How to Start an Escape Room Business in 2020

Starting an escape room business is hard work.

There are many steps involved and pitfalls that might slow down or even stop you.

As with other ventures, there’s no silver bullet to help you get it right.

Still, at Regiondo we’ve seen hundreds of escape rooms launch and grow into profitable companies. In this article, we’ll present some of our key advice from working with escape room owners who made it.

Ready? Let’s go.

1. Understand your market and competitors

Research is an essential part of every startup business and we highly recommend spending enough time to collect all the necessary information prior to making major business decisions.

You need to conduct comprehensive market research to better understand both your customers and competitors. Collect up to date facts and figures about the local market and audience.

Since you will need a constant stream of different visitors, think about the interests of people based in your area, as well as the relevant demographic factors like age, education level, and occupation.

2. Define your business concept

Be as specific as you can in clarifying your business ideas and goals. Think about your expectations and what you are willing to sacrifice in order to achieve them!

Ask yourself simple questions like

  • Who is your escape room suitable for?
  • How does it engage both new and returning visitors?
  • What would be different and unique about it?
  • Where would be the ideal location for it?

Knowing the answers to all of the above will facilitate the business planning process. Moreover, it will help you shape a clear concept that will be the starting point for many of your future decisions.

3. Create a detailed business plan

“Plans are worthless, but planning is essential.”
Dwight D. Eisenhower

Being aware of your current priorities and long-term objectives is essential for any startup company. And putting together a detailed business plan will provide a systematic approach to achieving your goals.

Below, we’ve listed some of the key points to include:

  • Company description: business name, description, and location.
  • Market analysis: demand, supply, and competition.
  • Goals and objectives: what are you aiming to achieve in the long run?
  • Sales strategy: how are you planning to achieve the above?
  • Services offered: how many games are you planning to launch? What packages and types of games will be available?
  • Products to sell: will you be selling add-ons like photographs of the participants, promotional T-Shirts, mugs, keychains, etc.?
  • Values and mission: what will be your priorities as an entrepreneur? What kind of reputation will you be building?
  • Budget breakdown and financial projections.
  • Marketing plan: how will you meet the needs of your market?

One crucial point here is distribution. How are you going to reach your potential customers? One of the best ways to get early revenue is through Online Travel Agencies (OTAs) like Viator and GetYourGuide. Check out our guide on OTAs learn more:

4. Secure financing

Starting a new business often requires a solid financial base. Premises, equipment, advertising all need to be considered and funded from the very beginning. Don’t forget about any legal and administration fees that are a must.

Consider securing a sufficient budget that can easily cover the range of potential costs you might incur. In case you are unable to save the money yourself, it might be a good idea to apply for financing. Remember that having a solid business plan and well-grounded financial projections will be a compulsory part of your application.

Since having an accommodating venue with the potential to expand is one of the main expenses associated with opening a new escape room, owning an appropriate space will dramatically decrease your costs.

Wondering what is the cost of starting an escape room business? Research indicates the average costs for starting a single room are between 7,000 EUR  – 30,000 EUR, with some businesses spending over 150,000 EUR.

An escape room franchise can cost anywhere between 3,000 EUR 150,000 EUR. The price is mainly based on brand success and additional rights and features that come with it. Only about 5% of the escape rooms are franchisees.

5. Choose a suitable venue

Finding the right space for your escape room follows immediately after securing a budget. In addition to being practical and convenient, it needs to be located in a good area.

Among the major factors that constitute a good business location are:

  • accessibility and foot traffic
  • security and crime rate
  • competition
  • business rates and rental costs (also license fees if relevant)
  • potential for growth and expansion

Take them into account when choosing a venue for your escape room. Also, don’t forget to consider the physical characteristics of the space like room size, access to water and electricity, fire exits and assembly points, office and admin area, overall planning, etc.

Of course, always use your particular requirements as a starting point of the above list! This will allow you to add valuable points that matter for the success of your business.  

6. Develop exciting themes and narratives

Think of creative escape room themes and narratives to offer your customers. Articulate the ideas as clearly as you can and then expand them if needed.

Figure out which themes would be relevant considering the audience in your local environment. See what your competitors do and try to be unique and different. Instead of copying their practices, offer something innovative that exceeds the expectations!

If you need some inspiration, you can check out this list with 10 escape room theme ideas.

7. Build a marketing strategy and start promoting

Once everything is in place, create a detailed marketing strategy that involves articulation and expansion of ideas and a clear plan for action. Stick to the budget restrictions you’ve already set up, and use the findings collected from the competitor research.

One of the best approaches to adopt as a startup business is utilizing promotion and marketing that are either free of charge or come at a cheap cost.

Here are some ideas you can start with:

  • List your business on Google My Business
  • Create a compelling blog
  • Use the power of positive feedback and share existing testimonials to attract more visitors
  • Share exciting footage on social media featuring participants, promotions, games, etc.
  • Sell exciting branded products and make extra profit

If you need some extra guidance, check out the top 10 escape room marketing ideas to boost your business.

8. Collect and use customer feedback

The importance of customer reviews is undoubted. We suggest considering effective methods for generating reviews from the very beginning of your business activity.

For example, invite a few people to do a test run before you launch and take note of their experience. Were the riddles too hard/easy? Did people have everything they need to succeed? Is your staff well prepared and presented?

Incorporate a review collection system and approach customers personally to ask for their feedback. This will positively affect both your sales and marketing.  

You can also share testimonials in future email campaigns, your website, and even print materials. They are a valuable addition to any marketing channel so try to collect some feedback as soon as you can.

9. Take care of any legal requirements

The boring stuff is always part of the business so don’t postpone it forever. Get your business authorized and obtain all the required licenses on time (if you haven’t already). Put together terms and conditions, as well as a privacy policy that can be clearly stated on your website.

Pay special attention to any safety requirements in your country since the industry is now tightly regulated.

Create a space that not only engages customers with exciting games but also protects them properly at all times. Don’t be negligent because a potential accident will ruin more than just your business.

10. Keep up with industry news and trends

Despite the ever-increasing competition, the escape room industry is still growing in terms of revenue. However, the market is always changing and so are your possibilities!

That’s why you need to stay in tune with the trends and be open to any major shifts.

To get started, have a read through these 5 trends in the escape room industry.

Conclusion

Although their name suggests otherwise, escape rooms have become much more than a game. They are among the most exciting social activities people can enjoy nowadays.

And while it can be hard, starting an escape room business will definitely be a positive experience for those who face it well prepared.

Take your time to consider each of the points above and maximize your chances of success in 2020.