How did you get into the industry?
I was looking out for something different than the industry I was in and was actively seeking something new to get into. One Christmas Break, I was on the vacation with my family and we took my kids to a similar concept and they loved it! At first, I thought about purchasing a franchise, but I found that most companies didn’t offer franchises or only offered licensing. They told us the costs, fees, annuals percentage….but they didn’t give us anything in exchange beyond their logo and name. They didn’t offer ongoing support. We kept looking, but no one was offering a good value proposition.
I started to conceptualize the idea of an indoor playscape with a couple of friends of mine. We calculated the costs and the revenue potential. Once we officially bought a building, Mt Playmore felt like a reality. Austin was once an underserved market for kids/family entertainment. I knew there was a need there, especially as a parent myself.
What’s new in the franchise model or how are you differentiated from your competition?
My partners and I talked about franchising right away but wanted to get to the point where we could offer strong support, teach what we’ve learned, offer training for our policies/procedures and more. We are at this point now, through years of trial and error, where we can offer our franchisees tons of knowledge and resources that will save them time and money.
There’s a misconception in this industry about focusing only on the kids; kids will want to come no matter what. The people making the decisions are the parents. The parents were an afterthought in many of our competitors’ concepts. We took a very different approach. All of our equipment is designed for the parents to play on the equipment too. We spent a long time trying to find the best seating….there are plenty of comfortable seats for parents to relax here at Mt Playmore. We went to great lengths to make sure we had high speed internet and USB/outlets, so that parents can work if they need to. We have a quick serve restaurant. We serve food that’s made from scratch (but we temporarily cut some of the menu due to COVID-19). We have an arcade here as well. We are very careful in our selection of games and ensure that everything is age appropriate for the kids, plus some classics such as Pac-Man for the parents.
Where do you see opportunities or challenges for the franchise moving forward?
One of the things that really appealed to me about this business is that it’s pretty resistant to economic downturns. That being said, pandemic wasn’t in the plan. We monitor the case load very closely.
As far as the opportunities going forward, there has been a huge elimination of competition in the industry. Some of our competitors made the wrong moves. We opted for the tax credit at first instead of the PPP program. Then we did opt for the PPP Program and it has really helped us. We’re skilled at monitoring liquidation auctions and understanding the market, so this has been a huge opportunity for us as well. Many markets who were once well served are now in need of something like Mt Playmore. I believe this is our opportunity to be the national chain that we want to be!
What are your unique points of training and support?
Robust graphics packages, dozens of signs and social media, and well-developed characters will all be given to our franchisees. We will be sending experienced people out those first couple of weeks to give them extensive training and set them up right from the start. This is a very tech-oriented business. We have an extensive IT infrastructure — everything from the arcade to the online party bookings — it’s all connected and we give them that infrastructure. My background is in technology, so I am bringing this experience to the support model.
We make our money in the franchise fees and not on upcharges or being an unnecessary middle man. We want our franchisees to be successful and bring in strong profit. If we can save them money, we will point them in the right direction.
Your most difficult moment as the Franchise Business?
The day we closed down due to government regulations. Weekends and summers are huge, but Spring Break is our single most profitable week of the year. The first day of Spring Break was when we were ordered to shut down. We lost 75% of our profits this year, which has been difficult.
Define your Franchise Model?
A. Training and Support Model?
Training is one week hands on at our corporate location covering technical, functional, strategic, and marketing/sales. Phase II is at the franchisee’s location. Marketing guidance, ongoing operational support, and consistent updates are all included in support.
B. What is the Fee Structure?
Franchise fee: $50,000
C. Territory Definition?
Exclusive territory of around 500,000 people.
What does your franchisee do in the business every day?
We are an indoor playscape, restaurant, and arcade. Any given day we have cashiers, an arcade tech, people cooking, etc. The franchisees are writing schedules, dealing with customer complaints, reviewing contracts, and always trying to make sure we have the best deal with our vendors (which we will help them with within our support model). Booking parties is a huge component to the business and there’s a lot of sales tactics there. They can expect to handle basic business operations and be involved in the business in some capacity every day.
Who is the ideal franchise candidate?
Firstly, they have to be well capitalized. There’s really two ways to run this business. The owner could hire a general manager. Even if someone hires a GM, there’s still a lot for the owner to do. The person has to be interested in being a part of the day-to-day business. This requires active engagement.
If they wanted to be the GM, they could be. They would need to be very people-focused, customer service oriented, and technically literate. It helps to have someone on site who has an idea of what they are doing since our tech is interwoven in all aspects of Mt Playmore.
We deal with angry customers, so we need to have someone in the GM role who is very cool under pressure and resolves their complaints without being pushed over.
You have to like kids; people with kids of their own are great.
Success Stories and Failures with Franchisees?
No franchisees yet. We started mid-2019 and in 2020 we were planning to launch but then COVID-19 hit.
What Goals Do You Have for the Franchise Model in the Future?
I’ve always been surprised at the fact that there aren’t national children’s indoor playscape facilities. I think there should be a national chain serving the children’s market and my goal is for Mt Playmore to fill that role.
On a local scale, I hope to see the day that the parents who played here as kids can come back with children of their own and experience that nostalgia of being back at Mt Playmore once again.
For more information on the Mt Playmore Franchise, visit their website at http://mtplaymorefranchise.com.