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Opening a soft play centre

(16 Posts)
b002 Mon 22-Jun-15 13:47:35

Hello.. I am planning to open a new soft Play area in Manchester. I would be glad if you can help me.
1. What you would like to see for children- any specific toy, ride, food etc?
2. How often do you visit soft play centre?
3. Which is your favourite soft play centre ?

Thank you

BeccaMumsnet (MNHQ) Mon 22-Jun-15 14:31:02

Hi b002 - we're going to move this over to business start-ups.

Star21 Sun 28-Jun-15 19:04:10

good to see you are doing your research, I did the bookkeeping for a soft play centre for a few years and it was really difficult to make a profit, the weekends during the winter were heaving but the weekdays and summer were deserted. The owner tried story time etc during the week to try and get a regular toddler group going and had a small space outside where she hired bouncy castles during the summer, free wifi for the adults, discounts for regular childminders bringing several children, an agreement with an after school club to bring in children once a week etc. An annual membership with a monthly direct debit helped bring in some regular money during the summer months which were harsh. I hope you get some good suggestions on here. Good luck.

Trapper Sun 28-Jun-15 19:07:28

There's one near me that does instant coffee in the cafe. INSTANT! Needless to say, I haven't been back.

Golfhotelromeofoxtrot Sun 28-Jun-15 20:11:22

Have you looked at franchises? Like cheeky monkeys or Jo Jingles?

SlinkyB Sun 28-Jun-15 20:16:35

My ds's (18mo and 4.5) love the ride on cars, and an area to kick a soft football around.

I hate paying more than £1.50 for a cup of tea. One local soft play charges £1.85...another 90p for a huge mug!

If you're doin food, try to have healthy ranges, not just sausages and chips.

Good luck!

SueBigFatSue Wed 15-Jul-15 20:13:13

I always buy food at soft play if it looks decent - main things I would buy are paninis/toasties, children's lunches etc.
As above, a nice cup of tea/coffee but not extortionately priced. Fresh muffins/cookies too.

SueBigFatSue Wed 15-Jul-15 20:14:22

Also, what are you planning on charging? Please don't charge parents £1 entry - it's a sure fire way of me not entering or ever returning grin

andadietcoke Wed 15-Jul-15 20:20:57

We go to Head over Heels in Handforth fairly regularly. I like the self contained toddler area that they can't climb out of (twins so tend to go in opposite directions). The girls like the ball pool and the slides - standard fare really. I like the sensory room too calm them down a bit!

OsMalleytheCat Wed 15-Jul-15 20:23:54

I would say that my little one LOVES the ride on cars (which should be included in the price of entry)
Cleanliness to me is really important as well, I've left soft play minutes after we've arrived because areas are thick with grime and dust hmm
And I personally don't mind paying a nominal fee for adult entry (a pound or two)
Maybe introduce some kind of membership option?
Reward cards with tea/coffee
And would deff second trying to get some playgroups to use the venue!
Good luck!

Dailylurker Wed 15-Jul-15 20:29:49

I've been to the one near the Trafford centre it's expensive, which makes me refuse to buy anything in there on principle although the food range does look very impressive, healthy foods or even stick a pasta dish on the menu I hate every choice being served with chips!

If you can do three zones, under 2's/ 2-4's and then 5+ I think it would work, quite often gor my 19 month old there is a big leap from the baby part to the 'big' part!

Good luck

Ashwinder Wed 15-Jul-15 20:37:11

Please don't charge for adults accompanying children. I really resent this. I am the one driving them there and will always buy a couple of coffees and a biscuit in the cafe. Charging for adults is money grabbing IMO. YY to free wi-if too.

I like soft plays that do a 'toddler time' During school hours, term time only. Reduced entry for preschoolers plus free juice.

Food wise, a soft play near me does platters. You pick 5 or 10 items from a list and make up your own snacky lunch. So you might have cucumber sticks, cheese cubes, crackers, grapes and mini sausages for example. Makes a great light lunch for a small child.

QuiteLikely5 Wed 15-Jul-15 20:40:36

Also, what will get people through the doors is if you have somewhere for babies and toddlers that they can't escape from and their parents can see them easily.

My ds - we can't take him to two of our local soft plays because he escapes and tries to go into the other older parts.

When he was 15-24 months one soft play has seats right alongside so you could eat and watch very easily.

Gear your business especially towards baby and toddlers because they are free during the week and need somewhere to go but as a mother I don't want to be running after them constantly!

HiawathaDidntBotherTooMuch Wed 15-Jul-15 20:51:55

My two DSs 7 yo and 3yo really like Gambados, which is near is. There are several around the country. Lots of varied things to do including separate areas for 0-2 year olds, separate area for up to 3yos and a massive area for all ages. I like that there is a massive slide which four people can go down at the same time. I also like that I am not bent over double in the play frame and can stand up.

There is also a carousel and a dodgems. Mine don't like the carousel as it makes them feel sick, but they love the dodgems. Unfortunately, they imply have two cars which allow a child and adult to rode together, which is not enough.

It's pricey, if think it costs me £25 to take them both. But it's really good. Food is fab too, jacket potatoes, pizza and pasta dishes all freshly cooked to order. We usually spend at least £20 in the cafe when we are there. I don't like that they have machines which sell slush puppies, candy floss etc.

Kid space in Croydon is fantastic too. Their younger children bit is something incredible. Lots of sensory stuff, trampolines, but challenging play too.

Their wooden play frame for older children (it's the kind of place where you wear shoes as it is hard underfoot) is very challenging in parts and has great ball shooting, a climbing wall, air hockey etc.

Pricier than Gambados, but we only go maybe twice a year.

A good offer that Gambados do to get trade in the summer is a specially discounted three month summer pass. I always miss the boat on it unfortunately, but it's something like £50 poor three months unlimited play through the summer. As I say, I always spend about £25 in the cafe when I'm at soft play, so they make their money in that way too.

Lockers are important. As are loos and sinks that are child size.

Twinkie1 Wed 15-Jul-15 20:56:47

Don't have young ineffectual staff who are afraid of telling lazy arsed mothers who let their nasty boisterous kids run around in age inappropriate areas to stop chatting and drinking coffee and start parenting their children properly.

Oh and cleanliness is next to godliness as is decent coffee, no fucking chicken nuggets/fried shit and moist cake.

TreaterAnita Wed 15-Jul-15 20:56:50

1. I really resent going to a soft play which doesn't serve good, real coffee. Of the ones that I've been to in South Manchester/Stockport Head Over Heels serves decent coffee and Run Of The Mill and Wild Things are ok. The rest are undrinkable. Don't buy one of those machines which is just a glorified vending machine - you either need a really high spec one (a la John Lewis) or a proper barista machine. Also I like to be able to buy small snacks, eg toast, pots of fruit, etc rather than just meals or slices of cake which have their place but not always what I want to buy,

In terms of the soft play itself, a separate under 4s area is good if you have staff to police it properly. The same applies to children climbing up slides, jumping on other children in the ball pool, etc. I don't expect to abdicate all responsibility at soft play, but now my son is 5 (but quite wee) and I have a baby I do have to let him run off and play by himself and it's reassuring when you feel the staff are keeping a proper eye out.

I also agree that it needs to be clean, including the toilets.

I don't mind paying a nominal adult entry fee, but I'd like some kind of loyalty reward in return.

You also need decent parking - if you don't have enough on site, make it clear where any alternative parking is.

2. Currently we probably go about every other month, though I expect this to increase once my baby is a but more mobile as soft play is a good activity if you've got a bit of an age gap. I try to go when I think it will be quite, so school inset days, early on the weekend, sunny afternoons, that kind of thing.

3. My favourites by far are the 2 Head Over Heels centres (though hey massively fail on the parking thing).

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