Indoor Playground/ Play Cafe Business Model Trends for 2020

Something I am careful to do constantly is monitor other indoor play spaces in order to best understand what’s working and what’s not working in the indoor play industry. 

As we kick off a new year, I wanted to share 4 emerging trends that have been increasing in popularity, especially during the last 18 months or so.

For current indoor playground owners and prospective owners alike, adapting to at least 1-2 of these trends to accommodate changing customer preferences will be crucial to success in 2020 and beyond.

Of course, if a trend I mention does not fit with your customer demographics or demand, then it is not necessary to incorporate with your business model.

We are in a suburban area with a LOT of competition nearby so we have decided to integrate ALL four of these trends into our business in one way or another!

To hear me REALLY get into detail about these 4 trends, check out my YouTube video below! I will also be summarizing each trend below.



More and more, indoor playgrounds are opting for membership only models, meaning that customers must pay a monthly membership fee instead of a drop-in fee. This started in busier urban areas but is blossoming in suburban and more rural areas now as well!

This can be a great idea for 2 reasons. The first is that it ensures everyone visiting the facility is within that businesses “ideal customer avatar”, because signing up for a membership requires more commitment and research than a single day pass.

Most of our negative reviews or “problem” customers simply aren’t a good fit for our space-- whether it be due to the size of our space, the ages we accommodate, or the type of play we offer.

The second reason this can be great for business is that it removes much of the seasonality of the indoor-play business model.

Owners can count on monthly recurring revenue and can focus more on improving their offerings and serving their members at a higher level, rather than getting new people in the door every day.

While we are not moving into a membership-only model, we ARE going to be putting MUCH more of an emphasis on memberships in 2020 and beyond.

TIP: The most successful businesses that focus on memberships typically offer more to members that just open-play. Members-only cafe discounts, events, and classes are a great way to boost membership sales and ensure children will not get “bored” with just open-play!


With the increase in the amount of employers offering flexible, work-from-home positions, our industry has seen an increase in demand for co-working spaces that offer childcare

This is another trend that you can incorporate without going ALL in. While some spaces are exclusively meant for co-working and have fully staffed play areas, regular play spaces can take advantage of this trend as well!

We will often host “co-working” hours after we close on Monday and Wednesday afternoon and staff our play area so parents can plug in and get some work done. This hasn’t worked during open play for us because of the size and set-up of our space, but our customers have really appreciated our coworking offerings thus far and have even requested weekend slots!


As an indoor play center that focuses on birthday parties, we are always keeping an eye on the latest birthday trends. And what we’ve been seeing lately is that parents (especially for first and second birthdays) are willing to pay for more elaborate, “instagram-perfect” set-ups.

Balloon arches and photo backdrops are among our most common requests, and we are actively working to add them to our package offerings. As a plus, our area has been experiencing a helium shortage and balloon arches require no helium!

There is also an increased demand for spaces to allow parents to bring in hand-made details and personal touches, and for spaces to provide enough time before the party begins for set-up.

If you are planning your space, be sure to include plenty of places for “photo-ops” and larger decor pieces! If you are an existing indoor playground, adding a mural or a cork board to your party set up that can be customized for each theme is a great way to take advantage of this trend!


Adding a mobile “arm” to our business is something we did WAY back in 2016, but these offerings are more in-demand than ever!

We started out with offering “come-to-you” decorating and set-up services but are now expanding into offering characters and mobile play areas as well.

Many of the members inside Play Cafe Academy and PlayMaker Society have been taking advantage of this trend-- even BEFORE they open their brick-and-mortar store (and some even in PLACE of a brick-and-mortar)!

Set Up From Sweet Peas Play Cafe!

I love that mobile businesses allow owners to operate with low overhead (hello, no rent!) and experience being a business owner with very low risk.

Plus, for those planning to open brick-and-mortar play spaces, it’s a great way to raise start-up funds AND make a name for yourself in your community and generate excitement for your business (plus, you will grow a great email list if you utilize waivers).

The indoor play industry is one that is ever-changing, especially with new parenting trends and shifting preferences. 




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