Family entertainment industry adjusting to a new normal

Published: May. 14, 2020 at 11:33 AM EDT
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(5/14/2020) - Reopening a business in the era of coronavirus will take a lot of adjusting.

For many, those adjustments aren't exactly easy.

Beth Standlee is the founder and CEO of Trainertainment, which is a company that provides training and other resources to members of the family entertainment industry. She talked with more than 100 business representatives on Zoom Wednesday.

The conversation covered various aspects of the unique challenges the industry is facing when it comes to getting back to work in the era of COVID-19.

"How many of you of you have had anybody tell you that they don't want to come back?" Standlee asked the participants.

Some owners from states that have reopened for business are having a tough time getting back their employees. One amusement park owner from Tennessee told the group how tough it has been for him.

"Because they are getting $600 plus unemployment. Since we were seasonal and then we had the pandemic we didn't have anybody come back," he said.

Family entertainment establishments are built around people being social. Social distancing mandates present unique challenges for these businesses.

Standlee expressed concern about enforcing physical distancing.

"The PD police (physical distancing). Are we really going to make a 17-year-old tell people stop, hey, get a part?" she pondered out loud.

The general manager of Airway Fun Center near Kalamazoo was on the Zoom call. Two weeks ago, after Gov. Gretchen Whitmer relaxed restrictions on golfing, he decided to open his outdoor attraction. The community weighed in.

"So we announced on a Monday that we were going to open on Tuesday and we just got crushed," said Marc Weise, general manager of Airway Fun Center. "It was brutal, 400 likes, 600 comments and 80% to 90% of them were bad comments."

He and his staff reversed course and Airway Fun Center remains closed.

Standlee said as family entertainment establishments adapt to the new rules of engagement one core value of the industry will remain unchanged.

"It's all about service, it's all about taking care of the customer," she said.