Does Double Vesting Make Sense?

twopacksquestionWhen you’re looking at opening a laser tag attraction, you have to consider the type of throughput that your facility will have and how to best accommodate that level of traffic. Most facilities will install the maximum number of packs their arena will allow and perhaps a few spare packs in case of malfunction or damage. Other facilities opt for ‘double vesting,’ which means purchasing twice the number of packs and having one set charging while the other set is being used in your arena. But does double vesting make sense?

vestracks3Let’s be honest, most laser tag operators only utilize one pack for every 125-150 square feet of the arena base footprint. For most Family Entertainment Centers that utilize 3 or more attractions, that’s roughly 20-25 vests. For a full stand-alone facility, where laser tag is the main attraction, it’s common to see 35-40+ vests.

So depending on your facility size and the type of business your attraction will bring to your facility, double vesting may or may not make sense.

When Double Vesting Makes Sense

Double vesting can make sense if you are doing an incredible amount of throughput. If lock-ins and overnight groups are a constant for your facility because your facility is very successful, then this idea would make great sense.

A good laser tag pack will hold a charge for 16-24 hours at a time though over time, batteries do become weaker. If your facility is open longer on weekends, then having backup packs makes sense as you will need to recharge at some point or your packs will die in the middle of your lock-in or corporate event, costing you future business.

When Double Vesting Doesn’t Make Sense

Double vesting doesn’t make sense for every operator. If you are barely able to receive funding for your facility and don’t have much in the way of working capital, then this option is probably not for you. New operators often fail because of lack of working capital, so this should not be underestimated when comparing this with the price tag of more equipment.

Laser tag attractions generally pay for themselves in 12-18 months. If your attraction is going to fail to pay itself off in 2 years, then you’re probably spending too much. If owning and maintaining your equipment is stopping you from saving and working towards generating profits or opening another location, then something is wrong.

Utilizing your space wisely is another huge crutch that separates good facilities from bad ones. We’ve all been in FEC’s that have attractions crammed together in unusable spaces and played in attractions that should have been allocated MUCH more space than they were given. Your vesting room will need to be roughly 14 square feet per pack, and your charging room will need to be almost the same size. If your facility is lacking in space, then this option of double vesting will probably not be for you as well.

vestrack1The Benefit of Double Vesting

Let’s look at the pro’s in dealing with double vesting as this option may seem like a good idea and appears to benefit everyone involved.

First, the operator has twice as many packs to work with. This means the full capacity of packs should always be an option during open hours. No down packs, no need to worry about batteries and you’ve always got vests to meet the demand. Win for both you and the customer.

For your laser tag supplier, this is also a big win, as they make twice the amount of money for selling the equipment. Laser tag packs often average out at about $2,000 per pack (vest and phaser). This can be quite the bargain for your laser tag sales representative.

Also, any operator will tell you about times when they accidentally oversold their laser tag games for a session. Having so many spare packs charging allows some flexibility to stretch your maximum capacity for short stints, as your packs still need to charge, you won’t want to do this all the time. But accidents do happen and the times where it does, it will mean more revenue for you and your facility (though sloppiness in operations should be addressed so this doesn’t happen every game). After all, a crowded game is NOT a fun game for your customers.

two packsThe Disadvantages of Double Vesting

With any possibility of a good deal, there’s a few catches and double vesting has its fair share. For the operator, twice the packs means twice the price. So a 20 player system costing roughly $40,000 on its own means that twice as many packs will cost nearly $80,000 in vests and phasers alone.

(revenue breakdown chart for capacity vs. # of packs)

In the chart above, it shows how much money your facility has to make to finally pay off your equipment.

With twice the number of vests, you also need twice the amount of room, and a separate room dedicated to charging the packs. This doubles your footprint for vesting/charging, and will require twice as many spare parts to keep them all going. After all, you can’t just cannibalize the packs you have on charge, as they will be needed in the later hours of your operation.  

This opens up to twice the costs for repairs and spare parts meaning you may need a tech person more frequently than if you had only half the number of packs. This, of course, raises your staff costs. Even at a few hours per week can begin to add up. Operators who choose to go with double vesting have to be doubly-vigilant about tracking and processing of damaged equipment or you may eventually find yourself with a system-and-a-half instead of a double vest system.

Other Considerations

Obviously, laser tag suppliers have the most to gain in selling double vesting attractions regardless of whether or not the facility is capable of sustaining such an expense. Many times new or incoming operators have a ‘pie-in-the-sky’ idea of how much revenue they will generate. This doesn’t help when there are laser tag suppliers that will tell a developer that they will run on 70% or higher average capacity knowing that it simply isn’t true. Many of the companies won’t turn away your check for payment even if you’re about to run your business into the ground.

Every operator has to judge for themselves whether or not they want to try and accommodate a double vesting system into their facility. Some can make it work, but many cannot or it just doesn’t make financial sense. Sitting down and doing some math on what it will take to make a double vesting system can save you both time and money in the long run.

In doing your research, make sure you ask your laser tag provider which locations they have sold to that run a double vesting system. Contacting the owners of these systems should provide you with an idea of whether or not making such an investment was worth it to the existing operator and realistic plans on how to make such a system work for you and your facility.

So whether or not you choose to go the route of the double vesting system, make sure you plan ahead and determine if you are buying based on hype or real projected revenue.