When we introduced our $5 per person game night fee in 2018, I was afraid that the dramatic increase in price would spell the end of our business. That being said, it was clear that Vigilante was not viable without it. There are unique challenges to operating a restaurant devoted to board games that regular restaurants don’t have to deal with, and those challenges were going to put us out of business.
Implementing the $5 per person game night fee transformed our business. The added revenue helped us retain better employees, which empowered us to provide better service. Instead of customers leaving us, we got busier. The average amount folks were spending on food and beverage increased. The game night fee solves many of the financial challenges of operating a full-service board game restaurant, mostly by empowering us to compensate great employees.
Adjusted for inflation, the $5 game night fee would today be ~$6.40. We held off on raising prices in the pandemic and in the throes of inflation this year, but if we want to stay competitive in hiring, it’s time for us to catch up!
Currently, Vigilante provides direct primary care to all employees who work at least four shifts a week. These part-time employees will retain these benefits. Starting in 2024, all full-time Vigilante employees will also be provided with full health insurance. Our goal is to move as many roles over to full time as possible over the next six months.
Furthermore, we are increasing our guaranteed minimum wage for all employees to match the living minimum wage as calculated by MIT for Austin, Texas.
To afford these changes, we need to make some updates to our pricing and food service model. Starting in February 2024, our game night fee will increase to $7 per person, or $6 with the purchase of an entree.
An entree? What about Vigilante’s 3 plate combo meal?
Instead of three plate meals, Vigilante will now offer entrees and shareables:
- Entrees include a burger/sandwich and a side, or a full-sized salad.
- Sandwiches and sides are served at the same time on two separate plates.
- Two plates allow you to arrange your food around your game AND enjoy your burger with your fries.
- You can add an extra sandwich or side to an entree at a discounted price.
- Shareables include many plates of sides for patrons to pass around and enjoy at the same time.
Recent survey feedback indicates that the cost of buying dinner at Vigilante can be prohibitive AND that many of our patrons would be happy with two plates instead of three. This new system will make dinner more viable for patrons. In general, there will be a small increase in price per item (also because of inflation), but the cost of buying dinner will go down for most patrons.
On top of improving our team’s compensation, there are other crucial reasons why we are making these adjustments:
- The current three plate combo meal is often confusing to patrons, and leads to misperceptions about portion sizes compared to price. A simpler system will help us spend less time communicating about food service and more time teaching games!
- Cooking, delivering, and bussing three plates per patron per night creates a massive amount of extra work for our team, when we’ve learned what patrons really want is more time for our staff to teach them games!
- Patrons come to us to play games first, and eat dinner second. Sometimes folks (even regulars who love our food) want to game with us and eat dinner elsewhere. We understand that! However, Vigilante experiences all of the costs of a commercial kitchen that other restaurants experience regardless of whether our patrons choose us for dinner. Realigning our discount away from purchasing more plates to purchasing any plates will alleviate that specific challenge to our unique concept.
- We get many calls from patrons who want to snack on appetizers instead of having a full meal. We’ve never had a straightforward way to do that, which this system fixes.
- Folks want to eat their burger and their fries at the same time. Coursing is convenient, but is ultimately a pain.
(Also note: the TABC has some rules and guidelines around packaging alcohol with other deals and gaming that we prefer to avoid any entanglement with, no matter how tenuous the connection. As such, incentivizing the purchase of alcohol is off the table).
Our staff is the heart and soul of who we are. Our menu, ambience, game library, marketing, and service model are all secondary to our team. We are raising prices to invest in the people who make us great and to give them more opportunity to interact with you. That investment has always, always increased the quality of our products and services. We are taking a risk, and I hope that all of our customers can be as proud of this change as we are. The service industry needs to be better, and I want to be on the list of Austin restaurants that compensate their team members fairly.
These changes will go live this February!