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Subject: Owning a Board Game Cafe - experiences rss

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Kyle A
United States
Purcellville
Virginia
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Hi everyone!

Just curious - owners and managers of board game cafes - what are your experiences? (If there are employees too, feel free to chime in!)

My wife and I are toying with the idea of starting a board game cafe in the Southwest US and would love to hear about the experiences you have had!

Below are some questions I'm curious about - but feel free to write an essay if you wish!

Do you charge at the door?

Do you serve food? (How simple is the menu? Do you consider the types of food for board game component longevity?)

Do you serve alcohol?

Do you rent or own the premises? How close do you live to the cafe?

Are you closer to the suburbs, or a city? (or country?!)

What did you wish you knew before you got into it? What's the single best advice you would give to someone in my position - someone looking to start a cafe of their own?


The closest one I've found to us now is about 4 hours away, so sadly we can't experience or talk to people in person

Thanks in advance for the responses!
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Bryan Thunkd
United States
Florence
MA
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Every couple of months someone posts something like this. I suggest you search the forums and look at those threads.

Personally, unless you have experience running a retail establishment, and also a restaurant if you plan on serving food, then I would warn you away from the idea. Starting a business is a very difficult endeavor that will suck all your time and money for the next five years even if it succeeds, which isn't terribly likely.

The "I like games" and "Hey, wouldn't it be fun to run a game store" thoughts aren't a good impetus for starting a business. You should start from the other side of the equation, asking what you have experience in, what you're good at and then figuring out what people want, and what you can provide that no one else does and if that's likely to generate enough profit to be sustainable. I highly suspect that if you start from that end of things you'll never end up at "board game store". It's a niche market, and it doesn't seem like the revenue will justify the cost of retail space.

And don't kid yourself. Most of your time will be spent dealing with deliveries, paperwork, scheduling employees, covering when people call out sick, preventing shoplifters, taking care of problem customers, etc. You won't have much time for the "fun" stuff. And when it's constantly looking like you're on the edge of losing every cent you've poured into the business, you're not going to really be in a "fun" mood very often anyway.

Detective wrote:
The closest one I've found to us now is about 4 hours away, so sadly we can't experience or talk to people in person
You're about to invest every free penny you own, and at least 60-80 hours a week, every week for the next one to five years and you can't find a day to go do some research? Hmmm....
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United States
Texas
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If you read the previous post and it didn't phase you....

Give it a trial run by finding a morning/lunch only place and seeing if you can rent it out at night for boardgame meetups. This will give you a chance to see if you can make it profitable without loosing your shirt. Plus it will already be licensed as a commercial kitchen if you are wanting to sell prepared-on-premise food items.

It's possible you could work as an employee of that place (free rent!) and use their register after hours too, win-win for both if you sell items they already have in the fridge (like fountain drinks, specialty teas/soda/milks) and leftover cookies they can't sell the next day. Be sure to post the 'private party only during evenings' sign. People who walk in will expect games, go with the flow and become part of the night, or walk back out and eat somewhere else.
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Shelby Buttimer
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Lawrence
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You should take a look at this article:

http://www.slate.com/articles/life/a_fine_whine/2005/12/bitt...

It's not a board game cafe, but it's definitely a realistic view of what owning a coffee shop is like.

I second Mike's idea -- build up a following slowly using someone else's premises. In our town a guy does game nights once a month at a local bar. I don't know what he pays them in rent, but it's a $3 cover, and $3 for a raffle ticket. This last game night he hit 50 people for the first time and he was thrilled. If he ever wanted to open a game cafe, he'd have a built in following, which would help tremendously.
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Steve
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Starting a business is a major undertaking, no? Getting in touch with the owners of the place 4 hours away (GameHaus?) and scheduling a visit and talk would be a drop in the bucket of what you're thinking about doing.
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Kyle A
United States
Purcellville
Virginia
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Thanks for the responses so far - I'll clarify by saying that we are considering doing this in like 5-6 years - not imminently... A long term, want to get our savings in order now kind of plan. After researching owning and starting a restaurant/bar for the past few weeks, I came here to pull the thoughts of those who have gone before us in the board game realm specifically.

Mike, that's an excellent suggestion, thanks very much! We have a few places just like that nearby that could work very well!
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Pete
United States
Northbrook
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If you'd like to quit playing games and instead watch everyone else play games a lot, by all means, start a board game café!

Pete (thinks that there are far better ways to make money)
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Megan Potter
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If you're looking at making a long term plan you should definitely do the "every now and then in a rented space" idea to get a feel for what that's like and to build the following.

I'd also look up Cafes in various places and contact their owners to see if they'd mind talking to you directly.

Running an in person business is always more expensive then you think it will be and for a Cafe to be sustainable it needs a HUGE investment in board games (which are going to get ruined and lose parts eventually). Talking to a bunch of people doing it and getting their insight is going to be invaluable.

All the cafes I've been to serve food and drink - some serve alcohol some don't - but they usually keep it to VERY basic food choices.
 
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C Ramos
United States
Nolensville
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If ever I want to be a free spare parts supplier or place where someone can find an out of print game to take home one night (considering more and more games are ending up that way), I might consider opening a cafe . . .

surprise
 
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JEnnifer Stein
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Berthoud
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what I don't get is why someone working for Barnes and Noble doesn't do this. They have a starbucks and table space. They need to be more competitive outside of book sales. They have games, but a somewhat limited customer base looking for games - outside of the very popular ones (based on the fact they put red dot sales on very highly rated games otherwise).

My idea is to have someone "sell" the games by doing nothing more than setting up tables with 3-4 different options. Simple, complex, family, etc. Then...each people. How many MORE copies of x-wing miniature will they sell if they did this?

B&N would sell a ton more games if they promoted this. Honestly, they could pay someone $10/hour and if they sell two more games a day, they break even. Not to mention extra starbucks drinks and snacks on top of game sales. (forgive my basic math assumption here, I am just speculating).

Just a thought...



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Bill Eldard
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Burke
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Kyle, will this enterprise be your family's principal source of income, or an additional income source? The answer is important.

For instance, I know of a local comic book dealer (actually 3 partners) who own several comic book stores. They all have full-time employment other than their stores, and they hire folks as managers and sales clerks to run them. They keep the books for all the stores; order all the new products; and can fill in for absent managers. The stores have managed to survive for at least 10 years, but I can't say that they are making enough to provide full time employment for the partners.
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Shelby Buttimer
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plezercruz wrote:
If you'd like to quit playing games and instead watch everyone else play games a lot, by all means, start a board game café!

Pete (thinks that there are far better ways to make money)


So true! The owner of our FLGS told me once that he hadn't gotten a game to the table in ages. It's a small shop and he's the only one who works there, so it's just hard for him to find time.

One more thing to consider if you're going to run a games cafe or a FLGS -- you're going to be open late, especially on Friday and Saturday nights. Hope you didn't want a social life outside of the game cafe.
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Mindy Basi
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Urbana
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My goal in 5-6 years is to sell our small retail store and have money and free time!

It seems like a great idea until you realize how much work it is, and how stressful it can be. If you guys are thinking to do this in your retirement, well ... you will be working harder than you ever imagined was possible and scrambling for every penny.

If working 12 - 16 hour days sounds good to you, and you don't mind never taking a vacation or having any free time, go for it. One other piece of advice, you and your spouse better be on the same page with how you think about and manage money, because running a small business will bring those issues to the fore.

Perhaps a better idea would be to try to buy into an already established business as a partnership, as some have suggested. Or get partners that already own cafes/game stores to open it with you as other investors.
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Kyle A
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https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rqIXUERsC7c

For anyone looking here in the future - Snakes & Lattes just put out this video, gonna be a series! Check their channel for the rest (Once they come out)
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Michael Potter
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Make sure your passion is for the business and not just for the product. Whatever you build, your customers will shape. It will become their store or you will likely close.
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