Brad Brown, a veteran amusement machine operator, describes his COVID-19 recovery plan, including his approach to boxing machines, crane machines, photo booths, and digital jukeboxes.

Image courtesy of iStock.

While traveling the country looking for ideas to survive COVID-19, I have already formulated a plan for how to reposition my amusement machine company.

In this post, I am going to touch on some of the categories of coin operated machines that I have operated. I’m going to introduce three things that I like about them and three things that I don’t like about them. And then I will share what my future will look like with each of these types of machines that are moving into the later business world after COVID-19.

These categories are listed in no important order.

Kalkomat boxing machines

Image courtesy of iStock.

What I like:

1. A very, very reliable machine from this manufacturer. Like the Maytag Repairman, I have very few service calls.
2. Kalkomat boxing machines, one of the few machines on-site and in operation, appear to be making reasonable money during the COVD-19 shutdown.
3. When I put them in one place, they usually last a long time.

What I do not like:

1. Boxing machines are not as easy to place as I would like because of the stigma associated with “hitting and punching” in a bar setting.
2. It’s a heavy, big machine, and that makes it difficult to physically move it into one place, except for the Fire Boxer model.
3. I need a truck to move it.

This category of machines continues to be a bread and butter for street accounts, and I will continue to operate them and expand as best I can. In the best locations, I’ll be investing in the new Boxing Prize 2 machine in the future, which is more expensive but offers the merchandising element for extra income.

You can also connect them to the internet.

In all other “normal” street bars I will only buy the smaller and lighter Fire Boxers, which have the same reliability and quality components but are a much easier machine to move.

Crane machines

Image courtesy of Mushroom.

What I like:

1. They offer a simple formula that everyone knows and understands.
2. There is a wide range of quality goods in different sizes that offer better income opportunities.
3. There are different types of cranes that I can use to sell different goods.

What I do not like:

1. Running large plush cranes requires inventory that will force purchase in bulk to get the best prices, freight costs, and required profit margins.
2. I currently have too many different brands of crane which requires not only knowledge of each manufacturer’s system but also an inventory of the parts specific to that crane.
3. Most cranes require a truck with a tailgate to move. Some are very heavy and require two people to move. I only have one type of crane that I can install and maintain with my car.

I will sell most, if not all, of my large plush cranes and maybe keep my ball and candy cranes. I’m essentially getting out of the large and medium-sized plush business, not because it’s dead, but because my income from plush cranes has steadily declined. Customers have expressed dissatisfaction with the site owners that these are “rip off” machines and site owners keep asking me for a better commission.

Small cranes, which I think make it easier to find new locations and can be serviced from a car and which don’t require a truck to move, I’ll be working with another operator to deliver the big plush cranes. The little cranes I am referring to are Winner Every Time Mini Cranes, which are 18 square inches including the base.

I can also use small cranes for candy and small balls. I see the future for this as the “winner every time” business model.

I see a bright future for the “winner every time” business model that uses small toys.

Photo booths

Image courtesy Apple Industries.

What I like:

1. In the first month, these machines usually earn 10-15% of monthly earnings for the entire duration. The most common places are nightclubs and dance clubs, where women and men pursuing their dating rituals can spend money. These vending machines are the only coin operated devices in these locations.
2. I find this to be a great opportunity as most amusement machine operators do not understand how to operate, maintain and advertise within the site. They consist of a computer, a digital camera, a commercial digital printer, and an interface card using a Windows-based operating system.
3. Photo booths are generally far more expensive to buy than most operators think they should cost. Here, too, the reluctance of the operators to buy and operate photo booths gives me a clear advantage.

What I do not like:

1. You need a truck to get around.
2. I don’t like the bigger, bigger photo booths because space is tight in night clubs and dance clubs.
3. Whenever I need to reprogram or reformat a hard drive, it is important to have a program CD, preferably the most recent, so as not to wait for updates to be downloaded from the Internet. This takes 40 minutes. In addition, this service is weakest in the Midwest and West Coast, especially on Friday and Saturday.

I love the photo booth business despite the dislikes. I currently have around 25 and need to redeploy more as I lost 12 locations due to COVID-19. I plan to sell eight of my large photo booths.

Digital jukeboxes

Image courtesy of AMI Entertainment Network.

What I like:

1. The locations open during COVID-19 performed well.
2. The outlook for these machines is positive as live music venues struggle to regain relevance due to COVID-19.
3. The switch to television screens in bars has not diminished the popularity of jukeboxes. 4. The service / tech support is fantastic.

What I do not like:

1. Both AMI and Touchtunes will increase their location choices.
2. The machines are getting older and need to be replaced with newer models. 3. Service calls require an immediate response. Otherwise, we often run the risk of losing our place.

While digital jukeboxes are a profitable business, the need for instant service means that I won’t focus so much on it, an aspect that I personally don’t like.

I’m not going to talk about video games as I have outsourced most of these machines. The only video games that continue to do well are drivers and guns.

In my next post, I’ll talk about pinball machines, large machines, pool tables, countertop machines, winning machines, and redemption machines.

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