Starting a Pool Hall in 2023 – How to Execute and Make Money
Playing pool can become a passion that becomes a significant part of your life, a game you’ll enjoy playing for years.
What starts as a hobby can quickly become a serious pursuit as your game progresses and you test yourself against better players. The weekly trip to your local pool hall suddenly becomes a ritual, and you develop friendships and become part of a community.
Sometimes, that community loses its home, and as pool halls close or owners sell up and move away, there comes a time when you either look for another pool hall or want to start your own. It’s a daunting task, but one that can be rewarding for both you and your community.
Why Communities Need Pool Halls
Pool is a social game ideal for building relationships, and fulfilling that competitive drive. It’s inexpensive to play, fairly easy to grasp, and can be a great way to stay active regardless of your fitness level.
Not everyone can afford a pool table, and if they could, it’s often the case that they don’t have enough space. A local pool hall is a perfect place to hone your billiards skills, play against like-minded opponents, and spend time socializing.
If you’ve never played pool before, a pool hall is often the only place you can play, so it’s essential to have access to tables in a safe environment.
How to Start a Pool Hall
Unless you’re taking over an existing pool hall and simply need to transfer everything into your name, there’s a fair bit to do before you open the doors for the first time.
While a pool hall adds value to the community and is something you’re passionate about, it’s still a business and needs to be run as one.
Assuming you’re starting from scratch, you’ll need to:
- Find a location that’s suitable, accessible, and big enough for your needs
- Conduct market research, check for issues, local competition, demand, etc
- Generate or find funding, either from a bank or friends
- Create a business plan with expectations, innovations, and realistic targets
- Open up a business bank account
- Register the name of your business
- Ensure you’ve got the proper licenses and permits, especially when serving alcohol
- Create or pay for a website to ensure your pool hall has an online presence
- Create advertising campaigns to ensure your target audience knows you’re there, and create leaflets and posters to advertise your new pool hall
Before you’ve even turned on the table lights, you’ll have had to have put in a load of work and time to get your pool hall up and running. The days of dark, smoky pool halls are a thing of the past, or should be.
Your target audience should be families, young players, old players, new players, pro players, and everything in between. The bigger your target audience and the more inviting your pool hall is, the more success you’ll have.
Finding the right location is critical to your success. You’ll pay more for prime real estate, but you need to be close to your customers. Families won’t want to travel hours for a game of pool, and this decision can make or break your new business.
Look for room to expand, ensure the tables are well lit, and that there’s access to food and drinks. Your permits need to be perfect and the hygiene of your pool hall immaculate for your business to thrive.
A brightly lit, safe, fun pool hall that’s open to all will create a community that will remain loyal. You’re providing a service to your local community as well as running a business, and going hand-in-hand, your community will keep your new business afloat during any lean times.
As well as serving alcohol, why not have a food menu too? If you’ve ever been to a bowling alley, you’ll see the difference; brightly lit, family-orientated games where the food and drink flow. Not only does that encourage more patrons, but it also increases the financial benefits of running your pool hall.
Raising Funds for Your Pool Hall
A pool hall can be a thriving, successful business, but it does take a fair bit of starting capital to get off the ground. Buying or renting property, and acquiring equipment such as pool tables and lighting isn’t cheap. These assets must also be maintained regularly.
You should always speak to a financial advisor when undertaking a new business venture, and an advisor can help you develop the relevant business plan with which to approach a bank. Banks want to lend money, as it’s in their interest to do so, but your business model must be solid.
Walking into your local bank and asking for cash because you’re the best nine-ball player in the area, and a sure-fire winner, won’t cut it! You need projected expenses and income, advertising plans, property rental, permits, electricity costs, liability and insurance, and staff costs, and your bank will need to see all of this in a cohesive plan.
The quicker your pool hall becomes a success, the faster you’ll be able to repay any loans, so before you open the doors, you’ll need to make sure you’re ready for your customers. Once through the door, you need excellent record-keeping to make the most of your customers.
Accounting and Records
Your customers are your lifeline and, as such, should be treated as the most valuable resource you have. Keeping records is a must for a pool hall, and you can keep records of how many active players you have.
Keeping records allows you to collect email addresses, which you can use to send out communications to lapsed customers, inviting them back with discounts or upcoming events. Every sale, every repair, and every income and expenditure should be recorded for tax purposes to ensure you’re meeting every regulation.
Advertising Your Pool Hall
The famous movie line “If you build it, he will come” may have worked for Kevin Costner, but your business will be a non-starter without proper advertising.
Once you’ve found the perfect location, sourced the funding to buy the pool tables and seating areas, and ensured there’s enough in the bank to cover table repairs and other expenses, it’s time to spread the word.
A website is a must, and could even incorporate a booking system to ensure families can book a table and guarantee they’ll get the table time they want. Your site should be kept up to date with tournaments you’re running, food menus, pricing, and anything else your customers need to know.
Local advertising is also a must—from posters to leaflet drops. You need to keep people in the loop to ensure a steady stream of customers. Ensure you keep running advertising campaigns to bring in fresh players. Your business will only grow as the community of pool players grows.
Staffing Your Pool Hall
One of the essential responsibilities of opening a pool hall is finding the right staff to ensure your players and customers have the best experience while there. Good staff can be worth their weight in gold, especially if they also have a keen interest in pool.
Local advertising should allow you to find staff, and as pool halls are often open from early in the day until very late at night, you’ll need a team who can run multiple shifts. Kitchen staff, chefs, and bar staff need training, insuring, and monitoring.
While it may be tempting to do everything yourself at the start to save on expenses, the right impression is everything. If new customers see the owner cleaning the tables, cooking the food, and serving at the bar all at once, the impression won’t be great.
Delegation is the key to success and will allow you to focus on generating business, keeping customers satisfied, and, perhaps most importantly, keeping the money flowing in.
Do Pool Halls Make Money?
A pool hall will average between 10% and 30% profit annually, with the average being around 20% profit. What you do with that profit also affects your bottom line. If you take out your pool hall’s profit, that’s fine, but you could also reinvest it to increase future profits.
Pool halls, like any other business, need careful nurturing in order to make a profit. Opening up your own pool hall might take time to make you significant amounts, but profit is certainly possible. And if you’ve found out how to delegate properly, you can potentially be mostly hands-off while running your business.
Several factors will determine how profitable a pool hall is, including your ability to run it as a business rather than a play thing. Profitability, or the lack of it, stems from your initial business plan. Your pool hall needs:
- A good location that sees a lot of traffic
- Space for enough tables that you’re constantly generating income
- Excellent staff that keeps the pool hall running efficiently for you
- Excellent advertising to promote new business coming in
- Additional incentives, such as food, drink, and pool tournaments
If your record keeping is excellent, and you’ve incorporated a website, making use of technology to create a membership option will ensure a steady stream of revenue. Building the community through pool tournaments and even lessons for kids, you can always find revenue streams to increase profits.
A pool hall with excellent food and drink will increase public interest, build relationships, and can be an even more profitable enterprise than the pool tables! Keeping paying customers inside is vital, so being able to grab a beer or order a meal will prevent your customers from spending their hard-earned cash somewhere else.
With the average pool hall generating between $50,000 and $200,000 per year, there’s no reason why you can’t make it profitable.
A pool hall with a great atmosphere will encourage players to take better care of the tables, which can reduce costs. But, you’ll still need to keep the pool hall equipped with quality tables, cues, lighting, and pool balls, to promote a good reputation.
Pool Hall Ownership – The Good and Bad
There’s a lot to think about when opening up a pool hall, and it can be incredibly rewarding as you can become a focal point for your community.
Pool hall ownership has several benefits – you’ll be able to:
- Run your own business
- Work somewhere you enjoy going every day
- Impact your community in a significant way
- Earn enough to live a happy life
- Build a brand that you can be proud of
There are potential drawbacks to owning a pool hall as well. You’ll be kept very busy, and the buck stops with you at the end of the day. On top of the added responsibility, you must also consider the following:
- You’ll have to monitor income and expenditure constantly
- You’ll have to do the work yourself if your staff can’t cope
- Hiring and firing is your job
- It’s more than a full-time job
- You’ll have to deal with losses
- You must constantly improve and evolve to ensure a successful business model
- You can’t spend all day playing pool and drinking with your buddies
- It’s hard work until the business is running smoothly
As with any business, there are pros and cons, but if you love pool, see an opening in your community for a great pool hall, and you’re keen on running your own business, it could be the best decision you’ll ever make.
Starting your own pool hall takes careful planning and constant care, but it can be a rewarding and exciting experience that could change your life. Running a pool hall is a solid idea for anyone who loves pool and is business savvy. Pool can be great for the community as it fosters relationships and brings locals together.
With the cost of living and entertainment rising, pool remains an affordable game for most people. Providing a safe, clean, and fun environment for players of all ages to enjoy the great game of pool, you’ll be learning as you earn.
You’ll become manager, bartender, painter, treasurer, advertising guru, and tournament organizer, and that’s just on weekends! If you have a family, it can quickly become a family business, with table after table generating income, a bar showing live sports, and an eating area that keeps your pool players returning week after week.
If that sounds like the ideal dream, it’s probably because it is. Don’t be fooled; it’ll be hard work, but once running smoothly, you could have the best pool hall in the area, with a sound business model and a bright future.
As always, Happy Shooting!