A fast-growing trend in the industry, the interest in eatertainment continues to take hold and brands are placing a greater emphasis on food and beverage to capture customer interest. Here, RLI takes a closer look at this rising phenomenon, analysing how it all started and what has caused it to become such a breakout term among millennials. We will also highlight some of the key examples of eatertainment that exist in the current market.

Food is no longer an afterthought at some of the world’s most exciting attractions. Instead, it is becoming a key part of the visitor experience. Whether it’s themed food, food-based experiences or food festivals, eatertainment looks like it is here to stay. A lot can be, and has been, said about modern-day consumers: They crave experiences rather than goods; their tastes are increasingly sophisticated; they’re seeking quality, value, and, above all, convenience.

In short, they want it all. And when it comes to food and entertainment, it looks like they’re getting exactly what they’ve asked for thanks to the rise of the “eatertainment” industry.

The Rise of Eatertainment

In her article, ‘Inside the Rise of Eatertainment Dining’, Mary Avant explains that the concepts in this space go beyond just mini golf or movie theatres with concession-stand snacks. Instead they’re a mashup of high-quality food, beverage, and entertainment – a one-stop shop where experience-seeking consumers can go for premium meals, fun activities, and the chance to connect socially with friends and family.

It is now the consensus that Millennial’s love to dine out, and according to a study by Bankrate.com, the average Millennial eats out five times a week. However, due to this frequency of eating out, they are becoming pickier about where they to choose to spend their precious time and hard-earned money. Millennials would much prefer to pay for an experience than a product.

According to Jeff Fromm and his article, ‘Eatertainment Venues Serve up the Right Recipe to Attract Millennials’, this is why these venues are gaining steam with younger consumers. These restaurant/bar/gaming establishments take an ‘old school’ spin on socialising. Guests gather to eat, drink and play games like shuffleboard, marbles, Skee-Ball, ping pong and vintage arcade games. As millennials seek out unique and share-worthy experiences, eatertainment venues are the ultimate one-stop shop.

‘It’s part of a bigger trend where people want to go out and have an evening and an experience at one – dinner, drinks, and games all under one roof,’ says Paul Kermizian, CEO of Brooklyn, New York-based Barcade, one of the original arcade bars. Millennials really seek out and consume experiences,’ says Robert Thompson, CEO of Punch Bowl Social, a ‘social emporium’ featuring everything from arcade games and ping-pong to bocce ball and bowling. ‘When the largest buying segment speaks, most of the consumer-facing retail world listens.

But millennials aren’t the only ones interested in the eatertainment segment. According to a survey conducted by food industry market research firm Datassential, nearly 60 per cent of all consumers said they were interested in visiting an eatertainment concept, while 30 per cent of consumers said they had already visited one. More specifically, around 40 per cent of those surveyed said they were interested in visiting an arcade bar, bowling restaurant, or social emporium, while 26 per cent were interested in visiting a golf entertainment venue.

Though growing rapidly, the eatertainment segment isn’t necessarily new. Its true beginnings came with arcade and gaming concepts like Chuck E. Cheese’s and Dave & Buster’s in the late ’70s. Over the last handful of years, however, new concepts have popped up and taken eatertainment to the next level in hopes of meeting millennials’ demands for a more elevated experience.

Examples of Eatertainment

Punch Bowl Social was named as one of Fast Company Magazine’s Most Innovative Companies in the World in 2018. Diners cannot get enough of this out-of-the-ordinary brand and it is expanding rapidly. Fun activities include vintage arcades, bowling, billiards, jenga, karaoke, shuffleboard and private event space.

Punch Bowl Social
Punch Bowl Social

Meanwhile TopGolf is a name becoming synonymous with the eatertainment trend. Whether you’re a golf enthusiast or not you can enjoy the nine unique games on offer that include hitting towards targets or just hitting as humanely possible, there is something for everyone. And unlike a normal trip to the range, food and drinks are delivered right to your bay.

With many locations across America, Spin offers excellent dining and ping pong. The idea was to create a place where people could socialize and play. The cuisine is all shareable, snack-able, and delicious. All drinks and food items are enjoyed with a paddle in hand in true eatertainment fashion.

A bistro, bowling and bocce brand, Pinstripes offers Italian and American cuisine that comes from Pinstripes’ scratch kitchen unlike any bowling alley food you’ll have had before. The growing concept elevates the traditional bowling experience with good food and lots of fun.

Flight Club is a two-level London export darts bar and boasts technology that adds a new dimension to an age-old game. With unique gaming options – including Shoots and Ladders darts – everyone from beginners to serious darts enthusiasts will find Flight Club entertaining. The brand is in expansion mode.

Located across several states, Main Event features bowling with state-of-the-art electronic scoring. They also offer laser tag, arcade games, gravity ropes, billiards, and mini-golf so you’ll never want to leave. Each location also includes a bar and full-service restaurant so whether you’re craving a grilled sirloin steak or teriyaki salmon, you’re all set.

Main Event
Main Event

At Royal Palms Shuffleboard, amidst the array of tropical drinks, food trucks, DJs, and extraordinary staff, you will find ten regulation-sized shuffleboard courts. This fun vintage-Florida themed concept brings shuffleboard front and centre and has seen serious popularity at their first two locations in New York and Chicago.

There are many karaoke bars but none quite like Voicebox. This west coast concept contains private karaoke suites that are rented for groups for maximum comfort and enjoyment. Each suite has a flat screen TV, two microphones, remote-controlled song selection, and personal service. A variety of snacks and appetizers, along with more substantial food, are available for parties of any size.

If you’re a fan of Breaking Bad, London is the place to be, as a cocktail bar named ABQ has launched in the capital which allows you to ‘cook’ your own drinks, much like the iconic TV show. Ingredients come in flasks, syringes and other props and drinks are held in beakers and you even have to dress up in a hazmat suit!

ABQ breaking bad 2
ABQ – London

If Peaky Blinders is more your scene, unite with your fellow gangsters at one of three themed Peaky Blinders bars in the UK where you can eat, drink and watch live music with fellow Peaky Blinders fanatics.

Finally, do you want to use bricks to order your meal and have it delivered by robots? This is what happens at the LEGO House Restaurant in Denmark. Be the master builder and assemble your meal from four categories and follow your meal when the LEGO box rolls down the conveyor belt and is served to you by one of two happy serving robots.

Lego House
LEGO House Restaurant – Denmark

Themed Eatertainment

The term “eatertainment” encompasses a few different elements. Attractions are moving away from the traditional fare of hot dogs and chips. Many now offer a range of high-quality food options. Others are focusing on the experience of eating itself. And finally, many venues are using themed food as a way of creating different worlds, argues Charlotte Coates in her article ‘Eatertainment – Making a Meal of Themed Entertainment’.

More and more, people are demanding good quality food when visiting an attraction. They want something that enhances their enjoyment. Theme parks are aiming to be an immersive experience. Serving food which doesn’t fit into the theme can be jarring. Themed food and eatertainment experiences can be a solution. As well as this, there is the idea of food being an attraction in itself. Concepts range from three-course meals served in the air, to celebrity restaurant pop-ups. Theatrical dining experiences are everywhere.

Serving everyday food alongside out of this world experiences doesn’t make sense. Many attractions now offer eatertainment dining options to fit in with their theme. The idea is to keep the experience as immersive as possible.

Theme parks are an excellent example of this, and are beginning to create themed dining areas to cater to different audiences. One such example is the Be Our Guest Restaurant at Disney World Florida. It has quickly become one of the more popular food options on-site because of its ability to make fans feel like they are a part of the Disney classic Beauty and the Beast. The design of the restaurant makes guests feel like they are inside the Beast’s enchanted castle with chandeliers, a coat of arms and a grand ceiling part of the décor.

And what visit to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter would be complete without a sip of butterbeer or even a refreshing glass of pumpkin juice. At Universal Orlando, visitors can explore locations from the Harry Potter series. Many of these take the form of food and drink experiences. Visitors can check out the Three Broomsticks, the Leaky Cauldron or the Hog’s Head. These provide an authentic wizarding pub experience with traditional British foods.

Meanwhile in Disneyland California, the new Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge is making fans of the sci-fi epic feel the power of the force like never before. The park features a host of exciting attractions, such as a Millennium Falcon flight simulator and the Rise of the Resistance trackless dark ride. But a key part of the themed experience will be the food and drink options available as guests will be able to eat and drink at Ronto Roasters, Docking Bay 7 Food and Cargo, and Oga’s Cantina.

Eatertainment is definitely a trend that is here to stay in the coming years as people continue to search for more interesting and high quality food when eating out and visiting attractions as the eatertainment sector evolves and expands.