If you’ve crossed over into the sacred realm of “Yeah, I’m pretty sure I’m gonna open up a float center,” an obvious question arises — “How many tanks should I have?”
Now, if you’re like me, you’re creating a 90 tank float community where everyone who buys in has a pod that they sleep in when they’re in town. It will also operate as a kind of time-sharing economy float hotel, where owners can rent out their float suite when they’re not around. We’ll manage the whole thing. It’s going to be in Dubai on a newly constructed island…
Most likely, however, you’re considering opening a 1 – 6 tank float operation. (Click here to see our most recent industry report, where you can dig into a range of related industry data.) You’re currently trying to figure out your market size, how floating will gel with your community, or even add to an existing one. You’re restricted or enabled by existing funds or availability to them, hedging your hoped-for profits up against real, immediate expense items. When asking “Should I open a 4 or 6 tank center?”, you’re actually asking yourself “Do I have access to $200-600k?”
Whether you add tanks later or build out all at once, considering the number of tanks you should have based on your potential market is a difficult and interesting task. General population size in your center’s immediate and surrounding vicinity give you a basic idea of your market, and you can get an even better sense by looking at the prevalence of things like yoga, acupuncture, etc within your community. Even more than overall size, the density of the immediate community is more important. Keep in mind, also, that even if you’re the first center in your area, that might not be true for long.
When it comes to floating, however, each center ends up being responsible for creating their own market, in a sense. Because education and awareness is still such a big hurdle when it comes to float center success, a big X factor is each center’s ability to engage with their potential customer base through marketing and community outreach. Depending on your outlook, this could feel very exciting and promising or uncertain and scary. If you have any questions about evaluating your potential market and how you can engage with and create that market, feel free to get in touch.
There are many ways to approach this big question, but here we’re going to break up the categories into ranges of tank numbers. We’ll talk about 1 – 2 tank centers, 3 – 6 tank centers, and 6+ centers.
1 – 2 Tanks
A 1 – 2 tank center can be attractive for a lot of reasons, but has potential pitfalls to be aware of. First, let’s divide up these smaller centers into two smaller categories, what we’ll call integrated wellness centers and stand-alone float centers.
In general, we’ve seen 1 – 2 tank stand-alone float centers have a tough time remaining profitable or, if they are, it’s because it’s a one-person operation with few or no staff. Because labor can often account for 30-50% of general expenses, it’s hard to make enough income to pay an employee, yourself, and cover operating expenses. This means that owners of 1 – 2 tank centers are often staffing all the hours in addition to running the business. While this does work for some people, owning, running, and operating a center all at once can be incredibly draining. We won’t go so far as to say that a small center can’t survive, or even thrive, but it can be difficult due to the lack of economies of scale.
For integrated wellness centers, having 1 – 2 tanks in combination with other services is the most likely way to run a small float operation and remain in the black. Whether you’re opening and implementing all of these services yourself (massage, acupuncture, chiropractic, etc.) or you’re simply renting out your space to other practitioners, your float tanks will be supported by extra staff and resources.
Keep in mind that you’ll need to have staff who are specially trained in managing your tanks. Float tanks require training in water chemistry, filtration systems, proper cleaning procedures, and overall tank design and software. People running your tanks will need to know what do in emergencies like AFRs and flooding and, in general, be ready to respond to an array of situations not generally seen in chiropractic or massage practices. Also, because a float center staff is often away from the front office or desk to clean for turnovers, you probably need another staff person anyway to cover for the additional services.
3 – 6 Tanks
If you’re not planning on offering any other services outside of floating we recommend considering a center that has 3 – 6 tanks. Three tanks is generally the number at which centers are able to sustain themselves with an employee and owner/operator getting paid. As we’ll explore later, above six tanks seems, anecdotally, to be more difficult to keep fully booked.
Within this range of 3 – 6 tanks, if you’re not sure how many to start with, keep in mind that you always have the opportunity to start small and add more. This allows you to keep up-front costs low and see how your business does. If the demand is there for additional tanks, you can always add more. If you go this route, we highly recommend roughing in those extra rooms in your initial buildout. Make sure that your plumbing, electricity, soundproofing, and drainage are all set, because it’s incredibly expensive to cut through concrete and soundproofing later on down the road. You can install the tank, filtration system, fixtures, and finishes later on when you’re ready to add more tanks. In the meantime, you can use those rooms for practical things like massage services, temporary storage, silent breakdancing competitions, or a giant Rube Goldberg machine.
We see a lot of people start with 3 or 4 tanks and eventually go up to 5 or 6. Most people opening a center have to start small because of their budgeting constraints. Despite a desire to open a bigger center, starting small is usually necessary and, in our opinion, is usually a good idea anyway.
Even if you have the funding and are highly confident that your 6-tank center is gonna rock it in your area, starting with a 4 tank center with two extra roughed-in rooms allows you to introduce your center to your community and get a sense of your customer base and marketing needs. If your bookings and profits look promising, you can easily build out the rest of those rooms. By roughing in those rooms during your initial buildout, you’ll decrease the time needed to close your center and experience less lost revenue than you would have if you had to cut open your walls and floors.
Now, back to my 90 tank center… In all honesty, anything over a 6 tank center can create their own brand of potential challenges. Even if the numbers add up in your market analysis, we’ve heard from a few larger centers that it can be a bit of a struggle to keep their tanks full. This is likely because float customers most frequently come from nearby – the longer the commute, the fewer customers you can expect from a given area.
If you’re planning a larger center, take the following advice with your own grain of salt. Your 8/10/12 tank plan might be perfect — you might have the budget to spend a bunch up front and endure empty tanks for a period of time while your marketing strategy goes to work. If you’re set on opening an 8 – 10 tank center, you should at least consider what two 4 – 5 tank centers in your area might look like instead.
This strategy could allow you to spread your services throughout your region, tailoring each center to its specific locality. While some of the upfront and ongoing costs might be higher, we believe that you’ll be much more effective in filling your tanks. This will also give you double the brick-and-mortar exposure, adding expanded marketing value and an overall increased integration into your community.
Also, like our previous advice of starting small and adding on, you can always open your first center and then use the experience and revenue to open the second shortly thereafter.
However, if your response to this consideration of temperance is, “But I want an Ooompah Loompah nowwww!”, then more power to you!
In the end, deciding how many float tanks you want in your center isn’t easy. It comes down to a confluence of your access to capital and other resources, the market potential around your center, and your ability to connect with that market to fill your tanks. Ultimately, it also depends on your end goals: do you want to run a small center yourself, staff and manage a center, integrate floating into a wellness practice, or even open up a chain?
Whatever your answers, we hope this post has given you some guidance in figuring out the right number for you. There’s even a little room in Dubai left if you want to be float center neighbors 😉