How Escape Rooms Tripled the Revenue for Crave Golf Club
If you’ve ever been to the Pigeon Forge area in Tennessee, you know it’s one of the most popular tourist destinations in the country. Folks from all over the US flock to the hotspot, especially in the summer months, to enjoy the mountains, museums, shopping, and family entertainment centers.
One of the most popular FECs in Pigeon Forge is Crave Golf Club. Founded in September of 2017, Crave is primarily a mini golf facility that has two different 19-hole mini golf courses, one inside and one outside on the roof. The facility is themed around candy, chocolate, ice cream, and other “craveable” goods. Crave is one of three entertainment centers, along with TopJump and Lumberjack Feud, that is owned and managed by Chucky Blalock and his family.
In June of 2019, we installed two new escape rooms at Crave Golf Club. Our VP of Marketing, Danny Gruening, recently spoke with Blalock to see how the escape rooms have impacted his business. Read on to learn how Blalock tripled his revenue and boosted profitability with this attraction.
Making a Big Change
Prior to the escape rooms, Crave Golf Club had a milkshake bar in the same area. “To complement [the thematic elements of Crave], we looked to the food side of things. So, originally we opened up with a milkshake bar. We learned that that’s not the best idea from a cleaning perspective to have people trying to carry milkshakes all throughout our facility,” laughed Blalock.
While the milkshakes may have been a cleaning nightmare, Blalock said the biggest issue was from a labor perspective. “When we looked at our profitability of that space, per square foot, it wasn’t performing to what we needed it to.”
There were several issues. First, the bar wasn’t getting enough sales. Also, “from a profit per square foot perspective, it was getting blown away by every other aspect of our business.”
Additionally, cost of goods and labor were two big issues bogging the bar down. The milkshake bar had to be consistently staffed by 4-6 people at all times. And with such a low per-cap rate on the bar, it was very inefficient to operate. “We were looking for something to cut our labor and to cut our cost of goods.”
Blalock and the Crave team had determined it was time for a change. Now, it was time to figure out what was going to take the spot of the milkshake bar.
Filling the Void
For Blalock and the team, it was important to find an attraction that was labor-efficient and had no COGS (cost of goods sold). Initially, they were looking at a few options, including laser mazes, bumper cars, and escape rooms. Ultimately, escape rooms were the attraction they decided to move forward with. “We were looking for something that was easy to maintain and labor efficient and that’s how we landed on escape rooms.”
The next step was to determine an escape room vendor to work with. Since Blalock had worked with us on several attractions for his other facilities in the past, we were at the top of mind for him.
“We’ve done a couple of different things with you guys in the past and so we know that we like working with you. I don’t even think we looked at anybody else, more specifically because we were looking at the autonomous rooms and nobody offers those.”
Autonomous escape rooms are self-guided, auto-resetting rooms that are shorter, 30-minute single-room experiences in about 150-250 square feet. For Crave, these rooms were the perfect attraction to slash labor costs and maintain high throughput. “With those autonomous rooms, we can really run two escape rooms with about a person and a half.”
So far for Crave, the customer reactions have been great. “Yes, they love it. Our reviews are very positive…the guests really, they like the themes.”
“Our reviews are very positive…the guests really, they like the themes.”
Cutting down the labor in that particular space from 4-6 people to basically 1.5 people has had a huge impact on Crave’s numbers. Blalock explains the difference: “When we were looking at our ice cream bar, we were looking somewhere in the neighborhood of $80,000 to $85,000 a year in labor. Now looking at the escape rooms we’re looking somewhere in the neighborhood of maybe 40,000– maybe 50,000.” The labor costs alone were cut in half.
Revenue and Profitability
In addition to reduced labor costs, our escape rooms have helped Crave increase both revenues and profitability per square foot in the space.
“Our revenues compared to our ice cream bar were up like almost 170% over a full year. That’s almost tripling the revenue compared to what it was. Then as far as our profitability goes, our labor went down and our cost of goods went away. Our profitability is up about 650% per square foot in that space. That’s just a huge increase. That’s just free cash flow to the bottom line. That’s been a big deal.”
“Our profitability is up about 650% per square foot in that space.”
Another huge change to Crave’s financial numbers was the per-capita (per-guest) spending numbers. When Crave had the milkshake bar, prior to the escape rooms, Blalock shared that the per-cap was about $0.60 per person.
“Now our per cap in escape rooms is about $1.80. It’s almost a 300% increase per capita. That’s huge. If you have 100,000 people coming through your doors and you can make an extra $1.20 a person, you just made another $120,000. That’s usually all straight to the bottom line, increasing your per-cap rate/your cost of goods sold and stuff like that. With escape rooms, there is no cost of goods sold.”
Advice to Other Operators
We asked Blalock if he had any advice to operators who are considering adding escape rooms. About the autonomous rooms specifically, Blalock said, “if you’re going to do an autonomous room, make sure you have a tech-savvy person that’s working with you.”
Blalock also touched on the importance of marketing the attraction correctly. For Crave Golf Club specifically, he explained that people don’t normally come for escape rooms. And that’s ok, but it’s all about establishing your identity as a business.
“Making sure that you understand before you make the decision of, are you trying to be an escape room place? Or are you trying to be a family entertainment center that has escape rooms? And looking at how you’re going to market that from a packaging perspective on your internal menu boards.”
Escape rooms work great both as an anchor attraction in an escape room business, and as a complimentary attraction, such as in the case of Crave. Additionally, escape rooms are a great attraction during the COVID times because of the inherent socially distanced experiences with small groups. If you are interested in learning more about our escape room solutions, visit our escape rooms page or download the free presentation below!