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Scott Ellis: Welcome to the Frisco Podcast. I’m your host, Scott Ellis and this week we are joined by Scott Hartman, the owner of Countdown 2 Escape. If you’ve never been to or even heard of an escape room, get ready for some Frisco fun.
Welcome to the show, Scott Hartman from Countdown to Escape, glad to have you here today.
Scott Hartman: Glad to be here.
Scott Ellis: You are the owner of an escape room, which sounds a little scary at first, but it’s actually a ton of fun. Why don’t you tell people who may not already know what an escape room is.
Scott Hartman: I got to tell you, it’s such an exciting venue for people of all ages, as well as for corporate team building events. An escape room is where you and either your family or your friends, or even complete strangers or business colleagues would go into a themed room, and you basically have nothing, but the clues that are provided for you in that themed room to try and escape, or solve the puzzle that’s inside the room.
Scott Ellis: Okay, so you may not literally be trying to get out of the room. We don’t want people to think that they’re seriously locked in there and can’t get out, right?
Scott Hartman: Right, yeah.
Scott Ellis: There is a puzzle or something that they’re trying to solve and that is the escape, that is getting out of the room.
Scott Hartman: Correct, yeah. In the State of Texas actually, we cannot legally lock you in the room. Otherwise, we break some state laws.
Scott Ellis: Yeah, I’m sure people would be glad to hear that although nobody is too surprised, but yeah, it’s a team oriented activity and there’s a couple of different themes that people can pick from, so what are the puzzle themes that you guys have going right now?
Scott Hartman: Yeah, so far to date we have three puzzle themes. The first being cabin fever, where we have actually constructed a cabin inside of the room. The second being old war games, which is set back in the Nixon era and the job there is to stop a nuclear launch, and then the third theme is casino heist, where your job is to, based on some tips you have, figure out how to get in and find the money.
Scott Ellis: Okay. All of those sound like a lot of fun. Are there varying degrees of difficulty? Are these all appropriate for all ages? What should I expect when I’m coming?
Scott Hartman: Well, we [inaudible 00:02:35] than anyone 12 years old or older can play the games. Most of our customers are adults of all ages and a lot of times if it’s a family, they bring their children with them to play, so everyone can participate. The venue is really built for, again, adults of all ages, so for example when I first played it was my father, who’s 82 years old, myself and my brothers, all of our children, which went down through teenagers and down to a 10-year-old, all played in one room and we all had a great time.
Scott Ellis: It sounds like fun, but any of the rooms would really be appropriate for any age?
Scott Hartman: Yes.
Scott Ellis: What about the difficulty?
Scott Hartman: Any of the rooms are appropriate for any age. The cabin fever is considered our entry level room. Cold war games would be our intermediate skill level and then casino heist would be considered our most difficult skill level.
Scott Ellis: Okay. I have to admit the cabin is intriguing, but something about a casino heist and the cold war launch that really have my attention. They sound like they could get a little bit intense though, so maybe walk us through a little bit of the experience when we first come through the door. I’m at the escape room. I’m coming for the first time. What happens next?
Scott Hartman: Well, the first thing we do is give an orientation to the group. We’ll have one of our game masters come out and talk you through how to use each of the locks and then give you an overview of the theme and the story behind each room prior to going into the room. Once you get into the room, you’ll be given further instructions and you’ll notice that you have a big flat screen TV with 60 minutes on it, and as soon as we shut the door, the clock starts to tick down.
Now, while you’re in the room, we give each group up to 3 hints and unlimited, what we call code checks, so the hints obviously would help you along if you get stuck in the game, and code checks are simply if you get what you believe to be the right code for a lock for a particular puzzle that was solved but it’s not working, you can ask us and we will gladly tell you whether that is correct or incorrect.
Scott Ellis: Okay, so if we get stuck, we’re not just stuck in place. We can get a little bit of help along the way, a little nudge here and there if we need it?
Scott Hartman: Yes. We’re there. We interact with you via walkie-talkies in each room and we have cameras in every room to watch the play, so we’re there to help your experience to be the absolute most fun it can be and to help you be as successful as you can be in the room.
Scott Ellis: Okay. What is the number of people that actually succeed?
Scott Hartman: That varies by room. Going in reverse order, the casino heist, we’re somewhere around a 30% success rate, in cold war games a little over 40, and in cabin fever it’s a little over 50% success rate.
Scott Ellis: Okay, wow, so even the easiest room, you’ve only got about half the people that actually finish it.
Scott Hartman: By the way, the experience isn’t just in finishing the puzzle. It’s so much fun all along the way in figuring your way out as you work through the puzzle. It’s such an interactive process and everyone’s involved and it’s just a great way to spend an hour of your day.
Scott Ellis: It sounds like it. If I come in and we do a room, but we don’t quite finish it or time runs out, do we learn how the story ends or do we have to come back and try again?
Scott Hartman: Yes, one of the things that we do different than some of the other venues is that we actually will go ahead, we’ll ask you first but most people what to know, and so we’ll go ahead and kind of walk you through the finish of it, so you can see what would happen next. A lot of venues don’t do that but we just feel that helps you complete, give you some closure to your experience.
Scott Ellis: Yeah, I’m not sure if I would want to know or not because part of me would like the challenge of coming back and trying to do it again, but I can certainly understand how people would want to know.
Scott Hartman: Yeah, clearly we have people in both camps, about 50% of the time people want to know and about 50% of the time they don’t.
Scott Ellis: Let’s talk a little bit more about the people that come and do this. This immediately strikes me as an amazing team building opportunity. I would imagine that’s a fair number of people that come in?
Scott Hartman: There is. We can hold at any one time about 35 people, actually playing the games, so we’ve done corporate events with up to double that amount, where one group of 35 will go play. The other will have some food and some drink and then they’ll switch. It is a very interactive process amongst your colleagues or team members, or even if it’s just date night and you’re out with a date and you get paired up with some other couples, or with you’re with your family.
Scott Ellis: That leads me to the next question is, if I just come in by myself or my wife and I decide we want to come have an experience, we don’t necessarily have to come with a group. We can just come in and if there’s availability you’ll pair us up with whatever other rooms are, have availability. Is that how that works?
Scott Hartman: That’s correct. Yeah, you can come in as a single or 2 people or more. We do give a price break if you book with 5 or more people. If you book with 5 or more people, there’s basically a 10% discount from 0 to 4 people, but you can book as a single if you so choose.
Scott Ellis: Okay, what is the cost to play?
Scott Hartman: For 4 or less it’s $27.50 and for 5 or more it’s $25.00.
Scott Ellis: That’s per person, correct?
Scott Hartman: We also have corporate rates if a group would like to schedule one room or more, or the entire facility.
Scott Ellis: Okay, so those rates are per person, is that correct?
Scott Hartman: That’s correct.
Scott Ellis: I think we’re going to have to bring the Lifestyle Frisco team just to have everybody together and experience this, and really relay it. What would you say is the ideal number of people? What is the, does that vary by room? Is it kind of geared towards 10 or so people, or if we had just 4 or 5 would that be okay too? How does that work in terms of the number of folks in a room at a time?
Scott Hartman: Yeah, all the rooms can work with as little as 2 people. We suggest that you have, that there’s at least 4 people in every room. That tends to be where there’s enough brain power to help get through each of the rooms. On the maximum side, the cabin fever, we can hold up to 12 or maybe even up to 13 people. We suggest a group size of 10. In cold war games and casino heist, we could hole easily up to 12 or 13 people, but again, we suggest a room size of 10.
Scott Ellis: I would imagine it can get fairly intense, especially as the clock is ticking down and people are getting close to solving the puzzle. How close to that, especially for the teams that win, how close to that no time left do they normally get?
Scott Hartman: It’s amazing Scott. It really is. The level of enthusiasm, I mean we hear cheering and screams and moans all day long. Not only from the players but from our staff as well, and from all ages of people. Everybody gets so involved and engrossed in the process that they really, really enjoy the experience from start to finish, regardless of the outcome.
Scott Ellis: All right. Well, I think this is something that is, it feels like a very fun, unique opportunity to get out and have a more interactive, entertaining and team building type of experience right here in Frisco. Where are you guys located?
Scott Hartman: We’re at 6963 Main Street, right in downtown Frisco.
Scott Ellis: You’re right in old downtown Frisco and if I’m not mistaken, it’s like right down the street from Summer Moon and some of the other shops that are there on the south side?
Scott Hartman: Correct. We’re right by Randy’s Steak House, Summer Moon, 811 Wine Bar, right there.
Scott Ellis: All right. That sounds like just a date night waiting to happen. Grab a bite to eat and go get yourself a fun interactive experience and see if you can escape the room.
Scott Hartman: That’s right, and for corporate events, don’t forget that we can also help them cater in food and drink if they so choose or they can organize their own, but we have the ability and we have extra room to allow corporate events to do more than just come and play.
Scott Ellis: Good, yeah, so if they want to bring in food, if they want to hang out in that area for a little while then they can do that as well.
Scott Hartman: Right and for private events as well. If you have a birthday party or a bridal shower or a celebratory retirement party, any of those things we can accommodate not only the play but if you want to cut cake afterwards, we have some room to do that, and we can help you organize that part of the event as well.
Scott Ellis: All right. Well this sounds like a ton of fun. I cannot wait to try it. The only question left is, which room are we going to pick, but we will definitely get out there soon and have that experience for ourselves. It sounds like a lot of fun.
Scott Hartman: Well we look forward to having you and hearing your feedback.
Scott Ellis: You bet and thank you for bringing this fun, interactive, interesting experience to Frisco. It’s kind of amazing what’s happening with the city and how much growth we have. I think businesses like this just make it that much more interesting and give us that much more stickiness, you know, for people to stay close to home and have a lot of different, fun experiences, so we’re very glad to have you here.
Scott Hartman: Well thank you. Yeah, we’re excited to be there. We’ve literally had people come through our venue from all over the world. There’s people that travel just to play escape games and so we’re very excited to be in Frisco, a part of Frisco, and look forward to growing with Frisco.
Scott Ellis: All right. That sounds good. Scott, if people want to find out more, where is the best place for them to go?
Scott Hartman: Go to our website at www.countdown2escape, and that’s the number 2, .com.
Scott Ellis: Okay, just countdown2escape.com, and we’ll make sure we link that up in the show notes. We’ll get everybody connected to other social channels you may have phone number, all that stuff would be a part of this post, but guys if you want to have a good, fun experience, head out to Countdown 2 Escape right in downtown Frisco. You can have a great time. I can’t wait to try it and we’ll let you know when we do. Scott, thank you very much for joining us today. I appreciate the time.
Scott Hartman: Thank you, Scott and thank you Lifestyle Frisco.