An Escape Room Business Plan: How to open your own escape room

2020.10.06.

Whether it's a fashion or a fad, escape rooms look like they're here to stay. Over the last decade or so there has been a literal explosion of escape room businesses setting up all over the globe. Starting in Japan, the activity can now be played on any continent. Apart from the rental of a suitable space, the financial entry is low enough for anyone to set up shop. But how would you go about actually making such a business? As with all things in the life, the very best place to start is at the beginning. And that means with drawing up a business plan. Let's have a deeper dive...

No Headfirst Diving

As with all businesses, go slowly and go thoroughly. Yes, we know that you've just discovered this fabulous new means of making money...but please just chill. You might of played in an escape room and thought that setting up one must be the easiest thing in the world. Well, we have news for you. It isn't! Everything from finding a location, to finding customers and making a viable business strategy, will be taxing on both your time and energy. You have to have all your ducks in a row in order to have a chance of making your business work.

Toe In The Water First

Whatever you want to do in the life will need some experience before you jump in. So, if you want to be a photographer, then you'll not only need the equipment (OK...you can hire this) but you'll need the know-how, you'll need clients and be able to invoice them. Ain't nothing so easy! If you're going to be opening an escape room business, it's best to get a job in one for a few months just to see the lay of the land, so to speak. You see, you might hate it after just a few months! Of you'll realize that it's a lot more work than you first supposed. It'll give you an idea of the cash-flow, the marketing and the feedback from customers. All knowledge that you can put to good use, or better, for your own venture. In the meanwhile, go visit and play at all of the competition. You'll be able to see what you're up against.

Find Your Library Card

Let's supposed that you've been working in an escape room, and still feel that it's a good idea for you. Before you get started on anything....get yourself down to the library and find some books on escape room businesses or any businesses that are public fronted. Hit up the internet and look at successful escape rooms and see what they're doing right. Find an escape room franchise or company that has failed and then analyse as to why. You'll need to know the industry inside out. And that's because, it's always an unknown event that'll sink your ship. So being prepared is half the battle.

A Business Plan For Your Escape Room

Hopefully by this point you're pretty much an expert in the escape room business. As you're about to enter the market place and duke it out with the competition then you'd better be. We suggest that you find yourself a huge white board. Now, every single company that came along before you, and that will come along after you, all started at this point. With a business plan. Using a white boar will allow you to step back and see how things should be connected. If you've never written a business plan before, then no worries mate, just ask your team to come over and help out. You could also ask a business savvy friend or even pay a business consultant to give you a hand.

The Logistics Of Your Business

Another purpose of using a white board, is that you should encourage yourself to write any nutty or left-field ideas on it. For example when most people think about starting their own business, they completely forget that you could maybe just buy a running business from someone who, for one reason or another, wants to get out. This is an option that should be written up there on your white board. There is also the escape room franchise, whereby they provide all the games, the publicity and the know-how. The parent company acts as your big daddy and you split the income in some prearranged manner.

When designing an escape room business plan, look first to the skills you have. For example, maybe you could be great at designing the rooms. But don't be afraid to outsource the things you are unsure about or just don't have the skills to be dealing with. Remember that to start a business cost money....and out-sourcing your business plan is just another cost. If you do a quick Google Search, then you'll find any number of companies that specialize in the design and running of third party escape rooms. 

Really Look At The Numbers

It's on this point that the majority of businesses fail. Namely, money control. We all know a bar where they appear to be giving drinks away to all their friends. To make the money back on every free drink, means they need to sell 3 x that. Give away too many freebies, and you're heading for the unemployment office. First things first, you'll need to see exactly what your budget is. And it's important to be absolutely truthful with yourself at this point. A movie maker will tell you that making a movie cost at least three times the planned budget. And it's the same for every business start-up. There will always be unseen or hidden obstacles on the road to getting your dream off the ground. This is the point to look at any financing options and the possibility of bank loans. You need to be crystal clear on the amount of cash you have to invest.

Location Still Matters

Though your escape room business may well not have a traditional store front, it still needs to be accessible for customers. So, though unlike many businesses that rely on foot traffic, you'll still be relying on a central location that's easy to find. So be careful about this. Being too far from the public will cripple your business before it even starts. Make you're your signage and branding are all on point. If you have a location that's central, but off to the basement or going off to a small warehouse, make double sure that everyone can see that there's actually a business there. 

Don't Be Tight

The sheer number of escape rooms we've seen that were just filled with off the street rubbish is astounding. Don't follow that path. You get the feeling that all the money was spent setting up the business leaving nothing left over to actually furnish the rooms. The themes that you design are what will attract the customer in the first place, as well as contribute to the overall enjoyment of the games on offer. Take your time planning and don't be afraid to spend on making these much more outstanding than your competition. And talking of games, please make sure they are designed properly. Again, we've seen so many games whereby the clues and puzzles didn't necessarily add up to the solution. This is supremely frustrating for the players. And they'll leave you bad reviews after the game. And remember, that in this age of social media, you'r reviews are your life-blood. Your escape room business will function thanks to the best form of publicity, which is word of mouth recommendation. It's what'll bring in the new customers and also see you having repeat customers as well.

Launch Countdown

The final piece of the puzzle before you actually start figuring out your business plan is marketing. How will you market your escape room? Remember that you'll need to follow the more traditional routes of finding where your customers congregate on the internet. And then add your own, as you'll need ads that stand out from the crowd. Escape rooms are now a popular business. Some may say that the market place is already over-saturated. But, just like the guy who wants to be a plumber can look in the Yellow Pages and see thousands of plumbers, there's always room for another. Provided they are bringing something new or better and more polished to the table. 

You will need to have, or employ someone who has a good grip on social media. Yes, we know, it's the cancer of the modern age. But as far as marketing goes, it's a must. Look into promotions, bonuses, and special offers. Harvest those opt-in emails from all those flyers you are sending out, and then offer new and more interesting games and activities. The bottom line is that the moment you stop innovating, then you're dead in the water. Good Luck!
 

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