What are you thinking? No seriously, have you done your research? To help you out here are 10 things you must know about the industry before opening your doors.
There’s a lot of cleaning. It’s a grimy business, and dust collects quickly in your ceilings, corners, and walls. A dirty rink will keep customers from coming back. Plan on keeping your employees busy with constant cleaning.
It’s not a steady business. Gorgeous outdoor weather will be your greatest competition. It’s a seasonal business where cold, wet, and extreme temperatures will boost attendance numbers. Some rinks report a slowdown in the summer when families all go on vacation. For other rink operators, the bulk of their business comes from summer camps. Results vary depending on your local weather conditions, seasons, or when the carnival is in town. You must be creative to keep the building full of customers.
You’ll be hiring and training a lot of teenagers. This is their first job and will need constant supervision and correction. Some are more reliable than others. Some don’t take criticism well. Learn how to conduct group interviews and spot the cream of the crop with a good attitude and work ethic.
It’s not a weekend hobby. Don’t think you can open your doors Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, and stay shut the rest of the week. Someone needs to be in the office to receive deliveries, answer phones and complete many tasks such as insurance forms, music licensing, hiring, firing, selling, painting, repairing, purchasing, scheduling, party planning, group sales, payroll, tax filing, banking, food server certification, accident reports, surveillance video, lighting, sound, POS system oversight, cleaning, training, capital improvements, office management, publicity, graphic design, and marketing. HVAC systems need regular service, rental skates need to be serviced, the parking lot needs cleaning, the list goes on and on.
Lessons are essential. If you want to cultivate a loyal group of customers, you’ll need to get them rolling in the right direction with a lessons program. Good skaters are great for business. They bring their friends. They grow up and have skater kids of their own. Plant the seeds early and often. When they love to skate, they will come back and support your rink.
Rental skates matter. When customers have a good experience at your rink, they will come back and eventually buy their own from your pro shop. If customers are expected to skate in old broken down rental skates they will have a horrible time and never come back. The brownies (or peanut butters as they are referred to) are manufactured by Sure Grip, Golden Horse, Riedell, and Crazy Skates. They average about $150 a pair and you can keep them well-tuned with replacement parts (including boots) for years to come.
Join the Roller Skating Association (RollerSkating.com) International for about a buck a day as a “future operator.” You’ll get their magazine – Roller Skating Business, a weekly digital newsletter, invitations to all their trade shows and section meetings, volume discounts, exclusive marketing programs, access to vendors who serve the rink industry, and social forums when you can ask questions of other rink operators. You’ll save thousands of dollars learning from the mistakes of others.
Subscribe to RINKSIDER magazine. For full disclosure, I am the Editor of The RINKSIDER. Our advice columns range from IT issues, music licensing, floor maintenance, snack bar profits, novelties, and redemption, parties, and anything relevant to the successful operation of a skate center. You can also get a glimpse of previous articles at RINKSIDER.com free of charge, and follow us on Facebook.
Plan on having a lot of fun! Owning a rink means meeting new friends and spreading your passion for roller skating. Rink operations is not for everyone, but for the right person it’s a life changing experience where you’ll work in a fascinating industry full of helpful people who want you to succeed.