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Laser Tag Center Owner

Owning a laser tag business might turn out to be the coolest job you'll ever have. Think about it: you know other people who play, so you can get them to come to your center. Your knowledge and enthusiasm will help bring others in. And best of all, you can make money and have fun playing at the same time.

Since each laser tag center has a small staff, low maintenance and almost no inventory, the potential for profit is high. On average, laser tag centers generate between $300,000 and $400,000 in sales.

Aside from the possibility of profits, however, you also get the satisfaction of working in a business that's actually fun. Laurie-Ann O'Connor is president of Darkzone Technologies. She says one of the best rewards is knowing that your entire goal is to ensure people have a good time.

Of course, before you can start thinking about making money from a laser tag center, you need to figure out what it takes to get into the business. "A laser game center is first and foremost a business and must be treated as such," says O'Connor.

"It is a 'cool' business in that the people who visit your stores are there to have fun. Beyond this factor, the stores must be marketed in much the same way as any other retail or entertainment facility."

The first step towards owning the best gaming center in town is research -- finding out what makes a business a success. It's not enough to look at your local laser tag center and say that you could do better. You need to study the sites that have succeeded and learn what you can use from them.

"Do prospective operators know what successful laser tag businesses look like?" asks Peter Davies. He is president of a manufacturer of laser tag equipment in Tampa, Florida. "Do they have a plan to create a different looking business? These are important issues which are regularly overlooked in laser tag businesses."

"Everyone new makes the same mistakes as those who came before them," says Erik Guthrie. He is the curator of the Laser Tag Museum.

According to Guthrie, those mistakes include foregoing planning and promotion, being a victim of sales hype and thinking that you know all about the business before you even start. Guthrie's biggest concern, however, is that potential operators don't put enough consideration into where they set up.

"You have to make sure that enough of the target demographics are in the area," he says. "What kind of signage will be available? Do you have sufficient parking? Is zoning an issue? How many schools are in a five- or 10-mile radius? What is the median household income? The list is near endless."

"The biggest single mistake that I have seen repeatedly is a failure to invest in advertising," says O'Connor. "Many operators have a field of dreams vision -- that they will build it and the customers will come. Operators try to live off word-of-mouth advertising from the players who beat down their doors during the first months of the operation."

But this limited pool of fanatical players won't support a business forever. "These players tend to frighten away some of the more family-oriented customers that you need to attract and service via birthday and office parties," says O'Connor.

Bob Cooney, CEO of a laser tag equipment manufacturer in Denver, Colorado, agrees. "The most important factor in building a successful laser tag business is marketing and promotion."

Prospective owners need to devote time to designing a professional course. "We have seen sites open with a maze built over a couple of cases of beer and a long weekend by short-sighted operators," says O'Connor.

Having been in the business for more than five years, she has watched plenty of these ill-planned businesses come and go. "These 'homemade' locations tend to cease operations quickly."

TCooney advises prospective business owners to research suppliers carefully.

"Comb the market," he says. "There's a lot of competition among suppliers. You need to find out what kind of support you can get from them. Will they be there for you in four years when your products start falling apart?"

One of the biggest surprises new owners experience is the cost of maintaining and repairing laser tag equipment. "I would recommend that anyone considering operating a particular system speak with owners of that type of gear and find out what the monthly costs are to keep the equipment running," says O'Connor.

So how much does it cost to start up your dream center? "A 30-player center will typically cost $350,000 to $500,000 to set up," says Davies.

"A smaller center with 16 players could be as low as $100,000. This includes the operator's costs for internal modifications to the building, equipment, artwork, theming, lights and sound, counters, party rooms, play arena construction, briefing room, tech room and vesting room fit-out."

To make sure you have what it takes to open and operate a laser tag center, speak with business owners who have already succeeded.


Laser Tag Operators Association
Connecting owners and operators of laser tag centers

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