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setting up a soft play centre/indoor play

Discussion in 'General Business Forum' started by bluezebra, Nov 1, 2007.

  1. bluezebra

    bluezebra UKBF Newcomer Free Member

    Posts: 48 Likes: 1
    I'm looking for a complete change of direction and a friend and I are considering setting up an indoor play centre that offers birthday parties, etc. We've seen loads of different ones -many models which we like, but wonder what is the best way to assess what the demand would be. There are two small soft-play cos. close to us. They are both very small and very limited in what they offer, and neither offer good party facilities. Can anyone give me any advice please. Thanks.
    Posted: Nov 1, 2007 By: bluezebra Member since: May 25, 2005
  2. green mum

    green mum UKBF Newcomer Free Member

    Posts: 372 Likes: 14

    We have quite a good one near us in plymouth. I'll tell you why I like it so maybe that will help.

    They have a seperate area for under 3's which is all soft play - they also have a section for over 3's which is all pretty boisterous and good fun. My daughter is under 2 so I stick to the soft play area. They have a lovely 'sensory' room with lava lamps, soft cushions, mirrors, twinkly stars on the ceiling etc. It really calming and the little ones love it. If you have a toddler plus a little baby then this area is perfect where as a lot of these centres wouldn't offer anything for little babies.

    They have a great restaurant which offers wholesome, sometimes homemade meals which are healthy and nutritious - this is the biggest bonus I think. Such a nice change from burgers and chips.

    They charge £5 per child and I think adults are £1.50 each.

    On not such a good point, we had some friends who owned one of these play centres and they just couldn't make any money from it (sorry this won't be what you want to hear). They needed an awful lot of staff to run everything and it just wasn't what they had hoped for.

    I suppose you could try something small scale - maybe just for up to 4 year olds - that way you could keep your overheads and staff costs down but would you get enough customers through the door then?

    Hope this helps a little anyway...

    I notice we're competitors by the way! I'm still in my first week with Green Mums....
    Posted: Nov 1, 2007 By: green mum Member since: Oct 16, 2007
  3. dev99

    dev99 UKBF Regular Free Member

    Posts: 154 Likes: 15
    Could be a great little earner, done correctly.

    don't get carried away with huge setup costs, try and find a relatively new play frame/area and you could reduce your costs by 50%.

    Not all Insurance companies will insure this kind of activity.

    have a look at this www.rospa.co.uk

    Serving food will have different implications aswell.

    Best of luck
    Posted: Nov 1, 2007 By: dev99 Member since: Oct 4, 2006
  4. gibby

    gibby UKBF Ace Free Member

    Posts: 1,228 Likes: 118
    I think it could be a great business

    I would travel around looking for successful ones & get what ever ideas you can

    They really seem to have sprung up around us and just when we thought they couldnt get any better a fantastic one opened http://www.adventurelands.com/

    I think what makes this place stand out from the others is that its really good for adults as well as the kids

    its massive compared to the others, always clean & the staff are great.
    The food is not the usual nuggets & chips but proper meals with proper chefs
    they even do proper veggie & vegan meals & unlike the others they take care to stop cross contamination & dont use the same utensils to serve the meat & chips

    for the adults there are large screen tvs, proper toilets, a bar & you can relax knowing the kids are safe. proper seats - not the cheap plastic ones you usually find
    They also have a go kart track with little cars & bikes

    They are a bit more expensive than the others but its always busy, seperate area for toddlers & great kids partys

    If I was going to do it I would do it like this

    Posted: Nov 3, 2007 By: gibby Member since: Sep 11, 2007
  5. stub1000

    stub1000 UKBF Newcomer Free Member

    Posts: 1 Likes: 2
    we are currently creating an online directory of soft play & play barn facilities. unfortunatly i can't post our URL address on this forum, so if you wish to take advantage of the offer below, then post a reply to this message.

    if anyone from this forum wishes to adverise on our site, then follow the link above and we will give you a GOLD advert for free, just quote the ukbusinessforum website so that our team can sort out the free advert. hopefully this will help any of you out there with fledgling busineses!


    Posted: Jun 10, 2008 By: stub1000 Member since: Jun 10, 2008
  6. deniser

    deniser UKBF Legend Free Member

    Posts: 7,757 Likes: 1,645
    We have two near us. One is small and rather cosy but probably suited to younger children. It is much nicer for parents because it is carpeted so the noise is dampened. I believe it is doing well.

    Then a big one opened up aimed at a wider age range and went into administration after a couple of years but was then bought so guess it must be viable after you have absorbed the start up costs.

    A third one has closed down altogether but I believe because the land was more valuable for development.

    From a parent's perspective, please don't put one of those vertical slides in. I think it looks dangerous which is reinforced by the fact that they have a staff member permanently allocated to it which must be a huge drain on finances. I much prefer those old fashioned slides where you sit on a mat!

    You will need to do your figures carefully and assess how many children are likely to use it and at what times. Most children will be at school and even pre-schoolers at nursery for about 30 weeks of the year. Your peak times are likely to be wet days in winter. The busiest times will be those when you are most likely to want to be with your own children.

    I wish you good luck with this as these play centres are wonderful and can always save the day when the children are bored.
    Posted: Jun 10, 2008 By: deniser Member since: Jun 3, 2008
  7. borobabe

    borobabe UKBF Newcomer Free Member

    Posts: 531 Likes: 42
    We have a really popular one near us, www.twiggysplay.com my daughter has just recieved her third party invite from playgroup. They have a great big slide at the end that I just had to have a go on, the separate level upstairs is where they hold the parties and I know some local business mums use it for meetings as the kids are kept occupied while they talk shop.
    Posted: Jun 10, 2008 By: borobabe Member since: Apr 24, 2008
  8. ozzgy

    ozzgy UKBF Newcomer Free Member

    Posts: 1 Likes: 0
    What are the legal requirements for starting a softplay centre
    Posted: Jan 17, 2009 By: ozzgy Member since: Jan 17, 2009
  9. Attractions Expo @ LIW

    Attractions Expo @ LIW UKBF Newcomer Free Member

    Posts: 1 Likes: 0
    I suggest contacting the Play Providers Association who will advise you on all areas of setting up a play centre. Then you should visit Attractions Expo at LIW (22 - 24 Septrember at the NEC Birmingham) to see and meet the leading supplier and servicve providers to the UK Family Entertainment Centre sector.
    Posted: Feb 8, 2009 By: Attractions Expo @ LIW Member since: Feb 8, 2009
  10. paulhalsey

    paulhalsey UKBF Newcomer Free Member

    Posts: 108 Likes: 23
    and don't forget the flooring....www.easifall.com (and they do other play related stuff too)
    Posted: Feb 10, 2009 By: paulhalsey Member since: Dec 2, 2008
  11. sunitasaloni

    sunitasaloni UKBF Newcomer Free Member

    Posts: 16 Likes: 1
    thank you that could be very benificial
    Posted: Feb 18, 2009 By: sunitasaloni Member since: Feb 18, 2009
  12. Fuzzy

    Fuzzy UKBF Newcomer Free Member

    Posts: 5,368 Likes: 512
    I know of some soft play stuff for sale, if you need:D
    Posted: Feb 18, 2009 By: Fuzzy Member since: Oct 20, 2007
  13. g-money68

    g-money68 UKBF Newcomer Free Member

    Posts: 1 Likes: 0
    You could consider buying a franchise to get your soft play centre up and running more quickly and easily.

    Jungle Mania is an example of a soft play centre with a franchise oppertunity.

    Good luck!
    Posted: Feb 27, 2009 By: g-money68 Member since: Feb 27, 2009
  14. MH1

    MH1 UKBF Newcomer Free Member

    Posts: 2,585 Likes: 487
    In my large town of 200,000 + we had four indoor centres at one point, now there is just one.

    I would look hard at the staffing levels, costs issues, etc. The main reason most close seems to be poor offerings on food though, slow service, poor quality etc, so that area is worth considering very carefully.

    Every kid going to one of these centres will want something to eat and drink, one good paly areas cafe was shut more often than open and only lasted two years. Obviously the parents etc will almost all want a drink as well whilst keeping an eye on their kiddies.

    The staff will make or break this sort of offering, a local play area had a kid die due to not enough supervision, it became the safest afterwards but never lost the bad image and also closed within a year or two.
    Posted: Feb 27, 2009 By: MH1 Member since: Dec 27, 2007
  15. domainguy

    domainguy UKBF Regular Free Member

    Posts: 162 Likes: 21
    I have 3 of them all within a mile or 2 of where I live and all seem to do a fair trade. We have just had a party at 1 for my daughters birthday and it cost about £300 for 15 kids but was very good. She went to parties at the other 2 and they were nowhere as good but the difference was the staff. Where my daughters party was it included an entertainer and he was brilliant, really made a difference and put the other parties to shame.

    They also have a bar, internet etc... and you can even hire the place for parties in the evening for adults. They must be doing well as they are about to open a new one at lakeside shopping centre.
    Posted: Mar 2, 2009 By: domainguy Member since: Nov 10, 2008
  16. pauldsmith76

    pauldsmith76 UKBF Newcomer Free Member

    Posts: 1 Likes: 0
    An good place to start is our website: shareandcompareplay (sorry i am not allowed to post the URL at the moment)

    This is the comparison site for the play industry that provides free, independent and transparent information on every supplier to the Indoor Play market. Our users review the services they have received from all types of suppliers including; play equipment, insurance, kitchen, party bag suppliers and many more, to give accurate feedback on how these suppliers have performed.

    We also provide relevant content for Play Operators through our blogs, videos and articles to help guide them when setting up and running an Indoor Play Centre. Once again this is free and includes interviews with existing operators, guides on how to write a business plan, choose a building, and secure finance and tips on items such as health and safety in play centres. All the information you need to get yourself set up will be on our site.

    I look forward to seeing you on shareandcompareplay soon

    Posted: May 27, 2009 By: pauldsmith76 Member since: May 27, 2009
  17. Herbie

    Herbie UKBF Newcomer Free Member

    Posts: 98 Likes: 0
    Hi, we opened up one in Italy, North East. My advise is..go for it. It is a good business and if you are REALLY into it...make it your own. Best advise is for you to speak to these guys. They are the best and I mean the best in everything. www.tigerplay.co.uk
    Speak to Gary Morrison and mention Herbie in Italy recommended. You will get the best advise whether or not you do it etc .
    Posted: Jun 1, 2009 By: Herbie Member since: Aug 30, 2005
  18. TizzyDizzy

    TizzyDizzy UKBF Newcomer Free Member

    Posts: 10 Likes: 1
    Wuld the insurance on these places be very high?

    Our soft play centres are always packed. I don't go during school holidays anymore, too hectic.

    I would concentrate on good facilities for babies and pre-schoolers. If you make a fan of the parent when there are babies then it's more likely they will keep coming back year on year.

    Oh and please can you serve decent tea and coffee! :)
    Posted: Jun 17, 2009 By: TizzyDizzy Member since: Jun 16, 2009
  19. Gareth Lymer

    Gareth Lymer UKBF Newcomer Free Member

    Posts: 34 Likes: 1
    Soft Play Equipment traditionally costs approximately £10,000 / £12,000 per 1,000 Sq/ft and the average size of the building is likely 8,000 Sq/ft.

    However, the cost can vary depending on your choice of supplier, your design, the target age of the children you want to attract, whether you want theming and other 'extras'.

    It is also worth considering that the 'Next Generation' of Indoor Play areas is likely to include space for 'Free Play' which enables a different kind of play experience for children; this requires only space and some items to encourage imaginative activities, this is also cheaper to provide.

    Insurance for the Indoor Play Centre once opened is in the region of £8,000 per year for a 6,000 sq/ft centre. In the next few days, we (Shareandcompareplay.com) will be publishing spreadsheets of operational play centres; operating a play centre can be a profitable business if professionally.

    In terms of play centres going out of business, the main reason for this is that the Founder typically used Asset Finance when they started the play centre and possibly overestimated the number of visitors. Asset Finance remains a good option but perhaps spend less on the Play Equipment when opening and then add to it as visitor numbers grow; gather as much information as possible to try and make your business plan as accurate as possible.

    Finally, as a fan of good coffee, I would agree with "TizzyDizzy" and suggest that providing a great experience for Parents is very important.
    This includes a good cafe with comfortable chairs and magazines etc...if you visit You Tube and search under "Soft Play" you will find an interview with the co-founder of Parents Paradise, they have been successful by catering for both parents and children.

    I hope this helps.
    Kind regards
    Posted: Jul 8, 2009 By: Gareth Lymer Member since: Jul 8, 2009
  20. nextec

    nextec UKBF Newcomer Free Member

    Posts: 213 Likes: 38
    We are looking at taking over an existing but closed down Soft Play center.
    I have a question about insurance.
    The company who provided the insurance for the previous owner (and comes highly recommended) requires that at least 1 member of staff on site has to have a child care qualification. This makes recruiting staff more difficult and means that we can't run it as a family unless 1 of us goes to college first.
    Is this the norm for all insurance companies covering soft play. I thought the whole point was that we weren't responsible for the children as the parents will have to be on-site at all times.
    Posted: Jul 9, 2009 By: nextec Member since: Jul 8, 2009