As an escape room owner or even just an observant person, it’s easy to understand why escape rooms don’t get a ton of repeat business. Since each individual escape room has a replayability factor of zero, repeat business is limited to the number of rooms in operation, at least until you swap out rooms, but that’s dang expensive.
It’s the nature of the beast.
Luckily, the relative newness of the industry plays in favor of escape room owners since a very small percentage of the population even knows escape rooms exist. Plenty of room for growth in this industry, but let’s leave that for another topic.
So what can you do? Sell t-shirts? Sure, but that’s boring. Let’s try something different and dramatic. Even more different and dramatic than escape rooms? No way. Yes way!
For those not familiar with break rooms, let me fill you in. Also known as smash rooms, anger room, rage rooms, and ouchie rooms (just made that one up), break rooms are rooms where people pay to break stuff. And yes, they are a thing.
I was intrigued by his idea to diversify so I reached out to Steven to ask him a few of my (and I bet yours too) most pressing questions. Check it out.
How did Suite 201 Escape Room get started and what inspired you to open your escape room business?
Suite 201 escape room started in September 2017 but did not open until October 2017. I originally had the idea of opening an escape room in 2014. At the time I only had the business pictured in my head but did not really know how it would work or what it would be called nor did I know that the name if such is “escape room.” Later in 2014, I experienced my first escape room and knew that THAT was exactly what I wanted to have: an escape room business where people play a role/character according to the theme and have to find their way out.
What’s one thing you wish you’d known before starting Suite 201 Escape Room?
I guess one thing I wish I would’ve known was never to underestimate promoting the business. To be more clear, I wish I would have promoted the business from the beginning instead of waiting until the day everything was set and ready to go which caused a slow start.
What inspired you to branch off and open Break Room LA?
The inspiration to open “Break Room LA” was based on the way escape rooms work. Since I was a kid, I would always love to make people laugh, smile, and most importantly I always felt satisfied when I knew people were having a good time when being around me. With that being said, I did not like the fact that when I would do escape rooms with my girlfriend and/or friends we would get the same experience as to where we would sign waivers, start our game, and ended with escaping or not and then head out. So in order to change that and make my business, I asked myself. What can I do to have customers come back (as in escape rooms once a group has done your rooms, you won’t see them again until you have a new room set up)? And what can I do differently to where we can have groups of friends and family enjoy their time as one of the main reason people come to an escape room is to have fun and enjoy spending time with family and friends, and from there is where I got my inspiration to opening Break Room LA.
Were there any additional legal or insurance implications involved with adding Break Room LA?
Yes, insurance wise I did have to upgrade my policy as people are more exposed to getting hurt (based on insurance views). So far we have had zero accidents, not one small cut nor injury. The cost of insurance increased by 40%.
What sort of safety precautions did you need to implement to make Break Room LA possible?
Safety gear was a MUST, face shields and gloves are to be worn at all times once inside the room. Customers get the option to waive the use of a body suit and vest BUT are recommended when breaking glass.
How do you decide which personal break items customers can and cannot bring to Break Room LA?
We take safety precautions as to what people cannot bring for their safety and others in the facility. For example, we do not allow light bulbs due to the release of toxic chemicals such as argon and mercury. If a customer does bring items that are prohibited, then they have the option to take them back with them or leave them with us and have us process it to the recycling center.
Can you describe your partnership with SCV Recycling?
I figured if I wanted to open a room where people can break things then I would need to collect non-working items. Before getting the Break Room started, I tried establishing posts on Craigslist and social media where I would collect their non-working items and process them to the correct place such as a recycling center. That did no go so well, I did get at least 2 responses, and well that wasn’t enough for what I wanted to establish and run. I soon then remembered my dad took me with him once to a local recycling center where they recycled all sorts of things. A week later I contacted SCV by going there personally and constantly calling and emailing asking to speak with the owner. It was a nervous situation for me as this is all new for me and talking to another business owner and asking for a partnership was something I had never done. I did not know what to expect or say other than present my idea, which the owner Jose Z. loved and was more than happy to jump onboard.
What has been the customer reception so far? Have they enjoyed Break Room LA? Do you think it’s something you’ll continue long-term?
Our customers range from couples to single persons in a group trying it out. Once the rest of the group see someone breaking items, it motivates them to try it out too. Customers LOVE the idea of a Break Room as its one of the first business =established like this in the San Fernando Valley and a different experience for people to enjoy. Yes, it is definitely something I will be continuing long-term and add new experiences along the way.
Do you find that Break Room LA helps you achieve more repeat business?
So far we have not had customers return twice to the break room as we are into our 7th week being open but we do have customers saying they will bring someone who would enjoy the experience and we have had people return from those who have done the escape room.
Is the clientele for Break Room LA different than Suite 201 Escape Room?
So far it seems to attract the same clientele to both the escape room and the break room.
About how much of your business comes from Break Room LA versus Suite 201?
As of now, about 15% which is a big number considering the short time we have been open. At the same time, it promotes people to try out our escape room too for those who have never tried it out before.
Do you find you need to inform customers that the escape room isn’t meant for breaking things?
No, I do not. In fact, I have not once had to let people know that the escape room is not for breaking things. Before getting a group started in the escape room, we go over rules and guidelines for a great and safe experience. But I have had to let customers know that the break room IS NOT an escape room, but a room meant for breaking things.
What is the craziest or most memorable customer interaction you’ve had so far?
I wouldn’t call it craziest but memorable experience where the break room has attracted the attention of influencers, and they have vlogged about their experience.
What is the #1 piece of advice you’d give an escape room owner interested in adding on a break room to their escape room business?
One piece and the most important piece of advice I would give is to be sure to know where you’re going to get your items and make your prices affordable. As well as your insurance policy.
Anything else you’d like to share about Break Room LA or your Suite 201 Escape Room?
Break Room LA will soon become its own independent business in a new and improved location. Where soon customers will be able to unleash their energy on a car!! Yes, a car! which will also be provided by our local recycling center, and the space left in the current facility will be used to do more escape rooms! Because escape rooms are life, haha! The current plan is to start off with 1 car on the weekend. Based on the request we get we will see what the max would be and how often it will be.
Suite 201 Escape Room is opening 2 new rooms soon: “La Guerra De Bogotá”, based on a Narcos: Cartel theme and “Charlie” based in on a stalker/ horror theme. Next time you’re in the LA area, go check them out!