Despite the challenges posed by COVID-19, FatCats has managed to continue successfully providing “all out fun” to families throughout Utah, Arizona, Idaho, and Colorado. 

We sat down with marketing manager, Trevor Cannon, to find out what it takes to deliver consistent quality across multiple locations, how entertainment businesses can meet new consumer expectations, and what drives undying customer loyalty.

“It's not just a FatCats. It's their FatCats.”

What is one core belief you have as a business?

Our mission statement is to create experiences that bring you back. So our goal is that every single time you come to FatCats, you experience something that you: 

  1. have never experienced before, and 
  2. have experienced before and just can’t wait to keep coming back.

What have you learned about perfecting your experience?

That no experience is created equal. Everybody has a different form of what they call “fun.” For a lot of people, they don’t even think about the fact that we’re a movie theater. They think, “Oh, I just go to FatCats for my arcade,” and that’s great. Some people are like, “Hey, it’s just my bowling alley.” Some people are like, “Hey, it’s just my movie theater.”

What’s amazing about FatCats is that we’re not just one thing. So we’re constantly evolving and trying to change, basically. The industry is going in this direction of these multi-tainment buildings where the key is that it’s not just one thing, it’s all things.

How do you keep your customer experience consistent across multiple locations?

It’s definitely hard, I will say. With multiple locations across Utah, Arizona, Idaho, and Colorado, making sure that you’re going to get the same experience no matter which FatCats you go to is definitely one of our biggest challenges. Our biggest success is when customers go from Saratoga to our Arizona location and it feels the same. Different staff, different environment, but you’re still having all out fun. That’s really our main focus—that when you go to a FatCats, you’re getting that genuine experience every time.

“Our biggest success is when customers go from Saratoga to our Arizona location and it feels the same. Different staff, different environment, but you're still having all out fun.”

How do you stay in touch with customers across multiple locations?

I don’t think I’ve even been aware yet of how many conversations we’ve had via Podium. I mean, it’s at least 20 to 30 conversations a day with customers. It’s just another outlet for us to talk to our customers one-on-one. Obviously in the culture we live in now, people don’t want to call, but they want to at least interact with somebody, so that tool has been very helpful for us. 

With the lower-end labor, we’re also not able to staff as many people as normal. At the office, we’d normally have a secretary manning phone calls. Instead, we’ve created a FatCats corporate Podium account. That account is dedicated to talking with customers. It’s basically fulfilled a job that we would have had to fill.

“Obviously in the culture we live in now, people don't want to call, but they want to at least interact with somebody.”

What is one new customer expectation you’ve been able to identify and meet since COVID?

In talking so frequently with customers, we realized there’s a market to be had in safety right now. People want to go out and have fun, but they also want to feel safe. In one conversation, a customer said, “Hey, I don’t feel really safe just coming in. I’m afraid of all the crowds and the lines. Can I reserve my lane?” That was kind of a light bulb moment for us to be like, “Well, yeah, let’s just use Podium Payments.” 

So through payments requests, we were able to go, “Okay, we’ll book your lane right now. We’ll send you a payment request for $10 and your lane is reserved.” It hasn’t gone to all of our locations yet, but three out of our eight locations. And you can see our numbers. We’ve made about $70,000, which is unreal during this time. 

The locations that have bought into it have seen an increase of daily sales, evening sales, and just overall trust, and our customers trust us that we’re going to hold their lane for them.

What’s the number one challenge that’s unique in your industry and how have you managed to overcome it?

Honestly, this is kind of an easy question for me because it is a challenge I deal with every day—it’s the fact that we don’t market one business, we have eight different businesses within our facility. We have to market our movies here. We have to market our bowling. We have to market our arcade. We have to market our glow golf. We have to market our food. When you’re in another company, usually all you do is one product. (I’m very envious of that!) 

But with that being said, I have to constantly be on my toes and know what’s going good in the industry and what’s going bad in the industry. Looking at what our competitors are doing is a huge, important thing. But yes, I would say the number one challenge is that at FatCats, or any entertainment company like this, you’re not marketing one thing so it is definitely important to stay up on technology. What’s hot? What’s going on with the trends? Things like that.

Can you tell me about a time when the odds were stacked against you and it looked like you might not succeed?

I would say right when the pandemic started. We were closed, and then we came up with an idea of giving everybody free popcorn. We wanted everyone to understand, “Hey, we’re still here, we’re not going anywhere.” From a profitability standpoint, we didn’t make a dime— but we gained so much mindshare. People were like, “I’ll never go to another theater again because of what FatCats has done for us.” So that was kind of one of our bigger successes right off the bat.

And most recently, the thing that’s been the hardest as a marketing guy is getting people excited about going to FatCats when there’s no new movies out. It’s like pulling teeth right now. But I think one thing that we’ve been able to persevere with is that we’re falling back on nostalgia. You know, older movies that people are excited about, whether it’s Nightmare Before Christmas or Harry Potter or whatever. So I deem that a success.

How do you drive such high customer loyalty?

What’s so cool is that we’ve heard a lot of customers say, “This is my FatCats,” especially in our Saratoga location. That’s actually what’s so cool about FatCats in general. It’s like, hey, I’m not just going to FatCats, I’m going to my FatCats. There’s real owner accountability in Saratoga. Basically the community has stepped up and been like, “No, we want you guys here. We love having you guys here as an option for us.” So that’s been great.

What does being a local business mean to you?

It means being a part of people’s communities. I mean, that’s the goal with FatCats. We don’t build, (not that we never will), FatCats in places like downtown Salt Lake City. All of our FatCats are usually built around a neighborhood. When you do that, you are basically part of the neighborhood.

You kind of grow up with the people in the neighborhood, too. We make a lot of school donations. We’re going into areas where, like in Saratoga, these homes are five and six years old. These are new homes and new people, and they take huge ownership. It’s not just a FatCats, it’s their FatCats. 

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Thomas Clawson
Thomas Clawson Partner Marketing Manager

Thomas Clawson is a partner solutions professional at Podium, the leading messaging platform that connects marketing agencies with their clients.

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