(Topic ID: 171604)

Thinking of Operating - Advice?


By VDrums2112

2 years ago



Topic Stats

  • 29 posts
  • 22 Pinsiders participating
  • Latest reply 2 years ago by stangbat
  • Topic is favorited by 9 Pinsiders

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    #1 2 years ago

    I had a local bar message me today and ask if I operate pinballs. I don't but I've thought about it. I have not contacted them back yet. I'm not looking make a living at it, but would like to put a game or 2 in this one location because there is NO location pinball in Salem, IN. Maybe it'll catch on and they'll want more games, maybe I'll bring them home in 6 months, we'll just have to see... He has a guy that operates a jukebox there but that is his only coin-op that I know of.

    Aside from having to clean, repair, check in on regularly, obtain local amusement licenses, and such, what else should I do? Contract between myself and the bar and what should that consist of? What should the split be?, etc.

    Any and all advice welcome.

    Thanks,
    -Steve

    #2 2 years ago

    Get your own insurance.

    LTG : )

    #3 2 years ago

    Don't. That's my advice.

    All joking aside, get the biggest split you can. If you are the only guy operating pinball, do a 80/20 split, not like he has any other options. Hell even tell him you want 100 percent of the drop but that he will make more money by having the games as an attraction and they will help keep bodies there longer.

    I don't personally do contracts between locations and myself. If I decide a location isn't working for me I want to be able to pull it and not have to have stuff there for a contracted period of time.

    Search around here there are quite a few good threads about operating. Feel free to reach out to any of the ops here like myself for help if you need it. I have found we are all very open to helping each other and discussing what is working and what isn't.

    #4 2 years ago
    Quoted from Dr-Willy:

    Don't. That's my advice.

    QFT

    #5 2 years ago
    Quoted from Dr-Willy:

    Don't. That's my advice.

    Good advice.

    #6 2 years ago

    I would only do it if you get 100%. Otherwise It wont be worth your time. Hell it might not be even at 100%.

    #7 2 years ago

    I own and operate bars, and get 100% of the money and still don't cover replacement parts, (I charge .50 and will charge .75 when I take my nicer games in) but it is not a money maker in my town, I mostly use the bars as a place to hide my collection so my wife never gets a solid count. One pool table makes as much as 8 games on site.... Buts it's all about the booze and music to make the cash!

    #8 2 years ago

    Go to a real distributor (not the ones that cater to collectors) that route operators use and talk to them.

    #9 2 years ago

    If you want to operate go to medical school. Otherwise, the money won't be worth the trouble.

    15
    #11 2 years ago

    I should do an actual write up or one of the podcast things all the kids listen to now-a-days.

    I have been a hobby operator for a few years.

    In short > pinball does NOT make money. Pinball will make you new friends and you can help revive/create a fun pinball scene. Pinball can help you to justify buying new and expensive titles you would normally never purchase.

    My business thoughts:
    Make a LLC
    Get insurance
    Pay your operator fees
    Pay your sales tax

    You want to be legit and not risk your personal life for hobby operating!

    My operating thoughts:
    4 games is the minimum number to make a location.
    Run a month tourney or gathering. Most coin drop will come from casuals but you still want to build a core group of regulars. These are the guys you will find are likely new friends anyway and you want to hang with.
    Old classics will often do just as well as new fancy stuff.
    A B/W B lister for 2k will often do 80% of the drop that a 5k Stern will do
    A B/W B lister which you have fully gone over will give you less headache than a new Stern in most case.
    EVERY new game on route will be a PITA for the first 2 months, then thing ssettle out and they hold up if you keep them clean.
    Rotate titles every 3 months. A new deck every 3 months can help to keep things fresh.

    Final thoughts:

    DONT do this for the money. Your time and energy can be spend almost anywhere else and make way more funds! If you are doing it for the love of pinball then it cna pay off in spades. I have met new friends. I have turned new people on to the love of pinball. I have seen kids play their first game of pinball and "get" it. These are the things that make it all worthwhile.

    Lastly >> be prepared that IF you are able to create a new scene in your area then almost assuradly someone else will come in and follow in your foudatiuon to try and take your playerbase and that is cool. Just keep your games running better and remember that it is all for fun

    #12 2 years ago
    Quoted from Whysnow:

    You want to be legit and not risk your personal life for hobby operating!

    I have been hobby operating for a year. Almost everything Whysnow said is similar to my experience, but in particular that quote sums up how I decided to actually go for it: I looked at what was required to be legit, and considered the costs, the risks and the potential/likely loss. In my case I found that the economic downside was small enough that it wouldn't hurt too much to try for a while. As long as I was mentally prepared to handle the worst case economically, anything above that would be a positive surprise.

    #13 2 years ago

    Being a hobby operator as well - I have to agree with everything Whysnow said above. Do it because you want to do it. I really enjoy introducing and reintroducing people to pinball. That's truly the best part of it for me. Well, that and having a public location to go to and play pinball at! A few other things I'd like to add.

    When putting out games, be sure they're tested thoroughly. Something that's OK at home (say...a ball that hangs once in a while) isn't gonna fly on route. You'll get tired of stopping out to fix that sort of thing real quick.

    Don't get attached to the games. They WILL get played, so expect things to break / wear. You could have food/drink get slopped on them. A rubber will break, and someone will think it's "funny" to keep playing it to try to break something else. Just know that the general public will treat them rougher than you would, and be OK with it. Keep them clean, waxed and fully functioning with regular maintenance. If you take pride in a well playing game, others WILL notice it and over time come to appreciate it! Expect to have to stop in at LEAST 2-3 times a week, and be ready to get calls until bar time!

    LEDs are your friend. Keeping the heat down really saves on melted plastics, inserts and connectors.

    DBV is a must whenever possible, and like others have said be sure to get the highest split possible.

    It's a lot of work to not make money, but it really is fun and rewarding in it's own unique way. If you decide to do it - I hope things go well for you!

    #14 2 years ago

    I operate dart boards in 7 bars around town. Run dart leagues three nights a week on them and currently have 88 sanctioned players. Been doing this for 2 years, and it finally, as of this season, got big enough to be "worth it." Glad I hung in there. But I'd never put any of my pins on route.

    And as Whysnow said...

    Quoted from Whysnow:

    Make a LLC
    Get insurance
    Pay your operator fees
    Pay your sales tax

    #15 2 years ago

    The situation is different for everyone. I know many ops who don't have an LLC, insurance, or contracts. And have had people tell me I'm stupid for declaring my income. There is advice above that I would give the exact opposite of. For example: my GOT went 7 months without needing any maintenance other than cleaning.

    I've been hobby operating for over two years and am up to 18 machines. I've never had an issue with abuse...so my advice would be to go for it. (Of course, who knows, maybe your machines will be stolen the next day).

    If you have a good location, you can absolutely make money. Even then, it's not a ton. Do it because you love pinball, and you can take pride every time someone has a good time playing one of your machines. You'll introduce new people to pinball!

    Unless you paid premium money for top of the line condition games, there really is no downside to trying it out. (Aside from some sort of catastrophe that causes you to lose a machine). I have to go in once or twice a week to my location that has 11 machines. That's not a big deal...I'm there playing them pretty often anyway. It's like I have a huge collection, but it's just not at my house and other people put quarters into them when they want to play.

    TL;DR You're going to get lots of conflicting advice. Give it a try, and quit if you don't like it.

    #16 2 years ago

    Charge $1 a play 3 for $2
    Get insurance
    60/40 split is what I get because that's going rate in my area. I wish it was more but oh well.
    Expect wear and tear but nothing major
    Expect most locations to fail until one works awesome
    Think out of the box and do a league.
    Run an Addams Family if you can.
    Be REALLY SMART about the titles you are going to put out. Some games are NIGHTMARES to operate, some will run for months and months and months (years) without any issues or super minor at that. GO OVER YOUR GAMES in the FINEST detail before putting them on route. Go over EVERY wire solder under the PF, rebuild the flippers with all new parts, do any and ALL recommended maintenance.

    I don't agree with many here that say you can't make money....if you can't make money, then WHY are there so many operators on the west coast doing this full time? They aren't doing it for fun. BUT that being said, most of those op's were hardcore collectors when games like TAF and TZ were $2000 - so they had an inventory before going into business. If you were starting now and spending $5000 on a game....good luck, you would lose your shirt.

    I would agree if you are in a two bit town, or smaller city it wouldn't make money, but in a big city such as New York, Seattle, Portland, San Fran, those are places where money can be made IF you already have a solid lineup of games in your collection. But it can be hard work, and a general pain in the ass. At other times, it can be pretty low maintenance.

    #17 2 years ago
    Quoted from ryanwanger:

    The situation is different for everyone. I know many ops who don't have an LLC, insurance, or contracts. And have had people tell me I'm stupid for declaring my income. There is advice above that I would give the exact opposite of. For example: my GOT went 7 months without needing any maintenance other than cleaning.
    I've been hobby operating for over two years and am up to 18 machines. I've never had an issue with abuse...so my advice would be to go for it. (Of course, who knows, maybe your machines will be stolen the next day).
    If you have a good location, you can absolutely make money. Even then, it's not a ton. Do it because you love pinball, and you can take pride every time someone has a good time playing one of your machines. You'll introduce new people to pinball!
    Unless you paid premium money for top of the line condition games, there really is no downside to trying it out. (Aside from some sort of catastrophe that causes you to lose a machine). I have to go in once or twice a week to my location that has 11 machines. That's not a big deal...I'm there playing them pretty often anyway. It's like I have a huge collection, but it's just not at my house and other people put quarters into them when they want to play.
    TL;DR You're going to get lots of conflicting advice. Give it a try, and quit if you don't like it.

    It isn't the loss of your machines from fire or theft that is the reason for insurance. Should a fault develop and a punter gets zapped or killed guess who will end up bankrupt if not in jail or BOTH!

    Also, should the venue suffer a fire or other similar problem the bone will be firmly pointed in your direction FIRST.

    Operating without insurance is the dumbest thing you could ever do if you value your future and that of your family.

    #18 2 years ago

    Do it! Parts are the most expensive part but mine almost always make a little money every month after repairs. The ROI is terrible unless it's in a barcade.

    LEDs and Titans are your best friend when operating.

    If you don't like it then quit operating but never pass up any opportunity.

    #19 2 years ago

    There was a really nice .50 per/5 for $2 Monster Bash here that I played often. Hobby op... hope he had insurance.

    http://sf.eater.com/2016/6/20/11980126/playa-azul-3300-club-mission-fire-san-francisco

    #20 2 years ago

    Also remember that many of these places operate on a shoestring and often go bust (leaving your machines in legal limbo as the receiver will often claim them unless you have some solid proof or contracts in place).

    When the money gets tight, some of these places also mysteriously burn down also leaving your machines at risk.

    Insurance is mandatory or don't even consider doing it - makes no difference if you make money or lose money operating. Don't leave yourself exposed to much higher potential risks.

    #22 2 years ago

    Out of curiosity what type of policy do you all recommend and how much per month/year is the average?

    #23 2 years ago
    Quoted from Homepin:

    Insurance is mandatory or don't even consider doing it - makes no difference if you make money or lose money operating. Don't leave yourself exposed to much higher potential risks.

    So where/who would I get insurance from... I'm assuming my local Allstate guy would say, "You want insurance for what?"

    #24 2 years ago

    Update: Waiting to hear back on a time to go talk with him to see what he has in mind... I hope he likes classics because I don't own anything newer than 1982... He had heard I collect and reached out. I don't intend to buy new games just to put in a first time location. I really think this would just be an experiment on both of our parts to see how pinball would do in a small town of 6,500. If it takes off, great... If not, no harm no foul. It's an established bar in town. I played music there over 20 years ago and it' still going strong.

    -Steve

    #25 2 years ago

    As a minimum you want public liability insurance. This doesn't protect your machines BUT it protects you if one of your machines causes an injury or fire etc.

    This might be hard to buy on its own so you may need to bundle it with additional insurances

    #26 2 years ago
    Quoted from Thrillhouse:

    Out of curiosity what type of policy do you all recommend and how much per month/year is the average?

    I have a commercial 1mil general liability policy.

    #27 2 years ago
    Quoted from VDrums2112:

    Update: Waiting to hear back on a time to go talk with him to see what he has in mind... I hope he likes classics because I don't own anything newer than 1982... He had heard I collect and reached out. I don't intend to buy new games just to put in a first time location. I really think this would just be an experiment on both of our parts to see how pinball would do in a small town of 6,500. If it takes off, great... If not, no harm no foul. It's an established bar in town. I played music there over 20 years ago and it' still going strong.
    -Steve

    Dang, well if you do it for fun then great. But you will definitely lose money running games at that era. 100%

    #28 2 years ago

    Actually, I think there is one thing everyone can agree on: get the highest split possible. If a location tells you that 50/50 is standard, you can reply that 50/50 is standard for when the operator has all coin operated machines at a venue: pinball, video games, skee-ball, pool tables, and jukeboxes. The last three in that list make a *ton* more money than pinball.

    With pinball, you've got the most expensive machines with the most maintenance. The bar is going to get customers they wouldn't have had otherwise, and a reason for them to come back over and over. They'll make more from drink sales...money that you won't get any of.

    50/50 is for the "drop games off and (maybe) fix things during a cash collection" service.

    75/25 or 100/0 is for the "respond to issues as they arise, games play well because they're being operated by someone who know how they should play, and builds a community around pinball" service.

    #29 2 years ago

    You want general business liability insurance. Most liability insurance has some coverage for property, it is usually called Inland Marine coverage and will be noted in the policy. On a $1m policy it may be $2-10k of coverage. You can usually increase this coverage a little bit by paying more.

    As for coverage of your games, good luck with that. I couldn't find anyone that wanted to cover my equipment on someone else's property. It may be out there, but not for a small time operator.

    Most location's insurance will have some coverage of other people's property in the event of a fire or other catastrophic event. This is to cover things that are rented such as the kitchen equipment, etc. So you really need to be concerned if the business has insurance and if any portion of it will cover your games.

    Basically, when it comes to having your games covered, you just have to be willing to take the risk. If losing them all worries you too much, don't do it. With restaurants and bars, a fire is always a possibility. Factor it into your risk assessment.

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