There are two main ways that axe lanes are normally designed. One method is 2 targets side by side in a “pit” or “lane” with no safety dividers in between them. The other method is to have each target in it’s own lane. In this article we will look at the difference between the two designs and explain how it can affect your business.
If you look at a double target lane vs indivudual lanes a few thing stand out right away. It is obvious that one design is safer. In a double target design people are supposed to throw at the same time and then retrieve their axes. As we like to explain, when bowling, the person next to you is supposed to wait for you… but how often do they not? And Axes are a lot sharper than bowling balls.
Let’s avoid any Axe-adents.
But there is much more to this story!
So why would anyone want double axe lanes?
You have to think back about the history of the axe throwing business to even try to understand why an inferior design is the norm. Axe throwing was not a recreational activity. It was basically a lumberjack competition game. And someone a long time ago got the idea that it created more suspense and excitement if the two competitors threw their axes as the same time. Why?? Who knows! Bowlers take turns, Golfers take turns, but someone thought it should go this way. Pretty much so a tournament doesn’t take all day.
To this day, when there are tournaments, the competitors stand side by side, and an official / referee tells them to throw, and they do at about the same time. Then the tell them to go retrieve their axes. If a hit is close, and the referee can’t tell what it should score, he can walk up to the boards and see both shots at once, and decide if it’s a 4 or a 6, etc.
So, perhaps for an axe tournament only facility – this makes some sense. Realistically, however, the throwers are still standing side by side, with the fencing between the lanes they can still see what each has thrown. The only potential problem is if a ref had to go check both targets (a rarity) he would have to take a few extra steps around the divider.
But if you are opening an axe throwing facility - this is where your profits lie.
Axe Throwing Leagues are a way to increase your business on a slow day during the week, like a Tuesday or Wednesday. You will probably find however a bulk of your business, and your profit will not be from leagues.
In fact is seems that leagues are normally charging throwers $120 or so for an 8 week league, giving away prizes, etc so the new profit per person on a league is less than half the profit on a recreational thrower.
We see a lot of bookings in a lot of different axe locations – across the US, Canada, and even as far away as Australia. There are some that are very involved with leagues, and they might have 30 or 40 people, some more on a Wednesday league night. But that same location will see 240 recreational throwers on a Saturday at twice the price per person! So the 8 week league with a $15 per person per night brings in $300 – $500 on a Wednesday, the Saturday Recreation Crowd brings in $6000+.
Friday Night date night, bachelor and birthday parties, friends just coming out to throw some axes and maybe have a beer… this is where the bulk of your revenue will probably come from, especially if you try to get that revenue.
I hear new business owners talking about “We can get our logo on ESPN” and think that type of marketing will help… So, let’s look again at bowling. How many times have you been bowling?. Was it so you could be on ESPN on a bowling tournament? I’m betting the answer is no. It was because you wanted to hang out with your friends, drink a beer, eat some chips, roll a ball and have a good time out. This is now what the axe throwing business is.
What started as lumber jack competition is now, darts, or bowling, or going and playing pool… it’s just cooler and more fun! We talk to dozens of axe throwing places, and some do leagues and tournaments, but each will tell you it’s the night out on Friday and Saturday that is the profit center for their business, and leagues are just a way to bring in discounted customers on a slow week night.
I saw this exact same thing in my Paintball Business. Starting out, other fields told us that we had to have tournament and cater to the people who had their own guns. I asked one, “How many people are within 20 miles of me that are serious players that want to do tournaments and have their own guns?”
He replied, “I’d guess at least a couple hundred.”
I said, “How many people withing 20 miles will have a birthday this year? Or a bachelor party, or have a company team building event? Or just want a night out with friends?”
Even after that, I’m not sure he got it.
Ok, But does this change how we design our Axe Throwing lanes?
Happy Customers Come Back More!
So put the tournament idea on the sidelines for a bit, and lets see what will make for the best customer experience for a recreational group.. a few friends, a date night.
Picture yourself with a few friends for a fun night out. Do you want to be grouped with 3-6 strangers you don’t know? Or would you rather have your own lane?
Picture yourself and a few friends going out to dinner, you made a reservation for 4. You get to the restaurant and the hostess looks up your reservation, then takes you to a table of 8 where 4 other people are sitting.
Which experience will bring that group back in for another night?
Some like going quickly, some want to take their time, some may want to throw at targets, some may choose to play tic tac toe. Shouldn’t each person have the experience they want?
I’ve had people tell me, “We just group people together.. no one ever complains.” I explain my first axe throwing experience, they tossed our group in with 4 other guys there were some stoned frat kids, swearing like crazy, and not really what my wife, and my other two friends wanted. We did ask if there was a lane for us, then just did it. We didn’t complain. We also didn’t ever come back.
Less Labor For The Lanes.
In a double target per lane set up, it will be necessary to have one employee for each set of targets. Someone has to make sure people throw at the right time, and stay back until both groups have thrown. At my locations, I can have one employee taking care of 3, 4 or even 5 targets. With end grain, it’s fast and easy to get people sticking, and each group can choose what games they want to play, select them off the menu with the projected target system and play at their pace.
Increased Booking Availability
Let’s take a quick look at an example of booking options and how a single or double target lane can influence the potential revenue from bookings.
Assume you have all double lane set ups. Lets also assume that they are all full except one double lane. At 7pm a group of 4 come in, so you put them in the last remaining lane on one of the targets. Then 15 minutes later another group of 4 shows up and wants to throw. It is not effective or safe to put them into the other half of the remaining lane, as that group is now throwing, and the new players need time for training, walking back and forth to the target, which cannot safely happen unless the others stop playing.
Take this loss of potential revenue every half hour or every hour and it can amount to hundreds of dollars every few hours due to the inability to book out the entire facility. Booking availability and flexibility is one of the most important issues that a divided lane facility can affect.
Feel free to write down the pros and cons, and you will see there is virtually no good reason to build a double lane other than “That’s the way I saw it somewhere else.”
Leagues are the Bread & Butter of the Industy!
I’ve heard this many times from axe facility owners.
Recreational Play is the Steak & Lobster of the Industy.
What do you want for dinner tonight? And for the next year?