The Business of Room Escape
Room escape is similar to the theater business. It's a type of "immersive theater" akin to the popular show Sleep No More. Room escape proprietors earn revenue from selling tickets. Most of their customers are acquired via online advertisements on Google and daily deal Web sites like Groupon. The proprietors have a mostly fixed cost structure (rent) with the second biggest expense being labor (the facilitators who will rescue you if you don't escape). A ticket costs $30, and a room can hold about 10 people, so that's $300 in revenue per session. On a typical weekend, a room escape proprietor can run back to back sessions in multiple rooms, earning a tidy profit.
The first room escape facility was opened in Japan in 2007. The industry has blossomed as there are now 1,101 facilities in the world: about 25% of which are in the United States. The first room escape facility in New York was opened in November 2013, and now there are at least twelve in the city. Even Hollywood has noticed the trend as Mission: Impossible 5 is running pop-up room escapes in movie theaters as a way to promote the movie.
Room Escape as a Team Building Phenomenon
Room escape is part of the "experience economy" in which people want to derive meaning and value from live experiences. Author B. Joseph Pine II writes in the Harvard Business Review: "consumers unquestionably desire experiences, and more and more businesses are responding by explicitly designing and promoting them."
Employees also want rich experiences. Large corporations are increasingly choosing room escape as a team building activity. 59:59 Room Escape's owner Richard Yan (an erstwhile and recovering banker) reports that Morgan Stanley, Google, Lifetime Networks, and Victoria's Secret are patrons. Corporate events comprise twenty percent of his customers.
Yan also says that his customers are seventy-five percent female and mostly in the millennial cohort. He notes that the room escape phenomenon is a counter-trend to the increasingly digital world in which we live. Bankers are doing the unthinkable: putting away their smartphones and locking themselves in a room -- at least for an hour.