Food and Laser Tag
April 4, 2013
Top Tips to Zap Hunger and Thirst
Laser tag is a dual-personality activity. For some, it serves as birthday party entertainment or a workplace teambuilding event. For other players, the experience is more about the sweat and grit of an athletic competition. Facility operators take those different approaches into consideration when planning their food offerings, stocking snack areas and cafes with everything from full-on meals to energy-focused sports beverages.
When looking at laser tag from a sporting perspective, Dave Jackson, owner of Laser Edge in Clinton Township, Mich., said that their 10-20 minute laser tag sessions are “very physical” and that during a player’s downtime it’s important to refuel. Games like “Capture the Flag” and “Dungeons and Dragons” leave players drained and hungry.
“It takes a lot of energy to participate in laser tag and players need refreshment to rebuild their stamina after playing two or three games,” he said “We get lots of families here and while the kids can go all night, the adults need a break.”
Guests at Laser Edge, which number 2,000 to 10,000 per year, enjoy pizza from a local vendor, served at the laser tag facility. However, those looking for a quick boost go for energy drinks or candy, selections that Jackson refered to as “grab and go” food that people can eat there or take with them.
Chris Bronson, operations manager of The Lost City laser tag in Holland, Mich., also gears his facility’s food selections to a more athletic crowd. Pizza is a popular item in the café, he said, but the fast-serve items may top the list of what visitors ask for most often.
“This isn’t a place where people come to sit and eat,” Bronson said. “Bottles of Powerade or water move quickly as people like to grab some refreshment between games or after they’re done playing, to drink on their way home.”
Bronson noticed slower growth a few years ago and, while without providing specific attendance figures, said he definitely has seen twice the number of guests at his facility this year. In general, laser tag operators report the activity’s rising popularity, helping to give the industry a boost and maintain profit margins.
While Kevin Wayne, manager of Planet Trog in Whitehall, Pa., agreed that laser tag is just as much a sport as it is an entertaining activity, he differs from other establishments on what types of refreshments are best for his guests.
“I don’t believe in energy drinks,” said Wayne. “I don’t think they’re good for kids so I won’t offer them.”
The snack area at Planet Trog does sell a wide selection of pizza, hot dogs and hamburgers. Although Wayne’s culinary selections are popular among guests, overall, food sales are not a large part of his business, he said.
Regardless of the choice of refreshment, Jackson believes the edible offerings at Laser Edge play an important role in his business operation, even though it represents just a small part of his overall revenue.
“Food enhances the day,” said Jackson. “Having food available gives people a reason to stay longer.”
Organizers at Laser Tag & Games in Metarie, La., take a cue from the business world by using effective time management to work food breaks into their visitor’s game schedules. General Manager Christy Dillard said games are organized so that players can take breaks. They can pre-order food to be ready and waiting when they’re done playing.
“By coordinating food and play time, we can offer visitors more than just a day of laser tag,” she said. “We can offer them an entire experience. People don’t have to leave to get food.”
Pizza is among the facility’s best-selling food selections, along with chicken wraps, Dillard said. Other selections include hot dogs, chicken tenders and pre-packaged snakes and beverages. Families planning birthday parties at Laser Tag & Games can bring in their own cakes, but that is the only food selection that can be brought into the facility.
Food accounts for about 20 percent of Laser Tag & Games’ annual revenue, Dillard said. Overall, she said the economic downturn has not affected the business, as she finds more people looking to stay near home for fun and entertainment, rather than taking elaborate vacations that involve hours of travel. The interest in “staycations” keeps the establishment’s attendance numbers in the thousands, she said, especially in the months leading up to Mardi Gras.
“If people are going to spend money they want to go to a quality establishment,” Dillard said.
Laser tag facility operators are also paying close attention to where their patrons spend their money, working to maximize revenue in the most efficient way possible. For the Ultrazone Laser Tag organization, which owns and operates 10 locations from the Mid-Atlantic States to Florida, the focus is primarily on games, with food handling coming from outside sources.
“We sell beverages on site, but our main source of food at our locations is an outside pizza establishment,” said Mike Lausten, vice president with Ultrazone Laser Tag, corporate owner of Laser Xtreme Family Fun Center in Cleveland, Ohio. “We order pizzas for our customers in advance and time it so that the food is delivered for when they are done playing.”
In many instances, he said, visitors bring their own food or in some cases, even hire caterers to prepare and serve food for parties and other events.
Lausten explained that this business model, where food doesn’t really factor in to the overall bottom line, works best for the facilities within their corporate organization. He believes that it is a “matter of simplicity.”
“Our focus is on laser tag and providing visitors with the best playing experience possible,” he adds. “We’re not in the restaurant business.”
In the end, laser tag operators are looking to their guests for guidance in what they want to see in a facility’s food area, whether it’s full party fare or energy-boosting nourishment. –