Choosing an escape room venue can be one of the most important parts of any escape game venture.
Clearly, you don’t want to choose the wrong place.
This could mean that a lot of money could be wasted unneccessarily. No-one wants to waste money and I am sure you don’t either.
So, I’m sure you have loads of questions going through your head at the moment. Like: how do I pick the right one? How do you know that it is going to be future-proof? How do you know it will be a viable business?
You are not alone in asking these questions. We asked these questions when deciding upon our first and second venues.
However, we found that there was a limited amount of information out there about getting set up.
Also, for many of these questions, the answer is not always a straightforward one. There are many factors that you have to bear in mind when you are looking for the right place.
Some of which only come to mind when you are halfway through negotiating the lease. You don’t want to waste all those solicitors fees without knowing what you should look for. Therefore, my job as writer of this blog post, and someone that has been through the process twice, is to make sure that you don’t waste money. If you don’t want to waste any money when choosing an escape room venue, then read on
At Other World Escapes, we spent a lot of time deliberating over the perfect Portsmouth escape room venue. After some time, we believe we found the best escape room venue. I am looking to impart some knowledge and information on you so you can go through the process a lot quicker:
The MOST important question we want to answer before we do anything else is: Is this venue going to make enough money to sustain the rent, rates and bills?
In answering this question, it is important to understand the changes in the escape room market. The peaks and troughs of the industry.
We don’t want to get halfway through a quiet month and realise that we do not have enough money to sustain ourselves and our staff. I’m sure you don’t want to potentially take away someones livelihood, by having to let them go. This would not look good on you, and would have a major impact on your capacity to run your escape games.
So, what we need to determine is whether the escape room is going to sustain the things I have mentioned so far. In doing this, I am going to work with general average costs per escape room and perform a short-break even analysis.
I am going to use our 2 venues as examples to work out the average cost per escape room. The following costs are all average costs per room per month:
Business Rates: £100
Staff Costs: £1,200
Escape Room Build (if kept for 2 years): £200
As you can see, the average cost to run an escape room is £2,200 per month. Therefore, we want to make sure that each escape room is going to drive at least £450 per week in order to break-even. This equates to, on average, 7 bookings a week per escape room.
Some areas will cost a lot more. But how do we know we will hit our break even? Well, the following tips can help you to determine the best escape room venue for you and maximise your income. Make sure you bear these in mind when choosing an escape room venue.
The first thing we want to consider is your location. The escape room industry is growing at a rate of around 20 per month. In light of this, it is important to establish whether there will be enough demand in the area that you are choosing.
We don’t want to join a city, such as Southampton, where there are now 5 escape room venues and only just enough to go around. Based upon this data, we can establish that a population of 1 escape room venue per 50,000 people is more than enough.
In cities like London, this population should be increased to around 100,000, otherwise we will get to a point where there is an escape room on every corner. We don’t want this and I am sure you don’t either.
A very important factor to bear in mind is being in making sure we are not in a residential area. Councils do not take kindly to entertainment services being in a residential area, out of fear of the levels of noise pollution. You may struggle to get your planning permission through if you do not bear this in mind.
As a bonus piece of information, noise pollution is one of the main factors that could stop your planning application getting approval.
Some would argue that this question is rather trivial because many drive to escape rooms. I, on the other hand, tend to disagree. Being out of the city can mean difficulty in attracting customers. Which, will increase our marketing costs and potentially reduce the viability of the business.
On the other hand, being in a central location can be very beneficial for being near restaurants, shops and other activities. You can create partnerships with other independent retailers to create package experiences. This works especially well for corporate teambuilding.
If we are near to lots of other activities, shops, restaurants and other retailers, we can create great package deals. If we create these package deals, we can encourage a heightened interest from corporate bookings.
These are the big bookings that you will get every now and then, but can help to reach your month break-even point within 1 or 2 bookings.
Therefore, we want to make sure we are having a look at what is around us. Pop into the nearby retailers and see if they would be interested in partnering. You have nothing to lose.
Parking is another important factor when choosing an escape room venue. Many of your customers will be driving to your escape room. If we can offer parking to our customers, this will reduce the overall cost of their experience and make it more desirable.
Furthermore, councils will consult a transport officer when deciding whether to approve your planning application. We do not want to fail in the case we do not provide enough parking for our customers to access our venue.
We want to make sure that our ideas can be implemented in the venue. There’s two ways we can do this: We can either let the rooms dictate which escape room ideas we go for, or, we can make our escape room ideas fit the rooms.
Whichever you choose, you will want to plan lots of escape room ideas in advance. Think about it. This can massively reduce the amount of time spent building the rooms once you get the keys.
Our first escape room, Mayan, was designed and built after we entered the property. This took 4 months. If we had designed and built a lot of the puzzles and props in advance, we could have halved this, and enjoyed the benefit of 2 extra months of income.
So, for Portsmouth, we started building the props and puzzles for our first two rooms 3 months before getting the keys. It means we entered the Portsmouth venue and opened the first one in 5 weeks and the second one a few weeks after that.
Our Portsmouth Venue Before Moving In
So, you have designed all of your wonderful escape rooms, can we make changes to the rooms in the venue? No? If not, this will put a considerable restriction on your ability to adapt the venue to suit your plans.
You can almost certainly forget about secret doors.
Furthermore, we are limited in the amount of immersive elements and set design we can do to make it a truly immersive experience or sensory escape room.
During the negotiation, we want to make sure we can make internal, non-structural changes. Fight for this. Not all leases will allow this, but almost certainly you will require it.
When choosing an escape room venue, we want to make sure that we have a big enough lobby. When I say big enough, I mean a lobby area that has enough space for all players of all your escape rooms to be able to stand in. Add up all the capacities of the escape rooms and this is how many people you should be able to fit.
This is important, especially for the corporate market. Teambuilding parties will all want to start at the same time. If you cannot cater to this, you will be missing out on huge parties. You will want to fill as many spaces as possible, and this is one of the first things you will need to check.
So many times we have had large parties of 20 all needing the toilet. This means that the players likely will not start their game until at least 20 minutes after they arrive. This can make you late for your next booking, even though the team all arrived on time.
Which leaves you in a position where you can’t penalise the current team, but may struggle to be on time for the next team.
At our Southampton venue, we have 2 toilets, but one is through an escape room. This is obviously not an ideal scenario. Therefore, we learned from our mistake when picking our Portsmouth venue.
Although astonishingly fun, being a games host can be a rather lonely job, if you are not placed near other games hosts. Having a dedicated space for games hosts to all host the games from, will increase their morale.
This will indeed have a positive impact on the quality of their hosting performance and their job satisfaction. Let’s make it the best job ever, by putting them in a room with other games hosts.
Although this is not always possible, you do not want to exclude anyone from playing your awesome escape rooms. Sometimes, you cannot avoid the accessibility of your venue.
Perhaps it is an existing building that can’t be changed. Perhaps you don’t have the money to put in a lift. Not many people do.
If we can’t, we will need an access statement as part of our planning permission that describes (with facts) the exact measurements of everything the customers would have access to.
Do not say that anything is not accessible. This will be frowned upon. For example, many wheelchair users can climb stairs.
Nevertheless, we want to be as inclusive as possible. Try to bear this in mind when choosing an escape room venue. We tried to for our Southampton venue, but unfortunately we couldn’t find a venue that we could afford that had great accessibility.
Nevertheless, we were so happy when we found that the Portsmouth venue is wheelchair accessible. If you are wheelchair accessible, you will be one of very few escape rooms that are.
We don’t want to get further down the line and wish we had gone for a bigger place. While we want to err on the side of caution with our first escape room, we need to make sure we have a place big enough to expand if we do well.
Generally, when choosing an escape room venue, you should go for a minimum space for 3 escape rooms. To go any lower, you will run out of space rather quickly and limit the ability to expand. We don’t want to full up our venue very quickly and then have to get a second venue.
This increases costs massively and reduces our overall profits. We are a business after all. We want to make profit.
In writing this article, I am hoping to ensure that you make a great choice when choosing an escape room venue.
It is very important for your business viability, customer enjoyment and staff satisfaction. When everyone is happy, the positive reviews will come easy. Here’s our TripAdvisor reviews.
If you take note of the above points when choosing your escape room venue, and you will kick ass from the moment you open your doors.
If you found this post useful, please be a kind soul and link this blog post from your website or blog. It will help others to make the right decision in choosing an escape room venue.
You may want to come and check out our escape rooms in Southampton and Portsmouth. We have some great games at both venues and we would love for you to come and play.
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