How to Start a Laser Tag Business

June 29, 2021 Laserforce

So you’re thinking about starting a laser tag business?! Congratulations! You’re entering a dynamic and rewarding industry that is both exceptionally profitable and exceptionally fulfilling for owners and operators. 

Starting any business from scratch, particularly a laser tag center, can seem like a daunting prospect. You likely have endless questions and concerns that need to be addressed. Let’s start with some of the most common ones we get:

Who should start a laser tag business?

Anyone who has dreamed of owning their own business, enjoys working with people and wants to be part of an enthusiastic community is a great candidate for owning a laser tag business. You don’t have to be an avid laser tag player (but it certainly doesn’t hurt!), but you do need to have an entrepreneurial spirit and a love of having fun! 

Our Laserforce operators come from all walks of life–retired couples who weren’t ready to golf and shuffleboard all day, former Fortune 500 executives looking for a new and rewarding career, laser tag center staff who wanted to branch out on their own after working through the ranks, avid laser tag players who wanted to make laser tag their career, and everything in between.  

What costs are involved in starting a laser tag business?

There are significant costs to starting a laser tag business, we won’t sugar coat it. To build a laser tag business from the ground up, you’ll need to set a budget anywhere from $100,000 to upwards of $250,000 USD. The largest investments for a laser tag startup include:

  • Lease or purchase of building, typically between 3,000 and 5,000 square feet
  • Design and construction of the arena and other spaces (e.g., restrooms, ticketing area, concessions, briefing rooms)
  • Laser tag equipment – plan for one laser tag battlesuit for every 120 square feet of space (but a good supplier will work with you  to achieve your goals no matter your constraints)
  • Staff wages 
  • Insurance, licenses and permits 
  • Marketing and advertising

Are laser tag businesses profitable?

Yes, indeed! An efficient laser tag site will achieve 15-40% profit after management wages but before tax, interest and depreciation. 

It’s not only profitable but extremely lucrative if managed effectively. The average laser tag center puts through approximately 1,100 player games per week, with many sites easily pushing beyond 2,400. Depending on your region, you will be able to charge between $7 per game (in regional areas) and $11 per game (in metropolitan areas) – now you do the math! Many of our operators have reported that their Laserforce system paid for itself in less than 12 months.

The key to making a laser tag business profitable, nay lucrative, is to run at capacity as often as possible. The more hours per week you run at capacity, the more money you make. And the most successful way to run at capacity is to drive repeat play through marketing to get people into the door, membership programs to bring players back time and again, staff efficiencies to get games through quickly, and reliable equipment to operate consistently at peak. 

Learn more about if laser tag businesses are profitable.

Who is the target market for a laser tag center?

Laser tag spans numerous demo- and geographics. People of all ages, genders and interests enjoy the stress relief, exercise and competition that laser tag offers. 

The greatest demand comes from children aged 7 to 13, typically for birthday parties, and younger adults aged 16 to 25. These younger adults often spend the most money. Check out this breakdown of typical age groups for laser tag players:

Laser Tag Business Target Market

A typical breakdown of customer types at any laser tag center is:

  • 50% – Children and teenagers (birthday parties and celebrations)
  • 23% – Team building or corporate events
  • 22% – Friend and/or family groups, tourists

On average, across all age groups and locations, male players drive two-thirds of the demand. However, at our Laserforce centers, this does vary somewhat by age–for example, the male/female split is equal at age 15, which can be attributed to our efforts to ensure fairness of play and our more stylish-looking arenas and laser tag equipment

What are the ongoing expenses for a laser tag business?

The two main ongoing operating expenses for a laser tag business are employee wages and rent (or building loan repayments). Together, these account for about 45-50% of your gross takings. Other key expenses include electricity, insurance and advertising. Check out this handy chart to understand the appropriate breakdown of ongoing expenses for a laser tag business:

Laser Tag Business Expenses

What are the space requirements for a laser tag business?

We have very successful laser tag centers operating as small as 1,500 square feet (140 square meters) and the largest laser tag arena being as 10,000 square feet (930 square meters), while the average size is between 3,000 and 5,000 square feet (280-470 square meters). For the best laser tag attraction and experience, we recommend planning for 110 square feet (10 square meters) for every player. 

We also recommend creating a two-level laser tag arena, if possible. Most arenas today are two-levels, and this offers more flexibility and options for creating an exciting and varied player experience. However, we’ve also worked with arenas of all sizes and levels, and there are ways to make any arena just as exciting. Work with your arena builder and laser tag equipment supplier to determine the best options for your business.

How can I increase revenue for my laser tag business?

There are numerous ways to increase revenue for your laser tag business. First and foremost is ensuring you have a robust and innovative laser tag system that players will want to come back to again and again. Next is understanding how to take advantage of all the features available in your system, and leveraging those features throughout your arena, location and marketing channels. 

Here are some other ways to increase revenue:

  • Offer membership cards – a laser tag membership system encourages your customers to come back again and again to unlock new abilities, collect achievements and hone their skills.
  • Create a laser tag league or competitive event at your location – leagues and competitions not only bring in repeat customers, but can also turn spectators on to the game.
  • Sell concessions –  food and drink provide an additional revenue stream, and can be a differentiator from other amusement centers in your area.
  • Sell branded merchandise – offer t-shirts, hats, stickers and other merch branded specifically for your center.
  • Offer other activities and attractions – Laser tag is a main attraction and can certainly be the only activity you offer at your business; however, creating a comprehensive family entertainment center with bowling, trampolines, arcades, go-karts and/or other attractions certainly opens up new revenue streams through increased ticket sales and footfall.
  • Marketing & Advertising – Hang posters and flyers inside your center, run ads on your local radio station, build player excitement on your social media channels, connect with customers through an email newsletter – whether it’s offline or online, there are numerous ways to reach and engage your target audience through marketing and advertising.

Now that we’ve addressed the most common question, let’s dig into the key steps in opening a laser tag business:

Research the Market + Create a Business Plan

According to IBISWorld, the laser tag market in the US alone is $373.1 million in 2021. And that is expected to increase due to the increasing availability of leisure time leading to an increased demand for recreational activities. 

What’s more, people are increasingly looking for, and willing to pay for, experiences rather than products. Being suited up in a Gen8 battlesuit set in the background of a well-themed fantasy wonderland or dystopian wasteland is very, well, Instagrammable. And that goes a long way with consumers of many ages.

There are likely variations in your local market, and that’s really where you should be doing your market research. Check out similar laser tag and family entertainment centers in your area to understand their pricing and membership models, location and foot traffic and marketing efforts. Consider what you will offer that will be different. “It needs to be either a better environment or a better product, or the best scenario – both!” says Jason Wallace, Entertainment Industry Consultant with Laserforce.

Also consider what type of laser tag business you want to run. Will you have a laser tag arena with laser tag as the primary attraction, a family entertainment center with multiple activities like trampolines, bowling and go-karts, or will you run a mobile laser tag site?

Once you’ve done your due diligence and determined your key elements and differentiators, it’s time to put together a formal business plan. Entrepreneur magazine has tips on formulating that business plan.

Pick the Ideal Location

Your location can make or break your laser tag business’s profitability and success. Not only do you need to ensure that there’s enough space in the actual building to house the laser tag arena and common areas, but you also want a site that is close to shopping and restaurants to provide foot traffic and offers ample parking options. 

Select Your Laser Tag Equipment

Your choice for commercial laser tag equipment is critical. A low-end system that simply allows players to zap each other may save you on price, but it will cost you in the long run on maintenance and lack of repeat play features. 

A high-end system that includes the most cutting-edge hardware, POS integration, player handicapping, advanced role-playing games, interactive features, social media integration, diagnostic tools and ongoing support is what will drive word-of-mouth, repeat play and, most importantly, ROI.

Design Your Laser Tag Arena 

Designing your arena is right up there with selecting the best laser tag equipment for your business. The layout of your building, flow-through common areas, and arena devices and elements are pivotal to creating an enjoyable, entertaining and immersive experience for your players. 

The shape of the game play arena, number of levels, ceiling height, lighting, decorations are all important design aspects to consider. Also, look for arena components such as base stations, beacon targets and generators that can provide interactive and challenging elements.   

If you’d prefer to have the design and build of your arena handled by a professional, we can definitely put you in contact with some laser tag arena designers that we recommend. But it never hurts to do your own research and get to know who’s out there.

In addition to the main game play area, you’ll need to factor in space for a briefing area (explaining how to play the game, use the equipment, and important safety information), vesting room (where players suit-up and the equipment is charged), maintenance area, restrooms, ticketing area, and concessions. 

Obtain Licenses + Permits

Obtaining the right licenses and permits for your business and your locality is essential. Failure to do so could result in hefty fines or even result in your laser tag business being shut down. Be sure to check with your city, county, state, country to determine what documents you need to establish and run your business. 

Secure Financing + Get Insurance

Will you be funding your laser tag business from your own money, or will you need investors or financing to get you off the ground? If you’d prefer to secure finance independently, your laser tag sales representative should be able to point you in the right direction.

Some laser tag suppliers (Laserforce included) offer flexible payment options designed to lower start up costs and assist cash flow. Be sure to discuss this option with each of your suppliers and vendors. 

To operate safely and legally, you’ll need to obtain business insurance. This will protect your laser tag company’s financial wellbeing in the case of a covered loss. Also, consider if you want–or in some regions, need–to carry workers compensation insurance to cover your employees. 

Get the Word Out

People won’t come to your laser tag arena if they don’t know it exists. That’s why marketing and advertising are imperative for reaching your target market and driving recurring revenue. 

Run ads in your local newspaper or radio station, partner with nearby businesses to cross-promote, invite local influencers to a free game in exchange for coverage, send out direct mailers and email newsletters, post fliers around town, host parties and events, reach out to corporate event planners, schools and churches in your area, actively manage social media profiles for your site, create listings on Google Maps, Yelp, and other local directories. There are near-endless ways to get the word out about your new business, and your imagination is really the only limitation!

Now that you have answers to the most common questions about starting a laser tag business and a checklist of the key steps, connect with us for a free consultation. Our experienced and knowledgeable laser tag consultants will help answer any other questions you have and provide continued guidance on turning your laser tag dream into a reality!

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