One Week To Make A Profit: Haunted houses have exactly 136 hours to earn a year's worth of revenue.

Author:Bentz, Ana
 
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Rob and Heidi Dunfield are co-owners of Fear Factory, one of Salt Lake's most popular haunted houses. Located at 666 West and 800 South, the old cement factory turned haunted attraction brings in thousands of visitors during a season which runs from early September to the first week of November. And during that time, they have to make an entire year's worth of revenue.

On an average night, Fear Factory has a staff of 200 employees shuffling 4,000 patrons through the door--but it wasn't always this way. Fear Factory opened in October of 2011, but delays shortened their season, forcing the couple to ask themselves whether they should close or push into the next season. "We ran for 12 days and went into November," says Ms. Dunfield, "but once Christmas music started playing, we knew we had to shut down."

Another local haunted attraction began as a way to supplement revenue. Shelby Law, business and events manager at Black Island Farms in Syracuse said their working vegetable farm started in the 1960s but was becoming unsustainable as years passed, so they turned to seasonal entertainment for help.

"Thirteen years ago we decided to open up a corn maze and haunted attraction to help support the farm," Ms. Law says. The farm could not provide their revenue numbers, but Ms. Law says their six-week fall festival with haunted attractions, "brings in the majority of our income and keeps us sustainable year-round."

Unlike Black Island Farms, Fear Factory has very specific demands and periods when they're preparing for an influx of business, translating to money spent on inventory, renovations, and more. Finding a sustainable stream of revenue is not only challenging to maintain these aspects of the business but the key to retaining top talent.

Haunted houses are only active and profitable for part of the year, which makes retention the hardest part of keeping a seasonal business running. "You grow a team and create this atmosphere and then when the season is over you have to do it all over again," says Mr. Dunfield. And though their retention rate has improved, Fear Factory still must rehire almost half of its staff each season.

Not only that, but pre-season preparation periods coincide with the slowest times in terms of revenue, meaning the business's...

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