Blog/ Customer Stories

Opening a New Venue? Learn from Virtual Recreation's Success with ROLLER

Kids playing a VR game at Virtual Recreation

Founded by Jackie Dawes in November 2023, Virtual Recreation is an innovative Virtual Reality venue in Ashford. Jackie's vision was to connect with the local community by creating an exciting activity for young people in her town.

Virtual Recreation is not just for hardcore gamers; it offers a variety of experiences, from fun cooking games to zombie shooting games. This broad spectrum appeals to all age groups, making it a popular choice for kids' birthday parties and corporate team-building events.

Prioritizing flexibility and customer service with ROLLER

When selecting a venue management platform, Jackie had already seen ROLLER in action at a local trampoline park, and her brother also used ROLLER for his business. Despite exploring other options like FareHarbor and Book Now, Jackie found that ROLLER best suited her needs.

"FareHarbor was selling their product on the basis that there was no cost to my business, but booking fees for guests were as high as £18 for a party. A massive part of my ethos is around customer service, and I felt that adding a huge booking fee that I have no choice over was just wrong," Jackie explained. 

ROLLER offered the scalability and customer service that Jackie needed. "The ROLLER team was helpful, friendly, and quick at responding without any sales pressure. The service I received throughout that process demonstrated to me that I would get good service as a customer as well,” says Jackie. “The flexibility of ROLLER was really important. I always knew that what I started with on day one was probably not what I would need in six months because I would learn and adapt,” she adds.

The challenges of opening a new venue

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Virtual Recreation's advice for opening a new venue

Jackie faced her fair share of challenges when opening the venue, particularly with securing a location. "It took quite a few months to get the venue I wanted," she said. 

Financing was another major hurdle. "I had been out of employed work for several months and was running out of money very quickly. Coordinating a million different people—architect, builder, landlord, suppliers—was hectic,” Jackie shared. The local council also pulled funding for some of the construction work partway through the process.

Despite these setbacks, Jackie got the venue up and running quickly and found ROLLER easy to configure. “From the day I got the keys to the day of opening was eight weeks,” she says. 

Reflecting on her journey, Jackie shares some advice for other operators looking to open a new venue. "Have enough cash behind you to allow you to take the time needed to make sure everything is lined up as you need it. And don't be frightened to push people to get things done."

Investing in the right platform

Given these financial pressures, Jackie appreciated ROLLER's support when she reached out for help. "I contacted ROLLER to say I was struggling with payments at the moment, and someone sat with me to talk through ideas about how to make the business more efficient. We added a small fee of 95 pence per booking, which was great because it was my choice, not £18 for a party. About half of my monthly ROLLER cost is covered by that booking fee. And as my customers grow, I anticipate that almost all or all of that cost will be covered by the booking fee." 

Jackie acknowledges that the cost of a venue management platform as a new business can be overwhelming, but it’s worth investing in a platform that will support your growth. “At the beginning, it’s hard to justify a big monthly payment going out when you're trying to grow your customer base. But with a fixed fee, I know that the cost will become a smaller percentage of my revenue as I grow.” 

When asked why she would recommend investing in ROLLER, Jackie emphasized the platform's adaptability and control. "Whereas other platforms might have been designed just for trampoline parks or escape rooms and then adapted to fit other things in, ROLLER can be set up for absolutely anything," she states. She highlights the importance of a system that can be easily modified without requiring intervention from a support team and without incurring additional costs. "You have control as an operator, so you’re not forced to charge a set booking fee, or set your products up in a particular way, or have the booking platform set up your products for you. And if I change a product, it's on my website within a second. That kind of flexibility and control is worth everything for me.”

Growing revenue with add-ons and analytics

Jackie highlights two key ROLLER features that have helped streamline operations and increase revenue. First, the ability to upsell additional table games at checkout, such as air hockey, has boosted revenue and helped Jackie maximize capacity. "When you go to the checkout, it says, do you want to add on table games? People who didn’t know that experience existed now have that as an option. I've seen an uptick in bookings for the table games," says Jackie. 

Add-ons are critical for boosting average spend at venues with smaller capacity limits. At Virtual Recreation, experiences are limited to 14 people. “Getting those 14 people to play on the table games and also buy a cup of coffee massively helps revenue,” adds Jackie. If each guest spends an extra £6 on games and coffee, the business can generate an additional £84 per session, which over a week amounts to hundreds of pounds in extra revenue.

Secondly, Analytics, ROLLER’s new visual reporting and dashboarding tool, has been a game-changer for Virtual Recreation. Prior to the release of Analytics, Jackie managed her reporting manually by exporting data to Excel. But this was so time-consuming that she often deprioritized it altogether and missed out on valuable business insights. “I often wouldn’t have time to do pivot tables, so I wouldn’t have the data. Now, having it at my fingertips, understanding my business performance can become a top priority instead of something that gets overlooked,” says Jackie.

This has also enabled Jackie to uncover valuable insights about how to grow her customer base. “With Analytics, I could see that my return rate for customers is around 20%, which is incredible. But when I think about my growth strategy, I need to be seeing a higher percentage of new guests. So I’ve started looking at marketing to existing customers to get them to bring other people. Having all of the guest data easily accessible in ROLLER has really helped my marketing strategy,” she says.

Looking ahead, Jackie has strong growth ambitions for Virtual Recreation, including expanding her audience into local schools and franchising the business. Virtual Recreation's success story is a testament to Jackie's determination and the robust capabilities of the ROLLER platform. 

Talk to us to see how ROLLER can help you grow your business.