Kevin Hadley
United States
South Dakota
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While I won't go into all the background of "why", my wife and I recently have been doing some serious research on trying to start a board game brewpub. Food, drinks, and Board games, what would be cooler? Of course, we are not doing this because it sounds cool. We know it is going to be a huge investment and crazy amounts of work. However, we think it is a great service to provide the community: a place to relax, socialize, and be your geeky self.

I know this is not a novel idea, but some specifics we were thinking:

Space to play your own games you bring in (similar to any FLGS)

Games to play that you want to try
I have seen a lot with really high cover charges. I am cheap. I also want to TRY a lot of games. The idea would be either A) free game play with bar purchases or B) $2 per game (independent of # of people or game length).

We would also demand all of our employees (the wife and I at first) to be as helpful as possible regarding teaching games, providing rules clarifications, being knowledgeable about "similar games" and such.

Games for rent
This is something I have never really seen: A "Blockbuster" for board games. The idea would be $5 or whatever to take the game home to rent for two nights. We'd reserve the right to charge for incidentals (missing pieces and the like), but if you want to play a game you'd never own (maybe something SUPER heavy, but SUPER fun or something in the $100 range and you just want to play it that once), that is available.

As a cost-conscious gamer, I have ALWAYS wanted this. I want to play Terra Mystica, for example, but I do not want to pony up the dough and find out I don't like it. Or, I love Through the Ages, but it is such a long game, I only want to play it once a year.

Another example is expansions. Maybe I just want to try the newest expansion for Smash Up!, but I don't want to buy it. I can rent the expansion for my weekly game day at home and find out, "We HAVE to buy THIS one!"

Corporate/company/school events:
In my current position, I have used games as a training tool. Specifically, I have used co-op games as a means to diagnose and improve teamwork. As a casual and self-contained "thing", I use my expertise on teamwork to see how the team members approach problems, plan, adapt to changing circumstances, etc... I have been looking to expand this to critical thinking, communication, creativity, and other professional skills.

Parties:
Self-explanatory, but we'd do all the work in finding good games (especially if whole audience is not even a casual gamer).

Brewery:
I have seen the market for local breweries has grown, but our niche would obviously be BG-related.


In any case, I found some board game stores in the area, so I am trying to assess, what is the market for this? We'd sell board games too, but have the OTHER things. Also, we probably would not have Magic or Warhammer. (or at least not at a serious level).

In short, please provide comments below. Are we crazy, do you have suggestions, would you be our first customer, etc...




 
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Brian Long
United States
Seattle
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There’s a reason why no one offers board game rentals.
Not having Magic just seems like giving up money.
How much capital do you have upfront?
What will it cost to build out the space and create an initial stock of games? Are you actually going to BREW beer there,
What will the store cost to run per month? Gonna need a big space I guess.
Given your initial funds minus buildout, how many months of runway do you have given the above burn rate?
Can one simply open a “pub” in Salt Lake City? Strikes me as the kind of place that might have stiff liquor laws and licensing fees. And liability insurance for alcohol related accidents?
How many board game distributors are there that service your area and who are they? What is your cost of goods?
You SURE you aren’t gonna sell Magic? I can’t think of a single board game store doesn’t feature Magic front and center. There’s a reason why.

Sorry if the feedback here is blunt but reading your post it seems very fantasy-laden. I would be hard pressed to think of two harder businesses to get into than board game store and restaurant, and you’re proposing to do both at once. I would be solely focused on getting ultra crisp realistic numbers on cost of business before i start trying to ladle on my fun ideas.

Good luck. Wish I had the guts to take a chance like that!
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Brian Long
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If I were you I would literally spend an entire day in the parking lot of another game store in town. Count how many people go in. Count how many people come out with purchase (explicitly List the purchase if they are visible). Do it on a Saturday, do it on a Tuesday.

If you can find a mentor of course do it. Talk to someone who ran a board game store that went out of business and try to see what financial info you can extract out of them. (I’m assuming that anyone IN business will not divulge info due to competitive threat.)

Do you already personally know the other store owners in your area?
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Joshua Simone [The Quasi Geek Dad]
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Redmond
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SLC would be the best choice. I also would consider probably not doing a "brewpub" but more of a cafe. I have not been to Utah in about 8 years, but when I was there last, there are strange laws concerning alcohol in the state. SLC is the most laid back area, and you don't have as many LDS people as other areas. If you open a "brewpub" of games you would be leaving out a huge demographic of LDS people from coming to your game store, and I don't mean to be stereotypical but LDS people tend to people who love board games (I don't mean to be offensive, just my own observation). I know that there are a lot of LDS people who would are fine going to a brewpub but there are also a lot who dont, and you are in the heart of LDS country in Utah, so just be aware of what the local demographics are and take that into account for what type of atmosphere you want to have to be successful. Good luck! Utah is beautiful.
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Monica B.
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Hi! SL-based LDS board gamer chiming in. I buy most of my games online and play them with family or friends at our homes. I would really love it if on evenings out on couples/group dates with friends there was place we could go to, order some food, and pull out games to just pass the time with. Restaurants don't lend themselves to board gaming, and board game stores as they exist don't lend themselves to those kinds of casual/social dating situations.


Anyway, the part of your idea that struck me as intriguing was the corporate/educational training aspects. You'd need to heavily pitch it, but I could see there being market enough for that kind of service to make it your "day job" so to speak. And then you could reserve the evenings for café/game night business.

I agree on skipping the brewery aspects. Breweries are a totally different beast, and unless you have a lot of expertise in that area to start with, you'll find that any alcohol-centric/dependent business will present its own unique set of challenges.

And like the poster before me mentioned, boardgames are pretty popular among families and couples, and an atmosphere that is friendly to those groups wouldn't be a bad way to go, especially here in Utah.

I suppose a lot depends on how clear your vision is of what your primary and secondary revenue streams will be and how board games fit into that picture overall.

I believe the right supply creates sufficient demand, not the other way around, so if you nail down what you are supplying and are open to change along the way, you'll probably feel satisfied with your efforts. Good luck!
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Kevin Hadley
United States
South Dakota
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mozilla wrote:
Hi! SL-based LDS board gamer chiming in. I buy most of my games online and play them with family or friends at our homes. I would really love it if on evenings out on couples/group dates with friends there was place we could go to, order some food, and pull out games to just pass the time with. Restaurants don't lend themselves to board gaming, and board game stores as they exist don't lend themselves to those kinds of casual/social dating situations.


Anyway, the part of your idea that struck me as intriguing was the corporate/educational training aspects. You'd need to heavily pitch it, but I could see there being market enough for that kind of service to make it your "day job" so to speak. And then you could reserve the evenings for café/game night business.

I agree on skipping the brewery aspects. Breweries are a totally different beast, and unless you have a lot of expertise in that area to start with, you'll find that any alcohol-centric/dependent business will present its own unique set of challenges.

And like the poster before me mentioned, boardgames are pretty popular among families and couples, and an atmosphere that is friendly to those groups wouldn't be a bad way to go, especially here in Utah.

I suppose a lot depends on how clear your vision is of what your primary and secondary revenue streams will be and how board games fit into that picture overall.

I believe the right supply creates sufficient demand, not the other way around, so if you nail down what you are supplying and are open to change along the way, you'll probably feel satisfied with your efforts. Good luck!


The plan is to spend about a year doing research. While the goal is to have something more than a FLGS, the other aspects (brewery) are flexible.

However, the ultimate goal is to have a location friendly for many types. I would like to our demographics to be youth groups, young couples, families with children who can grasp games at the level of Catan or TtR, bible studies, birthday parties (adults and kids), gaming groups, and whoever else likes games and wants a place to do them.

More than anything, I want to provide the community a venue to try games they may not normally purchase.

THANK YOU ALL FOR FEEDBACK!
 
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Fred W. Manzo
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Has anyone else run a successful restaurant/boardgaming location? I’m not in either business but it seems to me one of the reasons such a combination is rare is that these businesses have polar opposite requirements. Restaurants want many small groups of people to get in and out of their establishment as quickly as possible. Adding in a boardgame component means that same group sticks around taking up limited space and not spending as much money as a new group of patrons would. Restaurants like high density locations to maximize the number of costumers and board game shops look for low cost rentals with large open spaces. I could be wrong but squaring this circle may not be possible. But good luck in any event.
 
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Kevin Hadley
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South Dakota
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An update in case anyone is curious.

We decided the alcohol aspect is not worth it (in any market).

Our food menu is going to be simple, but fun:

Hot dogs, nachos, fries, or a salad.

Topped in many styles:
Chili-cheese (chili cheese dog, chili cheese nachos, etc..)
Sonoran style (bacon and peppers)

etc...

Working on logistics, but, no matter how much people say it is not worth it, we are running with the rental aspect.

I use Pandemic to teach engineers how to work in teams. By my estimate, each copy has been played at least 40 times (that is a low ball estimate). They are still in reasonable shape. As such, I am not worried about the wear and tear a game will encounter.

In the cases where pieces go missing, (or whatever), we will handle it just like a hotel/rental car company. You pay enough for incidentals and are reimbursed when the game is returned.

We plan on having different rental plans. For example, you buy a punch card for 10 rentals at $30 (for example). Each time you rent, we punch your card. There will be no time limit, so you can use them within a month or the lifetime of the store.



We have a store name in mind: Gateway Games and Cafe.

We will feature a special section of "gateway games" for those new to the hobby to learn to play: Dominion, Ticket to Ride, Carcassonne, King of Tokyo, Settlers of Catan, and Pandemic. These six are games that can be purchased at any Target, but provide enough of a sample of designer board games for anyone unfamiliar with the hobby. They are also super low key, so they are easy to teach/learn.

As for "cover charge", the idea is this. You buy food/drink, pick up a game and start playing. You bring your own stuff, totally fine. You are a vegan who wants to try out a game, you pay a small fee as managed by "help" flags. These will be flags you raise to get help setting up a game, learning a game, and putting a game away from our employees. That way, there is no "cover charge".

However, you might as well buy a plate of nachos and pick up your help flag then.

I think that is what I want to share. Thanks for the feedback up to this point.

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Kevin Hadley
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South Dakota
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PS: An update in case anyone is curious.

We are planning a kickstarter campaign for folks who honestly want this to happen to be able to contribute. Initial thoughts on rewards are catered lunches, your name inscribed on the games available to play (so the public knows you made that game possible to play), birthday parties with a specialized board game themed cake (I.e. a catan cake), and so on.

 
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Chris Curtis
United States
El Pueblo de Nuestra Señora la Reina de los Ángeles del Río de Porciúncula
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May I humbly suggest you provide a couple vegan options for the munchies? Establishments that make an effort are really appreciated by those of us who eschew animal products. Your lactose-intolerant customers (at least 25% of the US population) will be happy too.

It's quite easy to get vegan cheese, mock meats, etc. at regular supermarkets nowadays. When you get closer to opening I'd be more than happy to give you some pointers if you're interested.
 
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Kevin Hadley
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We will have vegetarian, but I am not sure how well we can accommodate vegan options (from a cost perspective). I guess straight/plain fries is technically vegan.

I am lactose intolerant. I usually just don't get cheese. However, even some vegetarian alternatives might have eggs as a binder.

I guess my perspective was, "I do not want to eat your stuff, I just want to play games." is fine if you pay a small amount for the table.

Thank you for the thought.
 
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Drew Lovell
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Rarely post on BGG, mostly just lurk but since this is a bit in our wheelhouse I figured I would jump in...

Don't know the Salt Lake area that well, but have heard from pals in the area that even persuing an incidental liquor license can be tough. That said for us so far it has been a huge boon in Chicago.

From the sound of your post it sounds like you're undercutting yourself a lot in terms of pricing. In most major cities the market is definitely there, you just need to make sure that you're super confident in what your brand is and know who your customers are. We spent years working on answering those questions(in addition to everything else) and I feel it is one of the strongest things we have going for us.

A few points of advice since it seems like you're still in the very early stages of planning things:
-However long you think it will take, and however much money you think you'll need. Multiply that by 3, it might not take you this long but be prepared for it to especially if this is your first restaurant.
-There are gonna be people that want you to hire them to consult for you etc... make sure that whatever money you spend that you are absolutely sure it is getting you closer to opening.
-Be sure that anyone you are taking advice from actually knows what they are talking about & on the same note be confident that you know what YOUR plan for the business is and that it works. People can tell you that their plan or their idea will work better all day long (and they will) but you're the one on the hook.
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Chris Curtis
United States
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BGProfessor wrote:
We will have vegetarian, but I am not sure how well we can accommodate vegan options (from a cost perspective). I guess straight/plain fries is technically vegan.

I am lactose intolerant. I usually just don't get cheese. However, even some vegetarian alternatives might have eggs as a binder.

I guess my perspective was, "I do not want to eat your stuff, I just want to play games." is fine if you pay a small amount for the table.

Thank you for the thought.


There's a popular nondairy cheese called Daiya. It's easily available, not too pricey, and can be frozen and used as needed. It makes pretty tasty nachos and cheesy fries! Even if you don't use it at the cafe you should try it yourself!
 
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Kevin Hadley
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South Dakota
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We took a position in Phoenix, so we will not be coming to your neck of the woods. Thank you for all of your feedback though.
 
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