Oliver Cully, CEO & Founder of Scallywag Entertainments Limited discusses how indoor attractions will increasingly integrate F&B with entertainment to improve the customer experience and diversify revenue in these new found market conditions.
Integrating food and beverage as a core component of an indoor attraction is not a new concept, but this sub-sector of the attractions market is going to become increasingly prominent and diverse as customers and landlords alike seek new, exciting, and profitable location-based entertainment experiences. The sector is much older than one might think – in Western countries taverns have integrated entertainment with F&B for hundreds of years. Storytelling, music and dance, sports and more are recorded throughout history as having played an integral part of society and culture including in taverns and pubs. Skittle alleys, the forbearers of bowling alleys are recorded as having been situated in taverns in both Europe and North America as early as the 1600s. By 1850 New York had become the bowling capital of North America with more than 400 alleys across the city; bowling today in the US remains extremely popular attracting some 70 million customers per year.
In the US in the late 1970s and early 80s, Chuck E Cheeses and Dave and Busters led the way with childrens’ and adults’ integrated F&B-arcade venues and despite current challenges, remain leaders in the sector with more than 600 and 100 locations respectively. In both the US and elsewhere, there are some very exciting new integrated F&B – entertainment concepts or ‘Eatertainment’ venues for short, that have opened in recent years. One such company – Surf House from Finland, with venues in Thailand and Finland and projects under construction in Spain and Hong Kong, integrates Flowrider surf tech into a beach club style restaurant. The Flowrider is the focal point of the whole venue acting both as an exciting experience for those who wish to surf, or as something to watch and enjoy for those who are dining or socialising. As with many Eatertainment venues, Surf House can sell its core entertainment experience (of ‘flowriding’) whilst also selling lots of food and drinks. It also benefits from the lucrative live music, events and corporate events markets as well as selling branded merchandise. Another such example is Cages in Shanghai, China. At the heart of Cages is a modern sports bar, and around the edges of the venue, numerous sports courts ‘cages’ including a dodgeball cage, baseball cages and arcade style basketball hoops as well as more traditional pub games such as pool. One of Cages’ biggest successes has been its ability to generate repeat business by building sports leagues so that competing teams frequent the venue on a weekly basis to play one another in ongoing competitions. Some readers may have come across Flight Club, a social entertainment concept with the game of darts as the central experience.
With venues in London, Manchester, and Birmingham and now also in the US in Chicago and Boston, Flight Club has successfully taken what has for a long time been a popular pub game for enthusiasts, and revolutionised it for the wider market, enabling occasional players and never-played before guests to book semi-private Social Darts areas for fun games with friends and colleagues, complete with patented digital scoring technology, action replays and plenty of Instagrammable moments in spectacular settings. Each semi-private area has space for food and drinks, meaning groups of up to 20 can play in their own space, whilst still soaking up the atmosphere of the venue. The numerous sources of revenue these Eatertainment venues can access is why they offer both operators and landlords great opportunity. If a customer is prepared to pay for both the experience itself and F&B, then spend per head is greatly increased. Additionally, these types of businesses encourage attendance from non-participants – friends and family who are keen to watch and enjoy the atmosphere, if not actually do the experiences themselves. These people will typically still want to eat and drink. Most landlords these days have internal targets to meet as it relates to entertainment and F&B occupancy. Usually, a percentage of the floor space will have been set aside for each and the leasing team will be expected to meet these targets. Eatertainment businesses offer the opportunity to kill two birds with one stone. Revenue generation from the F&B sector per square metre is also typically higher than what can be achieved from entertainment-only experiences. Eatertainment businesses therefore can help landlords achieve targets of space leasing for entertainment without compromising revenue generation linked to turnover rents.