This is the 4th part of our mini-series covering some of the haunt friendly programming from this year’s IAPPA Expo in Orlando as I mentioned in Part 3, haunters always seem to find each other at these things. Coming up, we’ll hear how Reapers Revenge used dynamic pricing and employee retention to increase profitability in a tapped-out market.
Scaling is tough. First you must make the show consistent, which can be hard because of uneven demand and staffing. Reapers Revenge has been working on that little challenge using dynamic pricing and staff incentives, and that allowed them to, well, you know, actually, we’re getting ahead of the story. Here’s Todd Fedyshyn, outside of Reapers Revenge Todd is also on the board of the Haunted Attraction Association.
How Was The 2021 Season?
Todd: Hello, I’m Todd Fedyshyn, one of the owners of Reapers Revenge in Scranton, PA.
Philip: How was your season this year?
Todd: It was great. We had a really nice year. Coming out of COVID we weren’t sure really what to expect, and this year we had five attractions open for the first time, our haunted hayride and four other attractions. We weren’t really sure how that was going to work with a 90-minute show, but it turned out great, our revenue was nice, everything worked. I think we did the right thing coming out of COVID.
We had a little bit of an increase in revenue last year, but we didn’t just get greedy with it. To be honest, I know some vendors were struggling and we turned around and we spent that money right away with the vendors that were having a hard time, because our haunt is nothing, one without our fabulous actors, but without the vendors that make us look cool, we got nothing. So, during COVID we were like, “we’re going to spend that money and we’re going to try to give back and try to spend it in our community, because I want to see those vendors at the trade show.”
Attendance And Ticketing For 2021
Philip: We’ve seen some haunts who maybe saw 20% more than their 2019 numbers and some just kind of maxed out. What were you percentage-wise overall with your attendance?
Todd: Percentage-wise this is a weird one, so I’ll tell you what we did. Our Saturday nights have gotten crazy, so with five attractions, a 90 minutes show, we decided to raise the price by $20, which was quite an eye-opener to a lot of people. However, we gave a $15 coupon on Sundays. So Sundays, believe it or not, became the second most popular night and started beating Fridays. Friday and Sunday were within about 100 people every night, but Sunday beat it every weekend. So, we evened out those two nights, we raised the money, we made a little more revenue, but we maintained our crowds, but we were able to split it out to the other nights so that our customers didn’t have to wait as long on those really busy Saturdays.
Philip: Did you use time ticketing?
Todd: We did not use time ticketing. I’m talking with… everybody telling me to go to time ticketing. I’m considering it. We’re talking about it, but I just don’t know yet. I don’t know. We’ve been doing well and things are OK, but I think the dynamic pricing thing has really got my eye. I really want that, and maybe a hybrid of dynamic pricing and time ticketing might be where we go, because I just want people to enjoy the show. I don’t want a conga line. So, you kind of pay a premium for those busy nights. I just want everybody on every night of our performances to get the exact same show. No Conga line. We have 185 actors out there. We’re giving you 90 minutes of solid entertainment. We just want to be awesome, and I want my family there to feel like they’re great, which they are. They’re so amazing and I have an amazing haunt family, so excited to work with all of them, and they make me so proud every time I see them out there doing what they do.
Philip: Did you need to change your calendar at all, or did you open earlier? Or did you add any ticket options? You already mentioned dynamic pricing, but did you open earlier or add ticket options?
Todd: We did not open earlier at all. Actually we did 18 nights this season. Next year we’re talking about doing 20 nights. We only lost one night due to rain, it kind of felt like maybe if I had one or two other nights just as a buffer in case of rain. I’ve been talking with my fellow board members on Haunted Attraction Association, you know different things we could do, almost like a backup plan, like a rain date, maybe like a Thursday night, because I don’t do rain insurance just because it’s tough to get paid on it, to be honest. I’m not saying that’s the right thing to do, I just have found that it doesn’t work for us.
Staffing For The 2021 Season
Philip: Talking about staffing, how has your staffing this year?
Todd: Well, I heard from all my other colleagues that they had a really tough time, and I am so proud to say, and my partner is probably going to kill me because he worked so hard to make sure this is never a problem, but it wasn’t a problem at all. We have an amazing haunt family, we treat him like family, and we’ve learned so much over the years watching guys like John La Flamboy, Zombie Army, what they do with their core group. We’re giving awards out every night, obviously keeping the morale going. We have our bonfire meetings. Now I’m going to do a website where they can all chat together, but they can also track what they’re doing, who’s getting what. It’s not a competition as much as it’s recognition for how awesome they are. Following in the footsteps of other haunts have done amazing things with their core actor group, I’m trying to do the same thing with our crew.
And my partner, Mike Hefner, is also doing the same thing. He makes sure that the facilities are great. Hey, Mike, how you doing?
Mike: Had to get me in here, didn’t you?
Todd: I did. Mike tries to avoid when I’m doing interviews. He’s like, “you just do it.” So, I grabbed him quick. See how you do that, people?
Mike: That’s how he does it.
Todd: Well, thank you, Mike.
Philip: Did you need to adjust compensation or adjust any incentives to keep the staff?
Todd: No, we actually didn’t. We do an actor incentive program where, for every night of attendance without missing a night, you get a bonus. Let’s just say it’s 10 bucks a might, right? Well, if you’re there for all 18 nights, you’re going to get a bonus of 180 bucks at the end of the season. That’s what the actor incentive program is that particular year. It’s a way that we can give back to our actors, it gives them the incentive to make sure they’re there. But more than that, it’s the camaraderie, the family, and the fact that they all feel like they’re part of something bigger; just like myself as an owner, I feel like I’m part of something way bigger than me. It doesn’t matter that I’m one of the ones at the top. Honestly, I wouldn’t even be close to the top and I’d fall to the bottom if all of them weren’t holding me up every day. So, it doesn’t matter where you are in our hierarchy, we all work together and we all grow together. I’m proud to be a part of something so special.
Philip: Are you worried about inflation?
Todd: No. I mean, I think that we all have to find our way to kind of work with what’s happening in the world and the economy right now. Yeah, I’m not thrilled by it by any means, but I think if anything it teaches people to cut the waste, let’s trim back. Everybody dealt with a lot during COVID, and if anything it taught our haunt how to maybe maximize our use of certain things, our efficiency got so much better, and we just looked at things a little different out of necessity, so we would survive.
I think with inflation you got to do the same thing. You’ve got to find a way that you’re going to survive unfortunate circumstances that we’re in and let’s all be smart about it. Let’s take care of the people that we’ve done business with so that we all grow, we survive together, and we come out the other side strong.
Most Surprising Takeaway from 2021
Philip: Talk to me about what has been your most surprising takeaway from this season.
Todd: The fact that we got through increasing our show to 90 minutes. This is the first year with doing 90 minutes and the logistics, everything just got big, and it was like, “wow OK first year with five attractions.” Sometimes people say, “oh I got 10 attractions,” and you walk through one room and then you walk to the next room, it’s another attraction. Nothing against marketing like that, cool good for you, but when we say 5 attractions, they’re legit, big, all established things. So 90 minutes entertainment and I’m just like, “wow, we’re sending them from here to there, get on the wagon, get out of the wagon, go through the carnival, get back on the wagon. Oh my god, you’re all over the place,” and like I just said with my partner that walked by, Mike, infrastructure amazing how they just were able to handle it. It’s like a little city out there in the woods, and we’re all moving around, and there’s all these back roads and places we’re going, but it ran flawlessly. For us to have no issues, I guess it’s a testament to being 14 years old, and I’m excited to see what we’re going to do for year 15. I mean, obviously we’re at IAPPA planning.
What Does The Future Hold?
Philip: Yeah, talk to me about those plans. That’s a perfect segue.
Toddy: Alright. Well, we just put a 3D attraction in during COVID actually. At IAPPA 2019 we purchased a 3D attraction, so we put that in during COVID. Like COVID hit in February, we’re like, “Oh my God can we open? Plus we got a new attraction. Great.” We opened three attractions that year, we had two of them closed down. You know in 2021 we got all five opened back up. Now that we’re stable and we’re looking forward to the future, all our plans are on our final scene, which is where you meet the Reaper in the hayride.
We’re rebuilding the building, we’re looking at a panoramic 3D mapping, full soundstage. I mean, Reaper’s is known for amazing audio because we hire Rock Street Audio from Scranton, PA. They do other big shows, the company makes us sound great every year.
Like you go to each scene, it’s like a little small rock concert with the power amps and subwoofer’s and everything. So, we’re looking at our final scene like, one, how we can put you in there, full immersion, and the Reaper coming at you, but with some projection mapping, where if I want to make changes I can change it.
I’m also looking at some vertical things where it’s going to come, not from the sides of the wagons as much anymore, we’re looking at a trussing system where things can come down and grab at you from above. Just making it a really epic ending to a pretty decent hayride. I say pretty decent, a lot of people love our hayride, I’m just trying to be humble, and I was the original owner of it so I can say it’s an awesome hayride.