There has been a surge in the numbers of these venues in recent years, with expansion in the sector outperforming any other. We take a look at what it is and its future.
Competitive socialising is a term for activity based hospitality such as darts, indoor crazy golf, shuffle boards, ping pong, bingo, karaoke or escape rooms. Many of these are complemented by a F&B proposition to increase revenue per head and extending the dwell time.
Investors suggest they are delivering big financial numbers on a consistent basis, whilst other more traditional F&B concepts are typically struggling. The lure of decent food and drink alone are no longer enough for many with competitive socialising plugging the void left after years of decline in nightclubs.
Whilst competitive socialising certainly has strong appeal amongst Millennials and Generation Z for Instagram content purposes alone, one key advantage is it's cross generational appeal. Accessible price points and playability mean it has a very broad appeal as well as being attractive to corporates looking for venues to host both team and client events.
The most successful operators out there are providing a fuller and often more immersive experience. Whilst you could always get a drink and a bit of food in a bingo hall, Bongo's Bingo enhances this idea with a full theatrical production involving music, dancers, FX lighting and audience participation throughout the bingo calling. This coupled with quirky prizes makes the experience memorable and a true destination for younger audiences... not just Beryl et al on a Wednesday night!
Recent analysis of visitors to town centres highlights that in many cases the number of visitors is in slight growth yet the number of those actually shopping is consistently falling. This is in line with the rise in popularity of competitive socialising amongst other social oriented sectors such as coffee shops. Struggling department stores such as Debenhams and House of Fraser are introducing in store F&B concepts, to diversify their appeal and who knows, perhaps dabbling in competitive socialising could be their next trial.
So what does the future hold? We expect more diversification in the range of competitive socialising on offer as companies seek to carve out a new niche. Could indoor bowls be about to get a cool new image for the under 60's? We'll also see more established high street brands diversifying their offer to take a slice of the growing sector now its proven itself as more than a fad and worth investment. Yet the challenge for 2019 is how to make people want to return that third or fourth time after the initial novelty has worn off and as the market saturates. In response, we see the integration of digital channels and AI being deployed to enhance the physical experiences.
In terms of interiors, for the first time in a long time design doesn't seem to be taking itself too seriously when it comes to these concepts. The true appeal of successful F&B concepts in todays world, whether in competitive socialising or otherwise is the escapism they provide from the everyday. Those that immerse guests, transporting them for a few hours to another land or another time with a 360°, all sensory approach. Those are the businesses that become destinations in their own right and that get people talking.