Quoted from frolic:
All I know is every time I take my kids to Dave & Busters, or Chuck E Cheese's, it costs a hell of a lot more than $15.
From a business stand point all-you-can-play seems like a loser. I realize pinball shows NEED to do it, because of all the machines coming in from different sources and no coin mechs, etc. but for an actual business I think pay-per-game works well and also removes the barrier of entry.
Big difference on D&B/CEC spending costs and time. Many games at D&B are 4 to 8 credits. Many coin games at CEC take only seconds to play (not sure what they are charging now that they are on Tap Play/Card System). Very easy to drop a load of $$$ in a short period of time.
Unless you are charging a $1 a play on pinball and 3 ball play, it can be rather hard for a semi-decent pinball player to try to spend more than $5/$10 bucks an hour. And you are probably going to see more "Decent players" than beginners if all you offer is Pinball in your establishment.
And yes, Free Play can be really hard on games and also can mean others never get to play something they want to if its tied up by a game hog. However, the Free Play model can work well if you plan on Party sales as a big part of your income (which you should in this day and age). You Can't flip a whole arcade of games in and out of free play/coin play for each hour's rental.
It will be hard to pay the rent at 25 cents per play which many seem to think is still the proper cost per play on older machines. They think the games should be priced at what they remember paying back in the 70's, 80's or 90's. So I suggest you charge a premium if your games are in good condition and play well. Consider Token dispensers but not set to 4/$1. Consider 3/$1 or even 2/$1 to get 33 cents or 50 cents per play. Offer bonuses for higher purchases ($5/$10/$20). This way, you get that $15/$20 up front anyway like you would if charging for All you can Play and not alienate your regulars that want to only spend an hour or so a few days a week. Fewer coins per $1 also means handling fewer tokens in each machine. Buy cheap junk tokens off the internet and don't worry if people bring in their own for a while, they will eventually run out and they are increasing your Brass inventory that you would otherwise have to pay for. Tokens will walk out which is fine since the customer paid more for them than you will.
Token play still works with Party Packages. Offer a set number of tokens per patron, and either up-sell larger amounts or they can also purchase more at the changer (just like a Birthday Party at CEC).
Of course, the biggest deterrent could be a Per Game Business tax if operated on coins as others have mentioned. That's probably the most important thing to research NOW before you go any further in your pursuit. The Main up front cost is the cost of Changers (Cheap at Auctions) and Token Mechs. But you can start out with only 1 slot per game if on a budget. And Lloyd will tell you: "Get Insurance" which can also be very costly to protect yourself financially.