Competitive socialising: a term coined in the 21st century to describe a new breed of experiential leisure experiences not solely centred on eating and drinking. It’s a sector that has flourished in the last decade and continues to rapidly expand, despite the challenges of Covid-19. But is it here to stay or is it a casual dining disaster in waiting?
A flurry of new specialist operators – the likes of Roxy Ball Room and Boom Battle Bar – are snapping up sites in city centres. They’re attracting investors who recognise a profitable and scalable experiential business model with a fast ROI, satisfying the Instagram generation’s appetite for experiences.
While competitive socialising appears to be the perfect solution for landlords looking to fill gaps in their shopping malls left by both casual dining operators (the sector had a catastrophic decline in 2020) and retailers, industry commentators have voiced concerns that ultra-speedy growth could undermine the longevity of the sector.
Says SHUFL. European marketing manager Samantha Catford: “Experience tells us that those operators who know their audience, have a long-term plan in place and can remain agile by tracking and responding to consumer trends, will stay the course. Our partners, who commit to their competitive socialising offer by investing in premium gaming, staff training and bespoke activations, are attracting the next generation consumer, seeking memorable, high-end leisure experiences that feature both high-end food and drink AND authentic gaming.”
When it comes to the activities themselves – shuffleboard, bowling, modern darts and crazy golf – they are very inclusive and have mass market appeal. Everyone from families, students, friends, colleagues, disabled and able bodied can join in, regardless of age.
For hospitality operators, the addition of a competitive socialising offer generates additional revenue to offset their high costs: taxes, business rates, food and drink price increases. It has high returns for a relatively small investment.
After all, this is not a new concept, we’ve always had forms of competitive socialising in pubs and social clubs with darts, pool and other bar games, just not on this scale or with all of these activities under one roof. This next generation of competitive socialising operators is really raising the bar and ensuring that their brand chimes with the consumer tribes they are chasing.
For now, we’re seeing a large number of players with relatively few outlets each. Several are starting to expand rapidly and it is really exciting to see how they scale and be part of that journey. Ultimately, one thing we’re sure of at SHUFL. is that the desire for human connection and authentic experiences will never go out of fashion.
Play the long game and become part of the SHUFL. family, find out more here.