Setting up, Tasks

The following is a guide to what is involved in opening a DarkLight Laser Tag facility. It highlights various criteria for decision-making and gives an indication of the scope of jobs ahead of you. A lot of it may appear obvious but we have witnessed how easy it is to miss some of the most basic points.

  1. Write a PROVISIONAL Business plan – You will need to convince investors of a) the viability of Laser Tag as a business b) that you are the right person to make the business a success. Even if you are funding this entirely yourself, having gone through the motions of selling you/your team to others brings a lot of home truths out in to the open.

    • Get provisional funding – assuming you don’t have all the cash available this might take some time and it is worth lining up your options as early as possible even if you can’t secure anything until you have your building and operational details finalised. You could Approach banks for a loan – do you have sufficient assets you can offer as security?
    • Find investors to finance it -. Will they be your active partners or will they be silent, providing just money and leaving you to organise everything and run the finished facility (unlikely if they are putting up most or all the funding!)
    • Investigate lease agreements for the larger capital-cost items (such as the laser tag system itself) – (see Links page) but you will need to satisfy the lending institution’s criteria for credit worthiness so you will need to have assets and a good credit rating
    • Apply for a Govenment Backed Loan – SBA in the USA or Small Firms Loan Guarantee in the UK which might help you with the bank negotiations.

  2. Choose a geographical region – the most important key to your success will be the demographics of the area in which you find your location. It shouldn’t need saying but here it is anyway… you will need a good market to sustain your business. Laser Tag is not cheap to play and will therefore need to be supported by many of the right type of customers who can afford to play, preferably many times. The practicalities of being able to manage it easily from where you live is another major consideration. Look at potential competition from other leisure activities – they may be complimentary or not.
  3. Find a building with

    • low rent – this is the key to keeping your overheads down. All the other ongoing costs can be managed relative to your busy periods but your rent carries on relentlessly.
    • high visibility from a busy public place – be it a busy road, pedestrian shopping area, whatever.
    • good access from the street – make it easy for people to get in there!
    • sufficient parking – this will be crucial – both for reason of your customer’s convenience, but it may well also fall under your local authority’s requirements in terms of building size, and occupancy levels.
    • enough space for

      1. Your Laser Tag arena – Although the number of players that can play in a space is determined more by the density of fittings and on how many levels, as a rule of thumb, a small arena for say, 12-16 players, needs to be around 2,000 – 2,500 sq.ft (200 – 250 sq.mt), and a large arena for, say 30 players, needs to be around 4,000 – 5,000 sq.ft (400 – 500 sq.mt).
      2. Party rooms – essential for accommodating your main target market. Birthday parties are the bread and butter of almost all successful laser tag facilities..
      3. Arcade games – the most obvious and easy way to take more revenue from those waiting to play.
      4. Somewhere for customers to sit in comfort – although this may be less necessary for players waiting to play, visit any Laser Tag centre on a busy Saturday afternoon and there are always parents hanging around waiting enduringly for their children to finish playing. This is often the sum of their experience. If it is pleasant for them they are going to be happy to stay and since they often make the decision as to whether their child can play again and pay for them they become the secondary target market.
      5. Providing refreshments if not food – basic drink dispensers are a must and a significant source of revenue as playing laser tag often makes players thirsty and again it will be the parents and the older clientèle that will appreciate this most and therefore quality is a significant factor too.
      6. A briefing room – this is the first part of the whole game experience which sets the atmosphere.
      7. A vesting room – Packs are spaced at 50 – 60 cm (20 – 24″) intervals and whilst a central partition can be put in to create more walls space, corners, standing room and doorways must still be taken into consideration
      8. A control room – Just inside the arena, accessed from the vesting room, this is an essential for smooth operations and good control over the game. This is where the game computer will be housed as well as any lighting and sound control equipment.
      9. A utility/tech room – somewhere a tech can do simple work on any equipment.
      10. A conveniently placed office – as central as possible to operations to maximise efficient management.
      11. Utilities and storage, etc –
      12. Toilets/Rest Rooms – Mothers will judge your operation by your toilets.

  4. Initialise negotiation with the relevant authorities – such as health & safety, fire, and building control in order to get your designs through. Involving them at the earliest possible stage is well worthwhile as you are less likely to go down a dead end and most importantly, authorities like to feel they are welcome participants in the setting up process and you are therefore more likely to get a positive response
  5. Design the building layout – to get costings and make sure it is going to work within budget. This is a task that DarkLight can help with (see Products>VBR Design).
  6. Design the arena layout – This is also a service that DarkLight can supply (see Products>Arena Design).
  7. Meet, organise and schedule all the building contractors – (even if you do it all through one general contractor you often end up helping organise many of the sub-contractors). Are they punctual, reliable and financially secure? How high on their priority list will your project be?
  8. Write a FULL business plan – detailing the entire operation now that you have found your building and know exactly what all the costs and commitments will be.
  9. Secure Finances – now that you have all the details of your business it’s crunch time.
  10. Sign the lease – Get professional help with your lease negotiations as commercial leasing can be a minefield of problems for a newcomer.
  11. Initiate the construction phase – manage and coordinate all the construction workmen on-site
  12. Recruit and train all your staff – putting a good management structure in place is critical if you are ever going to be able to delegate any portion of your business. Laser Tag is a customer service dependent product and the quality of the presentation by the staff is as important as any other element of the business. Again, a significant portion of the target market is the parents of the children who play. The ability of your staff to please the parents will significantly affect your repeat business.
  13. Marketing – Know your target market and be incisive in how you appeal to it.
    • Branding and artwork – If you choose to use the DarkLight brand we can supply a lot of the artwork and templates (see Marketing). If not, you will need to choose an image, a brand and a logo and develop all the associated artwork. Unless you have lots of time and are a graphics designer you need will to involve one.
    • Passive marketing (information you make available to those who look) –

    • Web page – This is the age of the web and a good web site is of paramount importance. We can supply you with all your web services from registration to hosting, building and maintaining (see Web Services). Whether we supply you or not, your website will be the most effective piece of passive marketing that you do.
    • Advertising in papers, magazines – effective if there are a good number of the target market amongst the readers proportionate to the cost of the advert.
    • Signage – what message does it convey and how many of your target market will see it.
    • Cinema, TV, Radio – this can be expensive. Make sure it pays back.

  14. Canvassing – The more pro-active you are with your marketing the better. Having a good, dedicated sales person can pay huge dividends. Once you have decided who your target markets are, it is your job to find them, let them know about you and to entice them to come to your centre. Find what groups in your area organise entertainment and team building outings and make contact with them.
  15. Finishing touches – These always take more time than predicted and are much more difficult to get done once you are open such as
    • Reception area décor
    • Arena artwork and themeing
    • Effects lighting

If the above list of tasks sounds daunting then it is worth considering whether you want to set up a Laser Tag Centre. Without exception, all our customers have gone through all these processes either in roughly the above order or playing a desperate game of catch-up…. fire-fighting due to lack of advanced planning and diligence.