View Full Version : Me and my wife thinking about opening an arcade/restaurant

25-01-10, 03:02
Well, we have our house and car payments both down to under 6000 dollars, which means in two years we will be debt free. We are also sitting on two acres of property, in the country but on a major highway between two larger towns with lots of schools and whatnot, and we are seriously beginning discussions for opening up a small arcade/cafe snack shop on our property. This is still in the talking phase, and is two years away from actually buying stuff and getting the loan for it, but its always best to prepare early. This thread will be beefy, so only read if you are interested and would like some input.

The boring stuff out of the way first, the eatery will just be a basic thing, serving stuff like drinks, nachos, deep fried stuff like fries, tenderloins, cheese sticks, chicken strips, you know, unhealthy stuff lol. I'm also considering basic vending machines instead for chips, drinks, and sandwichs with a couple microwaves in there, not sure which would be better.

The actually building this is all gonna start out in is a prefab garage (the kind you buy for around 6 or 8 thousand, they more or less bring it on a large flatbed and drop it on your property). After that we'd add the bar for the eatery in the back section, add a second garage door on the other end (one garage door on one side for arcade machines and game tables, the other for bringing food in), and doors on each wall, one for an entrance and one for an exit for fire codes. Torwards the bar area a small room will be constructed as a bathroom.

I'm not sure about water and electric. My current idea for water would be to run a branch from out main water line, and than for electric to just put another box in (possibly another meter? not sure.) I'm also not sure about the legal aspects if I can even do this in this manner or not. Still looking into everything.

Cooling is rather simple, just taking a couple of window mount air conditioners (large ones, not the smaller ones, the ones I want I think are 4 or 5 hundred) and mounting them onto the walls on the building. This is cheaper the central air and should easily cool a smaller building. A couple of fans will be put in the kitchen to supplement it if we go the kitchen route instead of vending machines. Heating....I'm not sure about. A furnace is pretty high (just had a new one put in the house).

Initially, I'm considering just a basic gravel entry with parking for maybe 10 to 12 vehicles using the current half acre towards the back. I don't expect a ton of traffic through here, but I may possibly have to work out extending it. I'm also not sure if paving would be better financially or not.

As far as the machines go, I plan on just renting a couple U-Hauls, picking up some towing straps to strap what I buy down, and going to the auction in Terre Haute and loading up. I am hoping 5 grand would pick up all the machines I'd need, although I really want to add a couple pinball tables, a pool table, and maybe if there's room foosball and air hockey. I'm not too sure how much these run, or even if these are at the Terre Haute auction. I'm considering hitting up local bowling alleys and bars and seeing perhaps where they get their tables from.

If we actually make decent money from this idea (i'm expecting more from food than games), I'd prolly get a second pre-fab garage and mod it for lasertag. That'd require insurance for everyone and whatnot, but it'd be awesome setting up lasertag with a playfield that large, and the professional lasertag equipment looks fairly cheap (about a grand for the hardware, than maybe another 3 grand to paint and build the halls/obstructions/barriers and whatnot.

So, thats our crazy idea. I wanna hear any ideas, pics of equipment or maybe SoCals arcade room, anything at all. I'm new to all of this and still doing a lot of research, so I want tons of crazy ideas! Heck, this stuff may not even happen, but I wanna at least try and see how far I can get, especially since there's no arcades here at all til you get to Indianapolis other than bowling alleys and gas stations with maybe two cabs.

25-01-10, 04:54
My hat is off to you if you pull it off, it is something that I have thought about and talked about with neighbors and friends. There are several shopping strips within a mile of my house and there seems to always be some retail space for rent. The discussion seems to have three parts. One is the setup, rent the space, clean up at auction and open a month after allowing time to get the games up and running. Buy a pizza case, hot dog rack, soda fountain etc. all not so hard to do and and you would have to work hard to spend more than 20k. So a month later working on off days and weekends and the place opens. Just in casual discussion we found that the initial money was something we would all be up for. Part 2, then what? We are an hour west of D.C. and the major N. Va metro area. Does word spread and the place is packed all weekend with fellow enthusiasts and really cool regulars? Or do a couple of teens and the occasional customer come in and nothing happens? And part 3, I work 4 days on, 4 days off so I technically have time but those days are very full already, would I give up my hobbies? It takes 3 years to build an airplane working 8-10 hour days almost every day off, would I accept a 12 year finish time? Quit my "day job" get out of space flight to run an arcade when I don't even like business? So it pretty much got dropped after thinking about it critically.

If someone else opened one up, even though I had the same games at home would I go there just for the cool factor and comradeship of other collectors, sure.

I do think your underestimating the game costs a bit depending on what your after. I would go up at least 50% because you don't just have to operate what you want, it has to also be what the customers want. You will probably want a double cab racer, and like you said air hockey/ foosball and those you can usually find at auction. Your likely to get a core of classics and some more modern earners if you spend a bit more.

Signage will also be something to think about. And if your really committing perhaps a steel building that looks more like a professional store would be more encouraging for customers to initially come in the door. That is just my gut instinct, I am not a business minded person, Socal can probably speak to that better than I can.

I don't want to sound like I am calling it a bad idea, it is just an idea that is not for me when I really thought about what opening up my own arcade would mean.

As for pics, if you join our facebook group and look under photos I have added a bunch of my home arcade, it might give you ideas for the interior.

25-01-10, 05:45
Well, I'm in the part one part as well, just talking/thinking about it right now. From discussions, we have 3 people interested in running shifts. I myself used to manage a full service restaurant and don't mind the work, so a basic snack bar type thing should be pretty simple in that regard. My wife is also interested in running it, as well as my mother who no longer works, nor needs to, but is bored at the house all day and wouldn't mind that kind of work (she'd also get a portion of the profits thats pretty large if she took 3 or 4 days compared to me and Barbs 2!). Also keep in mind she used to manage a restaurant as well. From that perspective, me and my wife could both work full time, run the shop one day out of the week, with my mother taking 4 or possibly 5 days a week. The goal, if we could bring in enough money, would be for me and my wife to go down to part time jobs and run the shop the other time and have a single day off a week, but that would be a while off in the future.

Its funny you mentioned everything costing around 20k, as thats about what I was thinking too (actually I was thinking 25 to 30 due to running plumbing and electrical in the building, and installing a bathroom and water to the snack bar).

I'll definately take your advice about how much the cabs cost. I've only went to auction once, just to look around this time, to see how it works, and what stuff sells for. Some of the games I think I want in there they didn't have so I couldn't get a good pricing idea.

As far as what I want towards what is popular, you are prolly right there too, as the only game I know of thats even popular is DDR (which I actually hate, lol) With that in mind, here are the games I was thinking of actively hunting for to start this up:

Pac-Man (either original, Ms. or the newer one that also has Galaga)
Street Fighter 2 (any version) or Mortal Kombat 2
Hydro Thunder (sit down version) or Star Wars Pod Racer (sit down version)
Terminator 2: Judgement Day
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (either the first one or Turtles in Time)
Playchoice 10 (with an assortment of game boards, figure I can acquire a collection and switch games out in it every so often)
Bowling game (trackball mandatory, not sure what the names of any are but I loved all these)
Tekken (preferably 2, 3, or Tag)
Generic Neo-Geo arcade system (I assume these you could easily switch boards/art out in?)
Generic JAMMA arcade system (again, I assume one you can easily switch art and boards in)

As far as pinball, I don't know much about it. I figure a couple of tables would do it. I'd love to get Family Guy, but it seems really expensive. I like a lot of the tables on my Williams Collection PSP game, especially Whirlwind, Pinbot, Taxi, and Funhouse, but I bet all those are really up there as well. There's a huge chance I'll get a couple cheaper tables, see how they do (and if I like them as well), and possibly resell and try again.

Also I definately want the pool table, and if there is room I'd first add Skeeball, than Foosball, than finally air hockey. Do you think that'd be a good starting collection or should I try to include something newer? I'm seriously considering DDR, especially considering I only have one other sit down racer on there.

I've also considered doing away with the cafe bar thing and adding a couple drink machines, a couple vending machines for chips and candy stuff, and a sandwich machine, than a couple microwaves. I don't know about this idea though, I really like the idea of a bar with freshly made food. Besides, I'm a glutton for good old deep fried food anyhow.

You are totally right, I totally neglected signage! I don't like the usual arrow on top with plastic letters on the bottom signs that you always see everywhere. I wonder if I could build a nice looking one using wood, paint, and letter stencils, than use a couple ground spotlights up on the sign to light it? Plus perhaps have a professional come in and paint the side of the building up with a logo, plus a bunch of retro gaming characters would look awesome as well.

I also wondered if I could build a couple cabs for consoles? Have the console inside with a game running, than somehow set up a system where like a quarter turned on a half hour timer, after time expires the system resets, and the controller doesn't activate til the quarter is inserted, plus extra time can be bought by inserting another quarter? I've easily got enough carts to have a new game every day for years if I could wire up something like that.

25-01-10, 06:07
The trackball bowling you may be thinking of is Capcom Bowling.

The 20k I was thinking of was for a retail space, so your estimate with the setup at your place is probably at the 30k range, but of course you don't have to worry about rent recurring. I have heard over and over that most small businesses go under due to lack of funding in the first year. Your setup may mitigate some of that risk.

I would strongly suggest hitting auction every time it comes up to get a feel for it and how pricing goes. I would also suggest buying a few cabs right away if you are even thinking about doing this. You will be the change attendant and technician all at once. You need to learn how to repair and maintain the games and that takes time. Ownership will teach you allot.

Neo geo does have multi slot boards and you can always rotate say 12 games through a 3 slot board. There are also 100in1 carts but those are bootleg which makes them technically illegal to operate for money. Will the local food and beverage or tax official know jack shit about Neo Geo multi carts, probably not but there is always a chance. The same is true for 60in1 boards and MAME. I have seen all three on route.

Jamma, within reason they swap. Electrically, monitor etc. they are all the same but one game may need a 4 axis and 3 buttons and another may need an 8 axis and 2 buttons.

Coin op consoles would probably be more effort than the same space would earn you with a dedicated machine. There was an adapter for the Dreamcast that did just that, and Flare has posted pics of some Mexican arcades with consoles and rigged up cabs, I would pass on the idea.

Pins would be expensive but can earn well. I paid 4k for my Family Guy new and when I have parties it stays busy the whole time. Pinball is not dead, just put it where people can play it and it does well.

25-01-10, 06:31
As far as risk of running out of money, thats a huge reason why we would use our own property and building. The risks would just go down to paying the electric, water, increased property taxes, and the food costs. I did look into retail space, but the rent fees seem steep for the buildings around here, especially for the space you get. A friend of mine runs a used game shop near me and rents a tiny space for around 400 a month. His entire setup is smaller than my living room and kitchen, including his back room!

I'm looking to purchase a cab right now. A guy nearby has a Double Dribble for sale for $150 dollars, but so far he hasn't returned my calls (been 3 days now). The pics on Craiglist seem to be good, the cab looks nice and its powered on in the pic.

I am very scared as far as maintenance on these things go, as I have very little experience with arcade innards. I build my own PCs, know how to solder, but I don't know if these skills would help me or not. I know how to check a board for a bad transistor or capacitor, but thats about it.

I guess you are right on the console cab idea. Really, the Playchoice 10 would take care of it anyway, and its definately going in there, its really the only cab in that list I guarentee I will own, even if I don't end up building the arcade. I desperately want one of these. There's one in Indy going for a grand right now, if its still there when I get my tax check I'm gonna try and get it.

I like the Neo Geo multi board idea. I'll be looking for one of those too.

For JAMMA, is there a place online where I can see what can work with what?

I gotta have at least one pin machine, as I like playing them. I was gonna buy one at a flea market, asked the lady to hold it while I went to the ATM, and when I got back she had already sold it. It was in decent shape, an older one called Worlds Fair I think. Really old, some cosmetic flaking on the paint, but it worked and seemed like it could be brought back to nice condition with some work. It was 300.....I was so close!

25-01-10, 07:17
Man this sounds awesome!

My only recommendation is that you take time to explore the licensing and zoning laws in your area. It might be difficult to get a liquor license (or even a food service) license if you are planing on running this out of a building that is zoned for residence. I can see you having everything going swimmingly only to find out the city wants 10k for some BS permit or something.

Still, that sounds like a real dream come true!

25-01-10, 08:10
Man this sounds awesome!

My only recommendation is that you take time to explore the licensing and zoning laws in your area. It might be difficult to get a liquor license (or even a food service) license if you are planing on running this out of a building that is zoned for residence. I can see you having everything going swimmingly only to find out the city wants 10k for some BS permit or something.

Still, that sounds like a real dream come true!

No need for the alcohol license, I don't really want one. Going for a slightly more family atmosphere, someplace parents won't mind their kids going.

As far as permits, I've been told as long as the building is up to public access fire code, and the food safety inspector passes it, I'm good to go. My biggest concern, ironically, is handicapped access. That part may very well be most challenging, as everything from the type of doorhandle to lighting to bathroom door size is checked out.

25-01-10, 09:34
Keep everybody posted on how this goes. No matter what happens, it's great as a documented "how-to" for anybody else with the vision for this sort of thing.

Speaking of arcade cabs, I'm hoping Subaru will enlighten us all on my DK "white screen of death" dilemma in the coming podcast.

26-01-10, 12:01
Gorilla, it is in the new show, should be out VERY soon, start looking!

Leathco, don't be scared of the maintenance, just get experienced. If you restore 4 games you will be ready to maintain your arcade. The key is that it takes a while to gain the experience. You mentioned that you had a friend who runs a game shop. Work for him for free for a while and learn if that is an option.

26-01-10, 09:39
Ugh, tried posting this earlier and it logged me out and didn't bring it back when I hit back in the browser.

I'm also looking forward to the January show for the Anthology top 10, Gen Mobile review, the fix for PG's DK, and the winners for the GBA comp. The show is always awesome.

The friend who runs the shop is console only, not much help with the arcade side....but I hope using common sense and my knowledge in computers, mechanics, and my MCSE I know enough to stumble my way through learning how to do upkeep and repair on machines.