How to Start a Board Game Cafe Business

You’ve had the idea to start a board game cafe, hoping to blend your love of gaming with the joy of bringing people together. You’ve come to the right place.

We’re going to walk you through how to make a board game cafe, covering everything from the cost to open a board game cafe, advice on how to find investors for a board game cafe, the best games for a start-up board game cafe, and more.

While starting any business venture is as exhilarating as it is stressful, you’ll leave here today with a sense of confidence and clarity on your next steps. That being said, what is a board game cafe and how does it work?

How Do Board Game Cafes Work?

A board game cafe offers a unique twist on the traditional cafe, combining social gaming with dining. It operates by providing an extensive library of games, from classics to contemporary hits. 

Customers typically pay a cover charge or hourly fee, fostering longer visits and greater food and beverage sales. Menus are designed with gaming in mind, featuring easy-to-eat snacks and drinks. 

Successful cafes also cultivate a community atmosphere through events like tournaments and theme nights. Understanding this business model is vital for anyone exploring how to start a board game cafe, especially considering the financial aspects involved.

How Much Does it Cost to Open a Board Game Cafe?

How Much Does it Cost to Open a Board Game Cafe?

How much does it cost to open a board game cafe - and what recurring expenses do you need to account for? 

The costs can vary widely depending on location, size, and the level of investment in games and decor. We’ll highlight these and offer tips on budgeting below before getting into some strategies for how to find investors for a board game cafe.

Breaking Down the Initial Investment

There is no way around it - starting a board game cafe business from scratch is going to require substantial seed money. That being said, here’s what makes up the cost to open a board game cafe: 

  • Lease and Renovation Costs: These depend heavily on location and size. Renovating the space to fit the cafe's theme, including gaming areas, can range significantly based on the extent of the changes required.
  • Game Library: Initial investment in games can range from a few hundred dollars to a few thousand, depending on the number and types of games you choose.
  • Furniture and Equipment: Comfortable and durable furniture, including different types of gaming tables and game table chairs, is a must. Don't forget the kitchen equipment if you plan to serve food and beverages. We’ll highlight the importance of having the best board game table shortly.
  • Initial Inventory: This includes food and beverage stock, which will vary based on the menu complexity.
  • Licenses and Permits: Costs for necessary licenses, including business licenses, food service permits, and possibly liquor licenses, if applicable.

All in, the cost to open a board game cafe business is entirely dependent on the scale of your goals. We’ve seen price estimates range from anywhere from $50k-$100k. 

Recurring Expenses to Consider

While so much emphasis is placed on the initial budget to start your board game cafe, it’s important that you think ahead and have the ability to cover recurring expenses each month, such as:

  • Staff Salaries: Monthly salaries for staff could range from $3,000 to $10,000, depending on the number of employees and local wage rates.
  • Rent and Utilities: Monthly costs, including rent, electricity, water, and internet, can be between $3,000 and $15,000.
  • Restocking Games and Inventory: This will vary but expect to spend a few thousand dollars monthly.
  • Marketing and Advertising: Ongoing promotion can cost from $500 to $2,000 per month.

Strategies for Budgeting and Financial Planning

You might be reeling thinking about the cost to open a board game cafe - how can you afford all this? But, it becomes a whole lot more feasible with careful budgeting and financial planning. 

Start by creating a comprehensive business plan outlining all potential expenses to get a clear picture of the required capital. The numbers we gave above are all rough estimates. 

From there, you can start to research loans and financing options if personal investment isn't sufficient. We’ll talk specifically about how to find investors for a board game cafe shortly.

Our advice to make the journey more manageable is to start with a smaller, manageable collection of games and a simpler menu, expanding as the business grows. You can use profits to scale up over time. This raises a question, though - just how profitable is a board game cafe?

Is Opening a Gaming Cafe Profitable?

Is opening a gaming cafe profitable? It certainly can be. But we want to help you set your expectations, as some gaming cafes will rake in profits while others flop. Knowing what separates the two will help you ensure yours is a smashing success.

First and foremost, it’s important to determine whether or not a board game cafe will work in your specific area. So, analyze the demographics of your intended location. 

Areas with a younger population or families are likely to have a higher demand for board game cafes. College towns or areas with tech companies can also be hotspots due to the higher concentration of people interested in gaming.

From there, you can start to forecast your revenue streams. The primary revenue for a board game cafe typically comes from the sale of food and beverages. Profit margins on these can vary, with beverages often offering a higher margin than food items. 

A cover charge or hourly rate for gameplay can also contribute significantly. You can get really creative with other streams, though:

  • Consider hosting events such as game tournaments, theme nights, or private parties. 
  • Selling board games and gaming accessories can also provide additional revenue. 
  • Offering memberships or loyalty programs can create a steady income stream and encourage repeat business.
  • Efficient operation is crucial to maximize profit margins. This includes effective inventory management, minimizing waste, and optimizing staff scheduling. Leveraging technology for order management and reservations can also improve efficiency and customer experience.

    After you analyze this opportunity and determine it’s feasible, it’s time to get to work. So, let’s get into how to start a board game cafe below!

    How to Start a Board Game Cafe Business: Step-by-Step Guide

    What You Need to Start a Board Game Cafe

    The actual process of starting a board game cafe requires deep thought and meticulous preparation. But, we are going to provide a 30,000-foot overview of what goes into starting a board game cafe to help you set out on the right foot - beginning with what you need to start a board game cafe. 

    What You Need to Start a Board Game Cafe

    You obviously need the best games for a start-up board game cafe - but we’ll highlight those specifically later on. Let’s talk about furniture, technology, and other essentials to get your operation up and running.

    The choice of board game tables cannot be overlooked. While you may try to get by with something basic, a custom board game table can set your cafe apart from the rest and elevate the experience for your patrons, ensuring they come back and tell all their friends.

    best games for board game cafe

    Our recessed game table is unlike any other on the market - as it effortlessly converts between dining and gaming, perfect for anyone looking to start a board game cafe. It features individual player stations, a felted recessed playing surface that can be raised and lowered, and other unique features.

    Your board game shelving matters too, as this is how you will maintain proper game room organization. It also plays a key role in displaying your board games to add both functionality and aesthetic appeal to your space.

    Additionally, you’ll need a reliable POS (Point of Sale) system, kitchen equipment if you plan to serve food, comfortable seating for customers, and stylish, thematic decor to create an inviting atmosphere. Round out your cafe with art, plants, quality lighting, sound systems, and other essentials.

    How to Find Investors for Board Game Cafe

    One of the biggest questions on your mind may be how to find investors for board game cafe. They can provide the necessary financial boost, but it comes with considerations. 

    Investors can offer not just capital but also business expertise and networking opportunities. However, this might mean sharing decision-making authority and a portion of your business's control.

    Nevertheless, you can develop a compelling business plan that highlights the uniqueness and profitability of your concept to attract investors and win them over. Networking at business events, gaming conventions, and online platforms dedicated to start-ups can connect you with potential investors.

    Choosing the Perfect Location

    High foot traffic areas, proximity to colleges, or family-friendly neighborhoods are ideal. 

    The space should be large enough to accommodate gaming tables, seating, and possibly a kitchen area, yet cozy enough to maintain a friendly, communal atmosphere. 

    Consider parking availability and ease of access for your customers.

    Designing Your Board Game Cafe

    Just as with typical game room ideas or Airbnb themes, designing your cafe should reflect a balance between functionality and thematic appeal. 

    The decor should resonate with the gaming theme, creating an immersive environment. Comfort is key, so ensure ample space between tables and a layout that allows for easy movement. 

    Incorporate elements that complement your theme - whether it's vintage, fantasy, or modern. Pay attention to color schemes and lighting. They should be conducive to both gaming and dining.

    Building Your Board Game Collection

    Perhaps the most important part of what you need to start a board game cafe is the best games for a start-up board game cafe. 

    Start by selecting a wide range of games to cater to various interests and skill levels. Include classic favorites, strategy games, family-friendly options, and the latest hits in the board game world. 

    Keep an eye on board game forums and reviews to stay updated on popular and upcoming games. Remember, the diversity of your collection can set you apart, so continually update and rotate your games to keep your offerings fresh and exciting. Here are some ideas if you aren’t sure where to start:

    You can also keep the essentials for a poker night on hand, encouraging patrons to host their poker night at your cafe. 

    Developing a Winning Menu

    The menu at your board game cafe should complement the gaming experience. 

    It’s wise to offer a mix of snacks, finger foods, and more substantial meals, depending on your kitchen's size and capabilities. Beverages, both non-alcoholic and alcoholic (if your permits allow), are usually big sellers. 

    Remember, the key is to offer items that are easy to consume while playing games - think about minimizing mess and ease of eating. Creativity in tying your menu items to gaming themes can also enhance the overall experience of your patrons.

    Obtaining Necessary Licenses and Permits

    Ensure you have all the necessary licenses and permits before opening your doors. This usually includes a business license, a food service permit, and possibly a liquor license, depending on your offerings. 

    The requirements can vary significantly depending on your location, so check with local authorities. Also, consider the need for music licensing if you plan to play music in your cafe, and any other permits related to running a food service establishment.

    Setting Up Your Financial Systems

    Start by setting up a robust accounting system to track your revenues and expenses. This system should help you manage day-to-day bookkeeping, payroll, and taxes. 

    Utilizing software solutions can streamline this process, providing you with valuable insights into your business's financial health. Additionally, develop a budget and regularly review your financial performance against it to identify areas for improvement or expansion. 

    Hiring and Training Staff

    You may run the operation entirely on your own - or with the assistance of family - at first. As your business grows, though, you’ll need to bring on staff. Hiring and training is critical to keeping your cafe afloat.

    Look for individuals who not only have excellent customer service skills but also a genuine enthusiasm for board games. This passion for gaming can enhance the customer experience significantly. 

    Once hired, comprehensive training is essential. Your staff should be well-versed in the rules of various games to assist customers effectively. They should also be trained in food and beverage service, handling transactions, and maintaining the cleanliness and organization of the cafe.

    Marketing and Promoting Your Cafe

    Start with creating a strong brand identity that reflects the unique personality of your cafe. Utilize social media platforms to reach potential customers - share engaging content, upcoming events, and new game arrivals. 

    Consider partnerships with local businesses or gaming communities to widen your reach. Hosting special events, tournaments, and themed nights can also draw in crowds. 

    Don’t forget the power of word-of-mouth - encourage your customers to share their experiences on social media and review sites.

    Ensuring an Exceptional Customer Experience

    The overall customer experience begins the moment a customer steps into your cafe and continues throughout their visit. Ensure your cafe is welcoming, clean, and well-organized. 

    Game instructions should be easily accessible, and staff should be ready to help and recommend games. Consider the little touches that make a big difference - like comfortable seating, good lighting, and the right music. Remember, a happy customer is your best advocate!

    how to make a board game cafe business

    Final Thoughts on How to Start a Board Game Cafe Business

    That concludes our detailed guide on how to make a board game cafe business. We’ve covered everything from the cost to open a board game cafe to what you need to start a board game cafe - and walked you through all the other key considerations along the way.

    Learn more about the role of innovative furniture, multi-functional furniture, and the best board game shelves in setting your board game cafe apart. Otherwise, it’s time for you to get to work now that you know how to start a board game cafe business!

    From curating an exciting game collection to creating a welcoming space, each step builds towards a thriving community hub. Let your love for games guide you in crafting an extraordinary destination, where every visit is an experience and every game played weaves a story.