4 Factors you Must Get Right to Run a Successful Escape Room Business.
So you’re thinking about becoming your own boss and opening an escape room, or at the very least, getting an escape room franchise. The next thing you need to do is to think about how to best leverage your business so it gives you maximum returns and allows you to be the self-employed boss you’ve always wanted to be. Don’t get us wrong, it’s hard work.
Very hard work.
BUT, if you can get a few key aspects right, you will find that your customer base does nothing but grow and that is what you ultimately want. In our experience of running escape rooms, these are the 4 things you should get absolutely right to operate a successful escape room business.
1. Location – Successful Escape Room business depends on a good location
No, we’re not selling real estate and that’s a good thing. The nature of escape rooms is such that they can be adapted to any space, even if it is an area that would be overlooked for pretty much every other commercial enterprise.
Have a broom closet? No problem. A large, cavernous warehouse? Bring it on. A windowless basement? Wonderful.
Space itself matters less for escape rooms than where it is. And of course, if the puzzles jive with the setting, that’s even better. You could have an escape room in the middle of the woods if you’d like, as long as it is appropriately themed to add to the novelty factor. For example, A hunting cabin themed room in the woods would be a wonderful and novel escape room idea.
For cities, on the other hand, the options are much wider, and as long as you can kit out space and design it to suit your escape room theme, it should be smooth sailing.
The main thing to keep in mind, and this is something that will require some research to get right, is foot traffic and accessibility. If you are operating in a large city, you don’t want an escape room out of the way from main attractions and public transportation, however cool and quirky the location.
While an out of the way but the uniquely original location may attract escape room enthusiasts who are seeking out novelty, it is likely to not register on the radar of the average tourist, and those are the people you shouldn’t exclude from your target market. You want your business to have a steady stream of customers and to be close to popular attractions to cater to walk-ins, which can be a significant portion of your customer base.
So now that you have nailed your location, what’s next?
The second point that you absolutely have to get right for an escape room business to be successful is:
2. Good quality games and puzzles
This again cannot be stressed enough. You do not want your puzzles to be too easy, nor do you want them to be so difficult that even the smartest of us out there become frustrated and give up. And it isn’t just the puzzles that have to make sense. A quality game room will transport the player into a different world completely and have interesting designs and details to capture the imagination of the players.
How the room sucks you in, how well it incorporates design and engages the senses, how unique and imaginative the story is, how well balanced the puzzle types are, and whether they test different aspects of problem-solving (numerical, verbal, tactile, rational), the pacing of the puzzles etc. – all need to work in concert to make for a truly worthwhile escape room experience. The best escape rooms will capture these different criteria well, and the quality of your puzzles and rooms is ultimately where the most effort needs to be spent.
That said, the only way to determine if a puzzle or room works well is through trial and error. Undoubtedly, this is where a lot of the risk is borne as testing can only be done by opening your doors to the public. If the room proves too easy or too difficult, you will then have to make the necessary modifications that cost both time and money.
For those who are risk-averse, and who lack the time or the capital to engage in such public feedback and testing, an escape room franchise might be the better option.
Going the franchise route, while less exciting than coming up with something original all on your own has its positives too. For one, the games will already have been proven successful and a quick search online of how their franchises are performing will give you an idea of the quality of the escape room.
Secondly, it will save you A LOT of time trying to design and build your own escape room. All that you will be in charge of is making sure that the rooms are built to the precise specifications and that you are sufficiently acquainted with the sequence of puzzles to sort out issues during the game.
Now that you’ve made sure your rooms are sufficiently challenging and engaging, the next thing to have to pay attention to is:
3. Smooth, hitchless, professional operations
Nothing is more annoying for a player than for something not to work as intended in the middle of the game.
No one likes spending the better part of 10 minutes trying to crack a code only to have the combination on a padlock not work, or to have a light switch fizz out, or an escape hatch malfunction.
These things – and trust us, they happen more frequently than you think – will put a damper on anyone’s escape room experience and it is something you would want to avoid at all costs.
Yes, at all costs.
Running an escape room requires constant monitoring and maintenance. Key to this is regular testing to make sure that everything works as they should, and this is a cost you must not skimp on. An escape room is not something you can take for granted to work time and again. There will be wear and tear, there will be heavy-handed players that accidentally dent and break things, and there will be faulty parts.
As an operator, you will need to be a bit like a master of all trades. It is far better to know how to solder and fix a light switch quickly as opposed to waiting for a contracted professional to do it. The more you know about how things function mechanically, the better equipped you will be to face any problems that arise quickly and efficiently.
Also, operating an escape room requires an eagle eye and a good dose of mindfulness. Human error is something to be vigilant about – vital clues can be forgotten to be replaced or a lock forgotten to be relocked and these can all affect the gaming experience for the customer.
This leads us on to our fourth and final point:
4. Impeccable Customer Service
Hiring the right people who are interested and passionate is very important in the escape room business. You do not want a tepid, dispassionate games master but someone conscientious, aware and upbeat.
The games master’s role is central to the experience of the gamers. Games masters need to be quick on their feet and observant. They can’t take too long to give a hint or it might annoy the players, but they also shouldn’t make the players feel even more rushed than they are. People go to escape rooms to have fun and put it simply, your employees should reflect that ethos. Ideally, games masters should have a warm and friendly personality and on top of that, they need to have the proverbial eye on the ball at all times.
Also, being diplomatic is a necessary skill, especially when it comes to calming down dissatisfied or belligerent customers. The ability to put customers at ease – and this is often a result of friendliness and professionalism – is half the battle won forgetting that good review. Even if a game does not go smoothly due to some technical error, the right customer service, a genuine apology, and an offer of a discount voucher will go a long way to maintaining your reputation and have your customers leave happy.
If you think you can master these 4 factors, have what it takes to run a successful escape room business and are interested in franchise opportunities, please do have a look at the Breakout model. It might just turn out that a partnership with us is the key to having that dream career you’ve always wanted.