Coronavirus: Crisis guide for escape room owners

Coronavirus: Crisis guide for escape room owners

Coronavirus is a new reality we will have to cope with for a while. It already has affected many businesses, not just escape rooms, but also restaurants, hotels, airlines, cinemas, event organisers, sports and so on. Even if coronavirus has not affected you yet, it most probably will affect you shortly. There will be businesses shutting down, and there will be business, benefiting from the crisis. Here are some suggestions on how to decrease the risks for your escape room business.

Please note that there is no right way. Some people may decide to go on as usual. Others just shut down the business forever. Most, however, will choose something in between. Treat this list as a menu, not as a definite action plan.

Why should I bother?

I don’t have a medical degree, and I don’t want to go into the medical details. I personally think this is quite serious, and the earlier we take measures (like social distancing) the better it is for the society and economy.
But let’s focus on business.
First, read this letter from Sequoia Capital, one of the largest Venture Capital companies. Here is the main takeaway:

“Having weathered every business downturn for nearly fifty years, we’ve learned an important lesson — nobody ever regrets making fast and decisive adjustments to changing circumstances. In downturns, revenue and cash levels always fall faster than expenses. In some ways, business mirrors biology. As Darwin surmised, those who survive “are not the strongest or the most intelligent, but the most adaptable to change.”

You should care because you might lose your escape room business. This might be the biggest challenge you ever had since you opened.

How big is the impact?

This depends on the many factors outside of your control like the severity of the virus infection, government reaction (including any monetary help or tax reliefs), etc. If we take China as an example, then you face about 2 months of being closed, and slow recovery afterwards. This might be less or more severe depending on the situation in your geography. If you have enough reserves for 3-4 months – you are in a very good position. Most of the small businesses do not have this.

What can I do?

There are many things you can do, and we will discuss it below. However, the most important factor within your control is your costs. Cutting the costs is painful, but if we are talking about saving the business, it is the necessity.

Create a list of all your expenses, and go form the largest to the lowest. Your biggest expenses will most probably be rent, marketing and salaries, followed by other smaller expenses

Rent

Start communicating with your landlord as early as possible. There is a chance that your rent payments can be postponed or decreased or both. Remember – in the times of crisis cash is the king, and you need every penny.

Salaries

Most of the escape room staff is part-time, so it is relatively easy to cut down in terms of the process. However, psychologically it is very difficult to let people go. Some of them may have given you and your business everything, often they become like a family. These will be some of the hardest decisions you will have to make.
1. Be transparent
2. Don’t burn the bridges

Marketing

Generally, try to optimise your marketing payment in a way that you would not have any fixed fees with unknown results. Paying per booking is OK (Google Ads, Facebook Ads), in case it makes sense economically.
If the government forbids people to leave homes (this is the current situation in Italy), then you are going to have zero bookings and income for the whole period. In this case, make sure you stop all campaigns and any marketing spend.

Other costs

Review all your other costs. You might find out that there are some unnecessary software subscriptions or similar expenses which are easy to cut down.

Employees

Start communicating with your employees early. Instruct them to stay home if they have any symptoms. Remind them about washing their hands and not touching the face. Make sure they have all the required disinfection tools and are instructed and trained accordingly.

Clients

  1. Allow cancellations if clients have any symptoms.
  2. Only do private games (this for the US).
  3. Offer single-use gloves.
  4. Provide hand gel dispenser and encourage clients to use wash hands or use it before and after the game.
  5. Make sure you are transparent about your cleaning policies – display this on a sing, and add your cleaning policy on the website, email etc.

Cleaning

  1. Increase time slots between the games
  2. Clean all surfaces (if possible) after each game.

Sell gift cards

Try asking your clients and enthusiasts in your area to buy your gift cards and this way support your business through the tough times. Often enthusiasts adore the rooms and are happy to help just to keep these rooms around.

Let’s help each other to keep the industry despite the circumstances. Please share if you find it useful.

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