One-Year Update: Growing Patronage, Healthy Pricing Changes and Loyalty Cards
Thank you for an amazing first year. We’ve had an incredible journey, learned a ton, and found happiness in helping people connect over games, food and beverage. Since opening, we’ve served over 40,000 guests; thank you for your patronage. This weird restaurant concept is finally starting to come into its own.
Progress Since October (tl;dr: it’s good!)
In October, we put out a call for help, explaining the many changes we had made and asking patrons for a second chance. We are so grateful that our community pulled through for us: after publishing the post, we saw an immediate 40% increase in sales. Our hard work is paying off: after fixing parking, rebooting our menu, rearranging the social hall and updating our service practices we are serving more patrons, receiving better reviews, and have a firmly established business model that is making gamers happy.
Vigilante’s biggest inherent challenge has always been turning tables. A successful restaurant will seat 3-5 parties at a single table over a busy night (about 45 minutes per party). Our average patron stays at Vigilante for 2-3 hours. Fundamentally, playing board games at a restaurant means that we can seat 1-2 parties per table, per night. This halves our effective seating capacity (especially during peak times), while also increasing our per patron service costs, which presents a huge challenge.
During year one, our strategy to counteract this was to serve quality food and drink to increase our patron’s average spending to support the business. Our scratch kitchen, four-course meal deal and relentless pursuit of higher food quality (plus the best beers Texas has to offer) have empowered us to compete with other Austin restaurants. However, now that we have a full year’s worth of data under our belts, it has become clear that the core value of adding board games to a restaurant is not in a game library, but in the space we provide and the duration of your stay. To ensure our long term health, we need to sell our actual core value.
After considerable additional research, we are adjusting our pricing model to mirror dozens of board game cafes across the country. As of April 16th (2 weeks from yesterday), we are updating our current Game Library Fee ($3) into a $5 “Game Night Fee” for all patrons:
- This is a per-person fee
- It covers unlimited access to our library for the duration of your stay
- Patrons are welcome to bring their own games, but the Game Night Fee will still apply
- This fee is effective after 4pm Monday – Friday, and all day Saturday and Sunday
- Our lunch special ($8 for two sliders and fries!) still includes free games!
- There is a “Dine-In Exemption”: if your stay is under an hour or you sit at the bar you will not be charged
- Free Game Night will still be held every Tuesday
We have never and never will ask a table to leave, because (as gamers) we hate the idea of interrupting someone’s experience with arbitrary limits. However, we must acknowledge that part of our core value is in the space we provide and the length of time our patrons enjoy that space. We believe this fee is commensurate to the value we present, and we hope our community agrees. For Vigilante to continue to serve Austin, we must adjust how we do business.
Loyalty Punch Cards (Earn Free Game Nights!)
We have an incredible group of core regulars that make Vigilante who we are, from the community members that supported our journey to the backers who funded our construction. Originally, we thought the Secret Society would be a great tool to help these patrons enjoy Vigilante. Unfortunately, The Secret Society didn’t give a lot of real value to our patrons, and was operationally challenging to maintain. Now that our original backer memberships have expired, we are replacing the Secret Society with a general loyalty punch card: for every 4 Game Night Fees you purchase, your 5th will be on us!
Full House Fee
Finally, we will also be implementing a Full House Fee. If Vigilante has a waitlist of patrons who desire a table (e.g. busy Friday and Saturday nights), tables who wish to stay for longer than 3 hours will be charged an additional $3/person. When in action, this policy will be clearly posted throughout Vigilante. We will warn these tables at the 3-hour mark and give them a 20-minute grace period to complete any game they are playing.
Vigilante is closer than ever to being a strong, sustainable business. The biggest contributing factor to this has been our patrons’ feedback. We work hard to listen to your wants/needs, and will continue to be transparent about how we are working to better serve Austin. Thank you all for your support, and we look forward to many more game nights in the future!
To help you follow our Gaming Fee internet research footsteps, here is a list of well-known board game cafes across the country, as well as links to their cover charge policies:
- Snakes and Lattes, Toronto: $8 cover
- Knight Moves, MA: $5-$10 cover
- Tabletop, OH: $5 cover
- GameHaus, LA: $5-$7.5 cover
- Victory Point Cafe, Berkeley: $5 cover
- Meepleville, Las Vegas: $7 cover
- Board and Brew, Maryland: $5 cover
- Kingmakers, OH: $5 cover
- Cloak & Blaster, FL: $5 minimum, but holds you liable for damage
- The Uncommons, NYC: $5-$10 cover
- Board Game Island, Galveston: $2.5 an hour, or $5 all day cover