View Full Version : Estimating Customer Base

10-10-2008, 09:18 AM
Hi All, First Post

Im doing the planning for next year. This will be a first year pro haunt, so my expextations are not huge. I am still trying to put together some longer term growth planning. I live in the haunted attaction deficient state of California. I have a site, outdoors. Temps in October are usually good and rain comes once aver 10 years. My immediate area (within 5 minute drive) has a population of about 50,000 with the surroundind area (within 25 min) bringing the total nearby population to 220K. Add to this the transiecnt state college population of about 20,000 uncounted students. The nearest attraction is a 2 hour drive away. No one has tried to establish an attraction here in recent memory (20 yrs). There are not even any small group charity type haunts. So the question come, how do I begin to estimate the potential volume of customers for properly deisned and marketed event?
I know dicussing actual attendance number seems taboo, but help me as you can.

10-10-2008, 09:48 AM
Well, set your hopes HIGH... and advertise like nothing else!!! For a first year haunt, a LARGE chunk of your budget should go towards marketing/advertising... it's called branding, a known rule of business start-up. There's no reason why you couldn't pull alot of people beyond that 25 mile radius. -Tyler

10-10-2008, 12:39 PM
Yeah, there might be another 80-100K people if you expand to a 45 to 60 min drive radius then geograpfic features sort of create a psycological block for anyone further away. The question comes to what I am designing for. Do you go after a detailed, lower staffing level, lower turnover haunt that then has the potential to have upset customers who waited too long because of unanticipated demand, or design for a larger and higher throughput, probably two haunt attaction and hope to cover the additional expense.

10-10-2008, 12:56 PM
I don't think I follow what your asking... to me, it seems that you would want:

-High Detail
-High Staffing (meaning several actors)
-High Turnover (in this case meaning higher returns from guest)
-Minimal to no customer complaints

As for design, I would design for a median... you def. want to put on a good show for everybody, whether it's 1,000 people or 50,000 people. By having multiple attractions, you can disperse your lines better and decrease wait times, unless of course your HIT with MASSIVE amounts of people that make this impossible... but then you could look into VIP passes and/or a timed-ticketing system.

Granted, although possible, it's VERY UNLIKELY you'll turn a profit your first year... or maybe your second year... but this business is all about planning ahead, like years ahead! -Tyler

10-10-2008, 01:21 PM
Im with you 100%. To better clarify my thoughts -

Im concerned I could get anywhere from 800 to 8000. 50,000 really wont be an issue. But in either case, an attaction designed for 800 people vs one for 8000 people are different beasts.

Im very much about high detail, it probably would not be the same experience for me if I shorted in that area.
High staffing more applies to appropriate level of staffing. If one is prepared for 200 people one night and 1200 show up, you are headed for problems. general security is understaffed, facilities sre inadaqate, perhaps the parking situation gets overloaded, this leads to pissed off customers, land lords, neighbors, city staff, etc. On top of that one great night, how do ramp up and train in a very short period staff to handle what may come in the next few days. (Sounds like a pretty cool problem to have the more I think of it). On the other hand, what if you open the doors and it was quiet. In the end there is a designed dollar projection for any business that defines the break even point.

Designing for the median sounds Ok, it is really finding that number that I am struggling with.

I realize, profit in first year is very unlikely. Break even would be nice, or atleast close.

10-10-2008, 02:05 PM
What area of CA are you in?

10-10-2008, 04:39 PM
Central Coast.

Haunting Copy
10-10-2008, 07:47 PM
Before I say this, please understand that I am *not* a haunt owner. But here are my thoughts.

You might want to keep the haunt to one attraction, to begin with. This way you can accomplish a couple things. One, it will (hopefully) enable you to accommodate any number of patrons and their parking needs.

Two, it will enable you to enhance the quality of *one* haunt, versus spreading out your resources over two. I would think this is important when just starting out and resources are especially scarce.

If you're worried about long lines, and you have a single attraction, you could consider using the space around the queue as its own form of entertainment. If you do a thread search (there is one titled "Queue Entertainment" or some such thing), you can find lots of ideas and inspiration.

Best, :)

10-10-2008, 08:30 PM
Yeah, it all comes down to budget... just work with what you have, make it awesome, and worry about the crowds when they come!

Although I've worked in this industry for several years, in 2009 I'm opening my first pro haunt/event... granted, I'm opening up with 3 seperate attractions, we have the budget for it.

That's what it comes to! -Tyler

10-11-2008, 06:32 PM
What part of the Central Coast? Down near Santa Barbara or in SLO?

10-11-2008, 06:49 PM
In in the SLO area

Dr Spooktakular
10-14-2008, 01:04 PM
With a population of around 200,000, you could assume with 1 attraction that you could draw 3,000 on the low end to 6,000 on the high end. Figure out what you might want to charge for admission, $10-$15 for a 5K-8K sq ft haunt, you should budget in the $50,000 to $70,000 range, with about $10,000 going towards marketing. If you can't get your budget in the black by the end of year 2, rethink your budget, always account for the worst case scenerio and always hope for the best. You might want to get the book "So You Want To Be A Hauntrepeneur," here's the link:


10-14-2008, 01:52 PM
Thanks for the input Doc

Those are right in the range on numbers I backed into, but was looking for a more definitive process. How did you arrive at those numbers?

10-14-2008, 06:30 PM
Just to add in a question to this good thread. How do most people at this lower end of the haunt grouping get actors? If you get them from a 501c3 you have to donate and that can be nearly what you could pay them and really can eat into your operating profits. At the same time 501c3 groups are hard to come by who are full of haunt grade actors. What are some common ways of staffing and how many staff are people running in a 5K-8K sq ft haunt with guess max attendance of 1,500 from your list?

Jim Warfield
10-14-2008, 07:07 PM
I think the number of people within 40 miles of The Ravens Grin might be 180,000 to 210,000?
BUT, if I had not recieved alot of really wonderfull free advertising early on from major newspapers , magazines and an extremely popular radio show, I would not have had enough financial success to quit my "real" job, which didn't pay enough to actually be qualified as real pay compared to almost any other job.
I garnered attention with my seven physical levels of haunted house, no lie, Wine cellar, basement, first floor, second floor, attic, cupola, crashed UFO on the roof of the cupola.
Then it becomes an on-going effort to impress customers enough to create in them a core of fans who continiously spread the word.
I work on this house and business everyday, for the last 21 years.
It still ain't perfect, yet.

Greg Chrise
10-14-2008, 08:56 PM
Actors are out there coming from varied experiences and having different reason to work for a charity. Generally it is all about the fun of acting in a haunt but, why they are no longer somewhere else is what you need to eliminate, like egos, over directive ness and such. People can work for free anywhere. Sometimes it is as simple as an excuse to meet others of a similar interest and being welcomed.

In Illinois it shouldn't be a problem finding actors. Even those previously working for nothing wages would work for free once the opportunity was presented as they enjoy it. If it is a charity, you will find many willing to put out in the name of charity as well.

Most people aren't able to give $50 or $100 when an envelope comes from the food bank or the local volunteer fire department. They have to pass on giving away their lunch money to help the united way at work. Hence a little consumer guilt? Being a monster is a way for even the unemployed to have a little diversion and be contributing in some way. There is a little unwritten thing in the head or spirit that if one puts out some positive support, some will come back. This might be total crap but there is something wrong with the human brain in this respect.

So, you really believe in your charity, the money everyone has made an effort to accumulate is indeed being spent on the good cause.

Our actors in this area have come from many sources.

1) Another charity haunt was a good experience but it is the same every year. The performances are expected to be such that does not really scare or entertain but, they did what they were told for the experience and did not find any reward.
2) A local resort had an event one night per year in a real mansion for some 400 property owners at no cost, just to give an event and perhaps give a tough time to the occasional pain in ass customers. They lost their location as it was redeveloped and so they moved in with us in the form of an acting troup and bought a night and brought all the 400 customers as well.
3)Volunteer fire department staff, friends, family and extended contacts there for fun. This reins out to EMS, police, constables and a wild inter twining of friends.
4)Younger kids looking for some acting out release in being part of all things horror
5)Young people who have traffic tickets to worse offenses that have been given community service hours to full fill can actually act in your haunt for hour credits instead of picking up trash or just sitting on a hard bench at the local constables office like detention, messing up the bathrooms for fun.
6)Theatrical types will participate as they are learning and becoming aware of peoples reactions. To them it is an opportunity again away from egos and politics or direction of others.
7) Over time several haunt owners sort of converge their resouces and talent flips back and forth with over flow of too man actors responding to positions available, the end result is growing a market demand for haunts in a region rather than competition.
8) As you become known as the guy with the hearse or what ever, you will find people you had no idea were driving 130 miles every night one way to the big city just for something to do with a car load of friends and now they can do the same 2 miles from home.
9)Friends and family of any of the above see the opportunity for even the disabled to come out and have fun being an actor. They have the time of their lives and those that brought them are greatful for the whole event and seeing them happy and not focusing on other issues.

When actors cost no more than a meal a night (hopefully provided by sponsors) and a provided costume, you can have one every 12 feet and beat a profit haunt with interaction that is limited in staff as it costs money. Our haunt rocks because it is not go down a 50 foot hall to where you see one person saying something in a big square room then another hall trip and one more actor in another large square room. This level of interactivity also means the haunt doesn't have to be 8,000 SF or 20,000 SF in an effort to conquer some level of suckyniess. Also the larger it is the harder it is to detail and theme properly.

Some people who will work for free see other predatory opportuntities you must watch out for and others are simply clinicaly insane. 49 out of 50 will be beautiful people you will get to know just how giving they are. All of a sudden you will have crashed the "everywhere you go are strangers" thing.