Laser Tag: Big and Small Changes to Improve the Bottom Line

The fun of laser tag games is holding steady for customers of all ages nationwide. But each laser tag entertainment arena has their own tips and techniques to improve their bottom line.

At Rascals Family Fun Center in Honolulu, Hawaii, Manager Glen Peterson focuses on mainly locally based customers of all ages with his South American jungle theme laser tag attraction. Peterson has made no single big change to his game. “We’ve had this theme for a long time, and we enhanced it a couple of years ago with a remodel. But our theming is unsurpassed. We’ve had people come over from the mainland who tell us ours is the best laser tag they’ve seen. We’ve enhanced the 3D effects recently, but overall it’s our diverse, unique theme that keeps customers coming in, that uniqueness is what works for us.”

He said that children love the attraction, and while they predominate as customers, adults enjoy it, too. “After all we’re the only laser tag facility in the Hawaiian Islands. People respond well to our theme, so we have many repeat visitors.”

In Henderson, Nev., King Putt Mini’s Manager Maggie Swearingen draws more players to her facility with a laser tag membership. “The membership works because it makes people feel like they’re a part of something fun. We have regulars of all ages who come in with their cards, some even in their mid-30s. The cards are only $5. We give them out at children’s birthday parties, too, instead of goodie bags. They’re very excited that they have their own card, and that brings them back.” Swearingen also offers “Six games at just $15 Tuesday evenings between 7:30 and 9:30 p.m. This brings in an older crowd, teens to adults, during the week.”  King Putt Mini also offers schools, church groups and non-profits a discount when they come in as a further draw.

Noting that her crowd is primarily young children on weekends and older kids and adults on dates during the week, Swearingen said: “We learn day by day what our customers like. We’ve only been open a year and a half, but already we’ve changed things up in terms of the game length. We used to offer 10 minutes of play per game, and we found that people would be really exhausted. Now game length is seven and a half minutes, and with a shorter game, people are more likely to play another round.”

King Putt Mini averages a whopping 15 birthday parties a day for children 12 and under on the weekends. While these parties are a large draw, and the facility’s prime money maker, Swearingen also does well with lock-ins. “Lock-ins are weekends 1 a.m. to 5 or 6 a.m. You reserve in advance for groups of 30 or more. For $25 per person, they get five hours of play – laser tag, plus mini-golf, pizza and soda. People enjoy the excitement of being locked in, and so this is a solid draw.”

Located in Beaverton, Ore., Laserport provides laser tag fun for the southwest Portland area. Owner Bill Buhler draws customers by advertising extensively in the local community, and by donating to local schools and charity fundraisers. “We’ve been a part of the community for 20 years. We do a lot of specials throughout the month, provide giveaways at school auctions, things like that. The specials and our donations really draw people in. They work because they keep us a steady part of the community.”

Laserport also does extensive weekend birthday parties, which bring in his primary audience, school-age children. “That age range is about half of our business, and then about 15 percent are corporate groups, the rest are all ages, walk-ins who want to play.” Along with laser tag itself, his facility draws customers to its adjoining restaurant, the Copper Monkey Sports Bar. Buhler also updates his 5,000-square-foot laser tag arena often. “Our theme is space, we have a great moonscape, and we update it every year.”

Stratum Laser Tag in Mesa, Ariz., is known as the “World’s Largest Laser Tag Arena.” Manager Tommy Prestinario draws players in several ways. “We do a lot of promotions and local advertising, mailouts in the general area, and to existing customers. And of course, we do a lot of birthday parties. This lets people know we’re here, and what we have to offer.” As to trying new things “We’re always remodeling, so there’s something new for people to see. Keeping it fresh is the biggest thing for us. Our arena uses a comic book theme written specifically for us, called Darklings. Aliens have taken over a space station, and you’re playing to take it back. With 90 ramps, towers and bridges, Stratum isn’t your typical laser tag.”

Prestinario said his arena can accommodate up to 60 players at a time. “Our games last 20 to 25 minutes, and the arena itself is about 13,000 square feet on the ground level.” Stratum Laser draws a community of locals of all ages, and people from outside the immediate area who’ve heard good word of mouth about the facility.

In Arlington, Texas, at Alley Cats Bowl and Laser Tag, Game Room Rep Kevin Gerken said people come to his facility due to good word of mouth as well. “We also do advertising – both direct mail and online – throughout the Dallas metroplex area. But we find a lot of people bring their friends in, particularly on the weekend or if we’re having a special. We do unlimited laser tag until 5 p.m. during the week, and unlimited on Wednesday nights, too. People respond well because they’re looking for a good time and something that’s a bargain. We also appeal to groups, everyone’s welcome.” Gerken’s two story arena is built to be “an abandoned space station. To keep the game fresh we change lighting design, add new lasers in different patterns and change the music.”

Dan Muir, the owner of Nickel City in Orem, Utah, said his facility draws a lot of families. “We offer unlimited laser tag during the day. They can come in and play as much as they want. We try to price it pretty low; Tuesday’s were our slowest days so we set up this offer then. Because of this bargain, people will usually come into the arcade as well, and purchase food and beverages which is really good for us. We’ll definitely keep those kinds of specials going. Families need a reasonably priced activity and it works for them and for us.” Muir has also used marketing campaigns targeted at different groups in the area. “We’ve been more aggressive at reaching out, and that’s been very successful at drawing in new customers who might not have known about us, primarily families.”

Muir makes sure that the customers of his 4,000-square-foot facility won’t have the same experience each time they visit, too. “We do different kinds of games so that they’re not playing the same thing each time. That keeps them coming back, it’s more interesting. We have an outer space theme, that’s been consistent, but we constantly update the lights and music.”

With families his main customer base, Muir said, “Here in Utah, people are family oriented, and you need to offer cost savings to draw in larger family groups and make it viable. That’s what works well for us.”

All told, cost-saving specials, good word of mouth, and making sure the attraction itself is fresh and up-to-date are all techniques used by laser tag facilities nationwide to keep customers happy and coming back for more. –

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