How's Your Flow?

Ever consider how your business flows? I mean how people navigate your venue from the minute they drive on your property. Again, this is something you may have never thought about or changed for years, but it is important to be the most effective at utilizing your resources. Usually when your flow is off it is immediately apparent because it causes traffic jams of people and or cars. It also becomes evident when people are constantly asking for directions as they navigate your property.

There are many things to consider when you evaluate your flow, but sometimes it is helpful to enlist outside opinions. As in many cases, guests are the best source of input. This is a great addition to the surveys we discussed before. Now all of this may totally upend your layout. You may discover that your parking is completely wrong or your check in is way too narrow. In any case, it is worth the time to look at it closely. And, if necessary, make the big changes for long term success.

Here are some of the top flow problems of agritourism venues.

1. Parking

Location is crucial here. You want it to be set up to be able to be close to where things start as well as easy to navigate. If you are limited for space, you will need to staff your parking so that guests can easily find the empty spaces. Make sure your parking lot, entryways etc., don’t interfere or make it dangerous for foot traffic. If foot traffic must cross your main driveway, it may be time to redesign your layout. Wet areas are also a concern. If you have cars getting stuck it will become a growing frustration for you and your guests. If there is ever a sudden surge of car traffic, it will be important that your property can absorb a lot of cars before they back up on a main road. This will best be alleviated by making sure that your parking begins well inside your property. Dependent on how busy the main road is, this can become a problem with local municipalities.

2. Check in

We’ve talked about signage and finding things within your venue but flow really deals more with the actual “ease of use” principle. Check in areas are a common source of congestion for several reasons.

a. Not enough staffed registers

b. Not enough room to accommodate long lines of customers before the registers

c. Not enough room to move large crowds into the venue after the registers.

This is where it is important to look carefully at your check in process. There will be unique challenges for whatever system we choose so overemphasize the space that you leave around this part of the venue. If people check in at a building outdoors, make sure windows or registers are clearly marked and spaced apart. Perhaps use a “wait here for next available register” approach. If necessary, use the ropes and waiting line method to use your space more effectively. If guests enter a building to check in, make sure both entrances and exits are clearly marked, and large doors are used. We used a greenhouse at one point for check in as well as separate ticket booths. We had to treat them very differently. The greenhouse tended to naturally funnel the crowds down to manageable lines where outdoor booths required us to assist in the funneling.

3. Large Venue Attractions

The big-ticket items and those that require a lot of real estate, need to be away from the initial crowded areas of check in and staging. Corn mazes, corn cannons, hay rides etc. should be somewhere out on the perimeter so that large groups don’t immediately overwhelm the space as they form lines. Hay rides and U pick staging areas should not be intermingled with foot traffic or car traffic to avoid unnecessary liability. So, when you set these up, make sure they are pushed to the edges and have plenty of room around them for people to hang out, rest or wait for their turn. This may require some creativity on your part if you are limited on space.

4. Main Path Availability

It can be very helpful to make sure there is a clear path or main thoroughfare in areas where space is tight. In other words, make sure you delineate a way to pass from activity to activity or to simply pass through. If there is a way for guests to walk down a main path or paths, they will be able to see your activities off to the side or signs will let them know what there is around. If there is no main path, the events of your venue tend to encroach into other spaces and force your guests to weave around many things to get anywhere. This kind of layout quickly restricts flow and can quickly slow down even your check in process. Try to move your first activities a good distance from your check in if possible. This will force your guests to move away from check in before they begin standing or remaining in one area.

5. Concessions

Again, common problems with food or snack options involve not enough space or wrong choice of location. It is best to offer several options so that the one option does not create a traffic jam simply because of volume. Your concessions should also offer multiple windows for ordering and paying and should be staffed to move the process along quickly. Location is equally important. Just like check in, it is important to create a significant space around the food options for lines, sitting and eating. These are great sources of revenue, so plan carefully. Of course, the type of food dictates some of the layout options. A full-service concession with multiple hot foods will require a greater space to handle the flow. A stand that sells popcorn will be a stand-alone option where traffic will be lighter and will often approach from multiple sides.

Check your flow. Make sure it’s the best it can be. Make sure it’s safe and creates an enjoyable experience for your guests. It may take some rearranging from your original plan, but it will be worth it. If you’re just starting out, this is one of the most important foundational issues you will face. It can be the difference between success and failure!


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