Building An Empire
You’re locked inside a room for an hour. Piecing together puzzles and solving riddles is the only way to escape. The only weapon you have is your wits.
Known as live escape games, these attractions are becoming one of the fastest-growing entertainment sectors in the world. Orlando, Fla.-based Escapology has experienced this trend firsthand.
“There is a growing interest in escape rooms,” says Steve Croughan, director of operations. “I think people like escape games because they are challenging, exciting and thought provoking. It makes people have to speak to each other and put their phones away for the hour they are in the game room. It’s also very inclusive for all ages of players. We’re seeing a growing market of corporate businesses that want to use our games as team-building exercises.”
Founded in late 2014, Escapology started franchising in 2016. Today, it has almost 140 game rooms in 30 locations throughout the United States, Dominican Republic and Ecuador. By the end of the year, it expects to have around 50 locations and expand its operations into Canada, Dubai and Chile.
“I think this will establish us as the biggest escape game company in the world, certainly in terms of opened locations,” says Lloyd Notley, director of franchising.
By 2020, Escapology is aiming to open 10 corporate facilities and have more than 100 franchises. The company currently has a corporate venue in Las Vegas and another in Orlando. It is building a third one in Las Vegas.
The company offers 12 different game themes and has eight more in development. Our game design studio is bustling with activity,” Notley says. “We’ve got some fabulous new games which will be released during 2018 and we’ll continue to develop the best games in the industry, giving our franchisees and our customers the best possible choices.”
Croughan adds that Escapology is also trying to diversify its games. “We’ll be making some slightly scary games, creepy games,” he says. “We always watch the market for trends to make sure we are on top of the curve.”
Cost of Investment
The fast-growing company believes it has developed an effective formula for success. “It’s a great product and a great brand,” Croughan says. “We’ve built a successful business model that our franchisees can duplicate. We know the things that work and those that don’t.”
The company offers two options to franchisees. They can either open a standalone Escapology center or integrate one into an existing business like a family entertainment center or bowling alley.
The initial investment for franchisees, including build-out cost and franchising fee, ranges $200,000 to $300,000 depending on the size and location of the venue. That cost includes training and game supplies. A standalone venue averages between 2,000 to 3,000 square feet and features three to six game themes.
Escapology charges a one time franchising fee of $37,000 and a royalty fee between 6 to 8 percent. The same franchising fee applies to both standalone and integrated venues.
“The initial cost of investment is typically lower for integrated venues because they already have a lot of the infrastructure in place,” Croughan says. “They generally own the building, so it’s only about building out the rooms. But it also depends on how may game rooms they have.”
From lead generation programs and cutting-edge technology to branding campaigns and customizable marketing tools, Escapology offers a solid and ongoing support system for its franchisees.
In the beginning, franchisees receive help with store design, facility construction and site selection. Their training consists of several days at one of Escapology’s corporate venues, as well as online training.
The company’s online training platform offers game tutorials, backend systems, procedure updates and operational updates as well as an assortment of up to date videos.
Escapology also offers assistance with opening day and an ongoing support system afterward. “We place a high emphasis on the support system and a high value on training,” Notley says. “We give around the clock support if needed.”
Founded in 2014, Escapology is the brainchild of Simon and Paul Davison. The first Escapology venue opened in Orlando, Fla. It quickly became the No. 1 area attraction on Trip Advisor, clearly demonstrating both popularity and high standards of customer service.
During the first year of operation, Escapology achieved excellent sales and profit margins. In 2015, Simon Millington, owner and CEO of Shop247.com, a global online retailer, joined the company – bringing with him a vast business experience and online marketing skills.
Through rigorous adherence to the founding principles, practices and procedures in its corporate facilities and franchised locations, Escapology aims to become the Starbucks of the escape game industry.
Written by Kat Zeman, Knighthouse Media