As society continues to reopen and return to a sense of pre-pandemic normalcy, many industries that rely predominantly on face-to-face customer interaction are still struggling to recuperate and stabilize, such as the family entertainment center (FEC) and theme park industry. Though FECs and parks such as Disneyworld and Universal Studios remained open with reduced capacity limits, mask mandates, and social distancing in effect, many smaller parks and FECs were not as fortunate in their ability to withstand the impact COVID-19 took on their business.
However, as one theme park CEO explains, a year of Americans being cooped up at home has set the foundation for what looks to be a promising summer — and even more promising future — for the FEC industry.
“The global outlook for FECs is favorable,” says Tim Murphy, CEO of Boomers Parks, “positioning these companies as one of the fastest-growing markets in the United States and across the world. The industry is expected to grow 10.93% between now and 2026, which would be huge progress.
Think bigger, think Boomer
Murphy acquired Boomers Parks in June of 2020, three months after most FECs and theme parks across the country were forced to shut their doors and furlough employees. Though he and his team knew the timing of the acquisition could not have been less fortunate, Murphy has made a career for himself as an expert financier and strategist within the realm of FECs and family theme parks. His track record in turning businesses around and revitalizing them from the ground up is only eclipsed by his passion for the FEC and theme park industry, and providing each one of his guests with an unforgettable experience.
“2020 was terrible for everyone,” Murphy continues. “We preserved cash, had to furlough 85 to 90% of our work force at the worst possible time, but took the time to change our direction and turnaround Boomers Parks. The pandemic made us think bigger and helped convince us that we did not need a corporate office, which will save us about $500K to $1M annually. Why waste the effort when everyone can easily work from home and deliver even better service to our parks?”
As part of the better service he mentions, Murphy knew at the height of the pandemic that health and safety were going to be at the forefront of everyone’s minds — from park staff to guests — and established a committee to conduct company-wide training on practicing stringent protocols such as routine sanitization that exceeded most minimum requirements by the states his parks operate in: California, Florida, and New Jersey.
Now that there seems to be a light at the end of the COVID-19 tunnel, however, Murphy is even more excited about the strategic changes and improvements he and his team plan to make throughout their FECs and parks across the country.
A “Disney-like experience” for all guests
In his younger years, Murphy was always fascinated by the FEC and theme park industry, both for their attractions but also the food and beverage side of the industry. Throughout his professional career spanning more than 3 decades, he has consulted for over 150 separate brands in the food and beverage industry, and has utilized his expert knowledge of both FECs as well as food and beverage to become a leading figure in the finance sector of FECs and theme parks.
After working at his family’s own FEC, Spirit of 76, in New Jersey from the time he was eight, Murphy and his family moved to Kissimmee, Florida, and began working at Walt Disney World’s EPCOT Center following its opening in 1982, using his previous experience to propel him into EPCOT’s food and beverage operations while simultaneously studying Accounting at the University of Central Florida. Near the advent of the 1990s, Murphy left Disney and went on to receive a Master’s degree in Finance and become a CFO for many organizations, companies, and restaurants in the food and beverage industry.
“I was not a typical CFO because I am also a commercial real easter broker in the State of Florida,” Murphy tells us. “Thus, I would find the dirt, find the building funds either through debt or equity financing, hire the general contractor, then build the location, turn the locations over to the organization’s Operations team, and then teach the team how to maximize cash flow.”
In Murphy’s own words, his passion and drive to become a leader in two separate fast-paced industries all began with a desire to help his parents better their own FEC business. Now, he is focusing that same passion to turn around Boomers Parks.
“My primary goal is making all Boomers Parks thrive through maturing the brand,” Murphy says, “which means rebranding the park logo and colors, cleaning the parks, and remodeling nearly all areas including bathrooms, as well as changing pricing packages, adding upgraded foods, adding full-alcohol licenses, focusing on group and party sales, shifting to a digital marketing focus, moving into a digital world, and giving guests a Disney-like experience. Seeing it take off in new and exciting directions is truly motivating.”
Setting up a booming industry
Currently, Boomers Parks are open at all five of their California locations, as well as their two parks in Florida and New Jersey. Along with plans to bring in rides and attractions brought in from their June 2020 acquisition, Murphy is committed to expanding indoor and outdoor guest areas at their parks along with scouting additional locations in the U.S. that can become part of the Boomers brand.
“Our plans have been through each wave of the pandemic in order to fully reopen Boomers Parks and get back to providing impeccable service to our guests,” says Murphy. “Our focus is on our guest experience platform as well as supplying great food and beverages. In keeping our efforts centered on these crucial aspects, we can provide superior quality of service on the highest level that our customers are coming to not only expect, but can rely on us to deliver.”
Indeed, Murphy’s lifelong dedication to a career centered on delivering outstanding customer service and humbling (yet confident) leadership has allowed him to position Boomers Parks to come out of last year’s pandemic hitting the ground running. Along with the changes, improvements, and additions he and his team have planned for their returning guests, Murphy is also extremely excited about the ways technological advancements such as artificial intelligence (AI) and virtual reality (VR) can be used to deliver an even better experience in the years to come.
“I think our guests are going to be pleasantly surprised and quite excited to see the changes we have made in our down times,” Murphy adds, “It really helps us all remain so enthusiastic about the future direction of the family entertainment industry.”