Room Layout, Design and Operation - Part 1

In my ebook "Pool Hall Startup Guide" I discussed the basics of selecting a good site for your pool hall. This series of articles addresses key considerations for the internal layout and design of your room.

There are a variety of room types and styles. The major types are:

Type A - Neighborhood Room (12 or fewer tables)

Type B - Standard Room (13-24 tables)

Type C - Large Room (25-40 tables)

Type D - Super Room 41+ tables)

This list can include additional types if you consider say a Bowling Center/Billiard Room concept s a unique room type.

As for styles, there are generally three: Upscale, Broad Appeal, and Working Class. There are many variations within each type/style. For example some rooms serve full course meals, some simple meals, other finger food, cold sandwiches, snack-only, etc. The combinations are endless.

Room Layout And Design

Your room layout will depend on the shape of your location and the type of room you want. There is no perfect room that can be used as a rigid model for your proposed facility, however, there are some valuable guidelines that can be adopted by almost everyone. Your driving factor should be guest comfort.

When I say comfort I am referring to the mental reactions of your customers as much as the physicalAspects aspects of your room. 

Its standard practice to design rooms to attract females. For the ladies "comfort" means "safety" to a large degree. Lighting away from the tables should be bright enough to eliminate any dark areas but not so bright as to be harsh on the eyes.

No area should be situated so that employees are scarce. Staff should be close enough to see everything that happens, or in the case of large rooms, those areas far from the counter or bar should be in the frequent path of employees. In room design, the overall thrust should be toward eliminating cares, distractions, inconveniences and fatigue factors.

Creating an atmosphere that allows customers to relax and have fun creates more repeat business of longer durations.

The area around each table should be sufficient so that player's don't interfere with each other. Don't be tempted to stick an extra table or two in the design thinking they will drive more revenue. The opposite is true. Make sure there is at least 5 feet between tables and ideally 8 feet between a table and a wall so you have room along the wall to add high top tables or a drink rail and seating.

Make the layout easy for your customers. The path from each table to the restrooms food/drink counter shouldn't be a hassle.

The room should be easy and inviting to enter. New customers and novices should not be intimidated or confused as to how things work. "How do we pay? Can we pick our own table? What are the rules?" These common questions should be dealt with as soon as the customer enters the room. That means designing your room with the coiner or ball control station, at, or very near, the entrance. If the structure or room size requires the control station be some distance from the door, make sure there is an obvious , direct and controlled (by a railing perhaps) path to the counter. Design  so the customer does not feel lost or ill at ease.

Entrance flooring accumulates debris (sand, snow, mud, dust) from the outside. If permitted by the landlord and lease, an exterior carpet/mat or recessed rubber grate will cut down on the debris that comes through the door. A matching area immediately inside the door, followed by a fairly hard (non-slip) surface area will catch most of the rest. During foul weather, these areas should be constantly monitored and cleaned.

In almost all situations your entrance is also your exit. There will be the occasional person who will try to leave with a house cue or without paying their bill. That's another obvious reason to have ball control near the entrance.

Many rooms use the ball control counter as a sales point for magazines, books, DVDs, cues, clothing, etc. - in short - as a quasi-pro shop. Customers are most likely to buy products as they leave, or to come in with buying, rather than playing in mind. In either case it makes sense to have merchandise available at the entrance/exit. Even an item as specific as a cue can be an impulse item.

A large, busy room will usually do more business if the pro shop is large and staffed separately from the counter, but it still pays to have it located at least adjacent to the cashier counter area.

Assigning tables to customers was more popular in the past, and there seems to be far less reason for it now. That means that the large, somewhat unattractive numbers that used to be posted on table lighting fixtures can be miniaturized.

Some rooms have a few small 8' tables with large pockets to which beginners can be directed. Group them together, near the part of the room that has video machines (if you choose to have them). They should also be located fairly far away from the counter, as beginners find it embarrassing not to be able to make a ball, and tend to seek out a "quiet corner" where no one can see their lack of prowess. Beginners feel uncomfortable playing in front of people who exhibit knowledge and skill.

This area should also have the posted rules for 8-Ball and, perhaps, 9-Ball, in their most basic forms.

The size of your "beginner's area" depends on the pool sophistication level of your neighborhood/community, the amount of competition you have, your target market, and the size of your room. A very rough guideline would be 20% of your tables.In any case, the tables should never be publicly identified as beginner's or smaller tables.

Spilled drinks and paper trash from snacks and food are more of a problem in this area, and floor and furnishings should be easy to clean. If this beginner's area is properly located and designed, you won't need to direct beginners to it. It offers what they want, and they'll gravitate their on their own. Direction, however, assures that result.

Again, depending on the size and personality of your room, you may need to locate food ad drink service at the control counter as well. This is certainly true of the small room (under 12 tables). Staff can double up and take care of the cash register, ball distribution, pro shop sales and food/drink during slow periods. At busier times, staff numbers can be increase and help out where needed.

Large rooms that throw all three profit centers behind a single counter experience a decrease in revenue, particularly from the pro shop/merchandise sales sector. The pro shop really needs a trained retail sales person to establish maximum revenues. The house pro is often a good candidate for the job and can be paid on a commission basis. A customer should be able to determine who to approach with their need or problem easily.

Follow-on articles in they series will address layout topics such as table placement, table lights, cue lockers, private rooms, seating, drink shelves, tables, etc. 

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