility, Slawinsky revealed that Apex has an app for its locations currently under development that will offer the ability to purchase and reload cards. “It’s much like Dave & Buster’s, but we’ll be bringing a new feature to ours, a bit like the Starbucks app which uses barcodes to allow guests to pay from their phones.”
Apex + Embed: Partners from the Beginning
Elaborating further on the Apex/Embed relationship, Slawinsky explained that his company has been partners with Embed from the very beginning. “We’ve gotten to the point now where we’ve narrowed it down to an exact science with what we purchase and how we continue to integrate and develop different systems, making a real difference at every turn.
“We’ve always used cards, never cash. It’s a no-brainer in my mind and everyone at Apex would agree. It’s the easiest way. Given that the guest can control their spending throughout the store, keeping track as they move from game room, to bowling, to food and drinks. It’s a whole gift card solution with multiple facets. We now offer the option to reserve bowling lanes online too.”
Marketing and promotions are some of the other facets that Slawinsky alludes. He explained: “We’re starting to dive into these now. We’re doing an awful lot of custom work with Embed and have a lot of people working on the app and other features.
We’re able to track spending and customer engagement, even as far as how long a guest has been in the building for based on card usage. There’s been a lot of development on our side to pull those numbers.
Embed Solutions Provide a 360' View
“There’s no shortage of information that the Embed system can give us and how we can use and manipulate the data in terms of who the biggest spenders are and what we can offer the guest on their birthday or on holidays for example. It’s really easy to pull those reports and customize what we do, not only to remain competitive but to give something back to our loyal guests.”
These functions can be accessed from any device too. Apex, as part of the development process outside of the normal features, has developed a cloud-based reporting tool to generate a host of reports.
“It’s something outside of the normal scope that Embed has worked with us on; we identified a need for it and Embed made it happen. I can access my store data from my couch at home or a hotel room in London. It isn’t just myself or my fellow directors either; all the staff on our sites use the Embed system -from floor staff running sales reports daily, to Marcus getting figures from it, to the marketing department. It’s used dozens of times a day with staff being able to see what’s going on in our facilities, it gives us real insight.”
Don't Always Use Cost As The Main Determinant to Buy
Given that Slawinsky sings the praises often of his management system of choice we asked him to sum up his reasons for selecting Embed: “I have two main points when coming to choosing a card system, firstly, always do your research. There are several other cashless systems out there and they all vary in price – it’s about whether they offer long-term value. Don’t look at the basic cost price in isolation – it’s an investment – the system is going to be with you for the long haul.
“For some, it won’t be an easy decision, but Embed makes it such an easy and seamless process with everything that they have to offer, no hidden fees or catches, what you see is
what you get. The demos that they do are also invaluable."
"Whether you’re at IAAPA Expo or Bowl Expo, there’s an opportunity to speak with the folks at Embed and find out how it can be a right fit for you. They have a lot of great features that can cater for most end users, such as the party bookings, for example, but they are essentially designed for attractions and locations like ours, so they’ve been able to put all their time and energy into developing the features that operations like Apex and others really should be using. It’s designed for our industry so our industry should be using it."
"If people do their research and compare features, support and flexibility side by side, then Embed will emerge as the clear winner."
Embed Provides Excellent Customer Service
“The customer service and the ability to grow is the second point. I’m not aware of any other provider in the industry that provides the level of customer satisfaction and scope for growth that Embed does. In terms of being there for clients, there’s no-one to match them; big chains to independent operators are treated equally as well. From new software releases or bespoke designs, it doesn’t matter how many locations you have, they communicate wonderfully.
“If, like Apex Entertainment, you choose Embed’s solutions for your FEC or attraction, you won’t be disappointed.”
Who: Apex Entertainment
Locations: Marlborough, MA, Syracuse, NY, Albany, NY
Embed Solutions Used: Card Readers, Kiosks, POS/Redemption Stations, Card Readers, Redemption Stations and Transitioning to Tap Only