February and March 2020. We are facing a challenge that has been unthinkable just several months before. As cities and countries worldwide are being quarantined off, economy collapses. The escape room industry has been hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic.
In an unlucky coincidence, these times of the pandemic is the most important time in the ER industry development. Read on to learn how to adapt to the new reality and emerge as a winner from these circumstances.
It should be noted that these tips cannot be applied universally: they depend on the conditions in individual countries.
If there is still no blanket quarantine requirement in your country, the first thing you should do is to ensure adequate disinfection and advertise it to your potential guests.
If our initial premise is that EVERYTHING is closed in your country and there are curfews, use these recommendations.
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Sell game gift certificates
Ask you game masters to do some telemarketing. Do you have a player database? Ask your admins to call them with an offer to buy certificates at a discount valid for a game in 1, 2 to 3 months.
Write a detailed conversation script, search for recommendations online, in other words, make sure that you are duly prepared. This might save your business for the next month or two.
A good idea is to contact restaurants, cafes, and other escape rooms in the neighborhood and offer them to share client databases. Try and target as wide an audience as possible.
Online sales is a great option, too. Write newsletters and personalized emails. Legal requirements as to personal data vary between countries, so use our recommendations and take notice of your local provisions.
If you are contacting people who never went to your game before, let them know what your escape rooms are about and why they should try them.
Keep in mind that the isolation will be over sooner or later, so people will be really hungry for excitement.
Remote Escape Rooms
A crisis creates new opportunities, and coronavirus is not an exception! The only things you need are a couple of professional cameras and a GoPro-style camera attached to your game master’s head. Now your game master is a playable character. Invite your players to join in the fun by controlling this character from the comfort of their homes. It’s like a computer game but with real props and living breathing human beings. Let the players instruct the game master to open caches, locate clues and enter passwords. Market these games as a new brand of fun. It will be in demand long after the quarantine is over, because not many people will still be keen in visiting crowded places. You may need to make some minor adjustments to your script, though most linear escape rooms can easily be played remotely.
Escape rooms are generally small businesses, so they are eligible for government support. The amount of support varies across countries, but the trend is the same for Europe, USA and Canada, with 50% to 100% of wages covered by the government. In many countries there are also tax breaks and utilities concessions. For your reference, here is an overview of government support activities in different countries:
The USA announced a 3 month tax break for small to medium businesses. A low-interest coronavirus loan fund is initiated. Escape room owners will be assisted in payment of wages, but exact data are not available in the moment.
In Canada, wages are covered by mandatory insurance, with the amount of payment depending on individual income but no more than CAD 575 per week. This also concerns self-employed people who are not covered by employer insurance. A CAD 10 billion fund is established to finance low-interest loans.
What’s in Europe?
France looks the best prepared in terms of government support. From the start, the French government issued a statement that no one would have to go bankrupt. The government will cover 100% of employee wages. Rent and utilities payment assistance is also announced. Six-month loans will be approved for all businesses. All taxes will be deferred to as soon as the payments are made. Small businesses will also promptly receive a lump sum payment of EUR 1500 as an emergency support measure.
Germany offers government guaranteed loans to help boost the economy in times of recess and decreased cash flow.
Switzerland pays 80% of wages for all businesses affected by the quarantine. However, business owners and hourly wage employees are not included.
Belgium also offers government support, but to a lesser degree. It will help you last a month or two, but some of the businesses will inevitably go bankrupt.
Italy, the pandemic hotspot in Europe. The government instructed all businesses to pay normal wages despite the nationwide quarantine. The government also pays EUR 100 per month to all employees. The only benefit received by the businesses is a mere lump sum payment of EUR 500.
Norway supports businesses by deferring tax payments and offering lower tax rates. Escape room owners have to cut wages to make up for most of the month lost to the quarantine but it can’t be called government support.
Russia has not announced any government support measures yet, though a month-long quarantine is already in place.
Israel offered businesses to send all their employees on holiday. A tax break is announced. Maybe, there will be other government support measures, but nothing is certain yet.
We recommend you to make every effort and secure your government benefits. Don’t hesitate to negotiate with your landlords to defer payments or to get discounts.
Make the most of your online presence
Do you have social media accounts? It’s just the place where all your players are now. Tweak your social media accounts to the max! Organize contests, sweepstakes, competitions, all kinds of activities. This will be the groundwork of your future sales to make up for the losses of the downtime. Market new formats and services while you are in quarantine.
If you have an advertising campaign in place, don’t suspend it. You can market remote games or game vouchers to your loyal audience using these targeted ads.
Use your time wisely
Have you ever thought about the statistical side of your escape room business? Do you know where your players stay longer, what they like more and what leaves them unimpressed? If you didn’t have time to research it, now you have ample opportunity to do so and save on future upgrades.
Run a thorough analysis and don’t let your location stay idle gathering dust. Correct your script as needed. Get rid of any bottlenecks, for example, locations that fail to attract players.
If you had plans to expand, now may be the best time to invest in new rooms. Of course, the situation is volatile but we all know that it won’t last longer than 1-3 months. This might be enough for you to launch a new room and save on opening. We manufacture escape rooms and give tailored discounts to all new customers in these troubled times. We also offer convenient payment terms. Escape rooms will be all the rage after the quarantine is over, and your new location will pay off in no time.
Our business has never faced such difficult times. But it will be over soon. Crisis brings new opportunities. Use this time to the utmost!
If you have any ideas how to adapt to the pandemic, you’re welcome to share!
Alexander Girshfeld is the founder of “INDESTROOM“, the largest escape room factory. Alexander joined ER industry in 2013 as Co-owner of one of the largest ER chains in Russia (30 rooms). In 2015 “INDESTROOM” was founded. Now it is the 40,000 sq ft full-cycle production and 15 the latest generation turnkey escape rooms per month. Indestroom created already more than 500 escape rooms and shipped them worldwide. Alexander has a degree in Master of Marketing and Advertising at Leeds University Business School and Higher School of Economics. He joined more than 170 escape rooms experts in INDESTROOM to create incredible escape rooms of any complexity. His factory saves you the effort and stress of complicated ‘do-it-yourself’ construction so that all you have to do is play!