3 Harsh Truths That Escape Room Operators Don’t Want to Hear (and What They Can Learn From It)

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As human beings, it’s natural that sometimes you can’t see the forest for the trees. This also applies to Escape Room Operators – some business owners are so focused on the minute details of a situation; they fail to see the bigger picture. With this comes plenty of brutally honest truths to be told. If you find yourself easily frustrated, perhaps this article is not for you. However, if you are prepared to face reality, keep reading ahead and see what you can learn from some mistakes you’ve probably been making.

1. The Quality of Your Escape Rooms Does Not Matter

Normally, the team at Cluetivity tell you how essential the quality of an Escape Room is. A captivating story, a wide variety of puzzles, and an inspiring game master are all crucial aspects. We cannot stress enough that these points are still valid! As Escape Room Operators, you can develop the most exciting missions, but if you don’t have players visiting your rooms at all, there is nothing we can do to help.

The truth of the matter is that most players can’t intricately rate the quality of an Escape Room anyway. They lack the experience. Maybe they’ve played an Escape Room before, but even then, they won’t notice much difference – so as long as your Escape Room meets standard expectations.

The absolute minimum that we would expect from an Escape Room includes:

A backstory: Escape Room Opreators should come up with stories for their missions. Locking players into a room and solving disjointed puzzles that have no real connection to each other no longer works. An exciting and rigorously told story ensures that your guests can immerse themselves in the action – like a cinematic blockbuster or a fantastic video game.

Functioning puzzles: We love creative puzzles and thinking outside-of-the-box. With our Outdoor Escape Games, Operation Mindfall and The Magic Portal, we also seek to inspire the players with an exciting story and versatile puzzles. The most important thing, however, is that the challenges are solvable. Nothing is more frustrating than when a puzzle, for example, fails to work because of technical problems.

An appropriate level of difficulty: Most Escape Rooms have a success rate of about 30%. You should also aim for this rate as an Escape Room operator. If it sits well below it, that itself is a sign that your puzzles are too complex or incomprehensible. If your success rate sits above 30% and teams manage to escape in well under 60 minutes, the rooms are probably too easy or there aren’t enough puzzles.

Attentive Game Master: Whilst they are based outside of the room, an attentive Game Master is a crucial element for success. They don’t have to be the perfect entertainer, but they have to be attentive and helpful. It’s pivotal that they follow the player’s journey throughout the game, and if your guests need a clue, the Game Master must have it ready.

What You Can Do To Tackle This

Don’t expect players to open the door for you, no matter how good your missions are. As Escape Room Operators, you need to take action yourself to attract customers.

You should pay as much attention to your marketing as you do to design your spaces. Check out our blog here for 7 tips on how to market your escape room.

If you’re especially new to the market, you need solutions that bring success quickly. In addition to obvious things such as an appealing logo, flyers and your own website, it is important to not forget about online ads. Advertisements on Google (AdWords) and Facebook are usually particularly effective under a cost-efficiency view.

With Google Adwords, you can target ads to specific keywords to appeal to people around you. The ads appear above Google’s normal search results. If you run an Escape Room in Berlin, it can look like this:

Escape Room Operators using Google AdWords

Escape Room operators are usually also active on Facebook and Instagram. Using these platforms, you can also run ads and target people in your local areas. You can also interact with your fans and followers through competitions (that are compliant with each social media platforms rules and regulations). Lottery draws often achieve high engagement rates, so you can secure your relationship with your existing fans whilst drawing in a new audience.

Last, but not least, it is also advantageous to offer guests a wide variety of games to play. In addition to Indoor Escape Rooms, you can also offer them Outdoor Escape Games.

Outdoor Escape Games, such as our agent thriller Operation Mindfall, are significantly faster and ready for use at a cost much lower than traditional Escape Rooms. They offer challenges which have been tried-and-tested thousands of times, and can be adapted to your individual needs with minimal effort. They’re even suitable for both small and large groups with over 2,000 participants!

2. Operating an Escape Room is Draining

If you’re still reading, it must mean that you dealt with the first harsh reality particularly well. Are you ready for the second? Here goes… Escape Room operators have the most inflexible schedules. Whilst this is certainly the case for many self-employed people, not many industries can compare when it comes to anti-social working hours.

Many Escape Rooms open between 2:00pm and 4:00pm during the week and close around 10:00pm. On weekends, it usually starts earlier – in extreme cases at 9:30am or 10:00am – and lasts until 10:00pm and longer.

As an Escape Room operator, you always have to be there a little earlier and stay longer in the evening– prepare the rooms, clean the premises and so forth. In addition to being ever-present on-site, there are other obligations as entrepreneurs:

  • Precise bookkeeping
  • Managing employees and preparing their schedules
  • Managing marketing activities as well as social media presence

However, there is the advantage of that during the week, you can at least use the mornings for running errands and general life management.

What You Can Do To Tackle This

What does that mean for you? Are the masterminds behind the rooms at least financially well-compensated for their efforts? Or is the Escape Room industry not the right one for you?

The latter of both of these questions is an answer only you can answer yourself. Some get along better with irregular working hours – others, not so much. There are, however, definitely easier ways to manage being self-employed.

You have to really know how much stress you are able to cope with and how your role in the Escape Room industry affects your social relationships. Once you’ve built a solid business, you’ll be able to seek support sooner or later, and eventually become a backseat driver in maintaining the business. It’s important that you learn to give up responsibility and find staff you trust.

From a financial perspective, an Escape Room business can be quite lucrative, but it’s no ‘get rich quick’ scheme. The fact of the matter is that you sell 60 minutes (with briefing about 75 minutes) entertainment for around 25€ per person.

In larger cities, some Escape Rooms might charge higher fees. But let’s take the above numbers as averages and assume each room attracts 125 players a week (the value depends, of course, on factors such as region, season and number of missions available). The total earnings become 3,125€. This amounts to 12,500€ per month.

Out of 12,500€, the following will correspond to:

  • Payroll payments
  • Rent and incidental costs
  • Maintenance costs
  • Royalties (for example, for software)
  • Advertising

You can argue that owning an Escape Room can lead to earning a healthy income. For some people, however, this amount of money is nowhere near enough. If you’re looking to get more out of your business, we are more than happy to give you a helping hand.

3. Escape Room Operators Could Save a Lot of Money If They Were Craftier

Conjuring up Escape Room puzzle ideas is one thing. Another thing is to implement the ideas – and then equip the entire Escape Room with props.

Building an Escape Room requires not only a creative mindset, but also great craftsmanship. There is a reason that there are companies that specialise in constructing Escape Rooms. Teams complete with game designers, set designers, carpenters, electrical engineers, software developers, graphic designers and filmmakers work to install the pre-made missions in your premises.

It’s your decision on whether you want to offer your customers ready-made Escape Rooms or, instead, an idea from scratch. Whichever route you take, repairs are naturally going to be imminent. If you’re someone who is particularly crafty, you can undertake most of these tasks yourself – but not everyone is a naturally gifted carpenter.

With the installation of puzzles, hidden passageways, and decorative items, how much of it can you really do yourself? What do you need professionals for? The truth is you could save a lot of money if you are a bit handier.

What You Can Do To Tackle This

Don’t beat yourself up too much for a start. No-one is perfect, and what is not, can still be.

Nobody is born with an expertise in carpentry. They have acquired their skills over the years. You can do exactly that. Consider taking up craft courses or watch tutorials on YouTube. Start with small construction projects and gradually expand your knowledge.

Want a game that doesn’t require any craftsmanship knowledge whatsoever? Check out Cluetivity’s solution here!

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