How To Start An Escape Room Business

2020.10.08.

With the rise in popularity of escape rooms having taken the world by storm over this last decade, it's not surprising to find many people are considering starting one for themselves. But just how difficult is it to get off the ground? And what should you know before sinking your savings into such a venture? Well, in truth, as with starting any new business, there's an awful lot to learn. You have to remember that for every escape room that gets itself off the ground, there are any number that fail. Some businesses don't even make it as far as opening day, whilst others fail within a year or so. Lack of planning coupled with making some broad assumptions are probably the top two causes for these efforts going belly up.

With many escape room business ventures, people make a simple mistake. Namely, they confuse playing the game, with all the fun and excitement, with actually running a games room. Of course, this is also true of many other business ventures,most often being  restaurants or bars in some exotic location where a couple has gone on holiday. The thing is that all businesses require massive amounts of work. Yes, real work! This requires time, dedication, will power, common sense, money management and even some luck. 

If you're the type who's unable to set yourself goals in the regular life, and then work hard to achieve them, then running an escape room business isn't for you. So, first things first. Take a good look in the mirror and ask yourself; is starting a business, with all the accompanying risk, along with all the hard work, something you can take on for the next five years? If it's not, no matter. But it's best to be truthful with yourself before you start, as once you're some distance down the road, it's both very difficult and very expensive to try and turn back. Keep in mind that a business failure will not only deplete your financial situation, but is the number one breaker of marriages and relationships. Just saying!

So with that in mind, let's have a look in more detail at some essential factors needed to both sustain and grow your escape room business.

Play a Lot of Escape Rooms

This is a total no-brainer. You'll need to be an expert in other people's escape room games. Every time you play, you're going to be improving your skills. But more importantly, you'll be able to identify the different parts of the escape room experience that make up the whole caboodle. By playing escape rooms, you can also build up an understanding of the narratives in play, the story archs and beats, and the creative ways in which clues, puzzles and props are put to use. We suggest, that after playing each one, you take the time to sit down and write the plus and negative points along with your over-all experience. Remember that all this information will be of paramount importance later when you decide how to set up shop.

You want to search out every type of escape room game, from the high-tech efforts to the low-tech, even those with rubbish ideas and lazy execution. That's because you can learn from both the best and the worst. Take the time and make the effort to travel far and wide to see as many escape room examples as possible. This will give you an idea of the competition you'll be up against. Take note of the customer interaction from the moment you walk in the front door. How do they treat you? How are they going to encourage you to make a repeat visit? 

Talk to Owners

Don't be afraid to reach out to the owners of the local escape room business, particularly if you've been a regular player there. Sure, some owners might be protective, but you'l be pleasantly surprised as to how many will recognize that the more escape rooms there are, the more interest it generates. Many will be delighted to show off their efforts. Keep in mind that it wasn't so long ago that the whole escape room industry was in it's infancy. Back them all owners relied on one another to test out new ideas and find customers. if you're feeling shy about talking to local escape room owners, then just go further afield. Believe us when we say that there's a lot of first hand information waiting to be passed on to you, if you only ask for it!

Join the Community

Because the escape room industry is relatively recent, you'll find an active and vibrant community that's welcoming towards new members. Social media is your friend here. There are any number of active groups and forums which are based around both the playing and the setting up of escape room businesses. Then there are podcast, blogs and many publications dedicated to this activity. They all feature interesting and informative information, including insights, interviews and new ideas. Don't be shy. These are all people who at one time were going through the same as you in order to set up their dream business. Let them help you. 

Do Lots of Market Research

In spite of the rise of online escape rooms, on the whole you're going to be looking at starting a bricks and mortar business. To that end, you're going to be relying on a localized population, especially in the beginning. So find out who they are. What do they like to do in their spare time? What's the medium age bracket? Gender? Are they mainly cash payers or d they prefer credit cards? What are they're interest. The number of questions might seem infinite, but you need to have a through understanding of your potential marketplace before you dive in. 

Study Your Competitors

Hopefully you've been doing this whilst playing at all the other escape rooms. Keep in mind that your business doesn't exist in a vacuum. There's plenty of competition out there, including many escape room franchise holders. We suggest that you start by using Google Maps to see where all your competitors are situated. You can then use this information to see the escape room business density in particular areas. This'll tell you the locations you really want to avoid as far as competition goes. Another point is to chat with other competitors after a game. You can learn a lot about people in an informal setting after a game is over, as you're already familiar with each other after playing together.

Write a Business Plan

Most people make the mistake of thinking that the business plan has to somehow offer up the completed business, along with all it's aims. In the beginning that's just not going to be possible. A business plan is there to help you think about things more deeply and laterally. You can use it to help define your business type as well as see the financial viability up close. Essentially, it's an aid to seeing both the viability and feasibility of a future business. To that end, it should focus on factors like "Opportunity", "Team and Company", "a Financial Plan" and it's overall "Execution". The more detailed your escape room business plan, then the easier it'll be to implement. 

How serious Are You?

Yes, you have to question your own commitment to the project. And you need to be truthful about the answer. Remember that there's a huge difference between a business and a hobby. And like-wise, there's a huge difference between playing escape room games and running an escape room business. We're not saying that the responsibility will necessarily suck all the fun out of the activity itself, but you'll be running a business looking to make money. It's true that you can pay for a lot of the more time consuming aspects of getting started. You can also take the escape room franchise route.There are any number of agencies dedicated to designing escape room, developing story lines and clues. This will allow you to focus on the day to day. And it's this that'll occupy virtually all your time. 

You'll need to wear many hats. And a lot of then you've never tried on before. You need to be a manager, a supervisor, a customer service representative, the publicity guy in charge of marketing, and the handyman who will need to fix all those things that customers will accidentally break.Oh...and those toilets don't clean themselves! 

Conclusion: How To Start An Escape Room Business

Not everyone is suited to every type of business. In fact some of us simply should stay away from any business venture. We just don't have the capacity to run a business on a day to day level. With an escape room business, there will come a unique set of problems. It's important that you not only have the funds to keep things going, but also the commitment to growing a business. So, go an do some homework. get as much related information as possible. Only then, start the process of creating a new business. And most importantly, there's no hurry. Take your time and do things well.
 

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