BOOM: “Bruschetta and Bocce Near Me?” Eatertainment is Surging
Can you possibly eat cornbread without a rousing game of cornhole? Or what’s a game of mini-golf without a Moscow Mule? Combine a dining experience with one or many games — physical or digital — and that defines “eatertainment,” a category that’s been growing steadily over the past decade (but paused during the pandemic). But it seems eatertainment is back and booming.
Pinstripes, with average revenues of $8 million per location, recently announced that it will go public. With 13 locations and expanding, the MULO (multi-location) brand offers a combination of bocce, bowling, and Italian cuisine.
Here are other brands entering and expanding in the eatertainment game.
- Puttshack. They recently raised $150 million and combined indoor golf with tech-powered games across nine locations. Think of it as a Chuck E. Cheese for teens and adults. (That brand has about 500 locations.)
- Topgolf. Founded in 2020, the brand has grown to more than 50 venues in the U.S. and is a $3 billion business.
- Chicken N Pickle. The chain combines the game with a full menu and event spaces to take advantage of the pickleball craze. The estimated company revenue is about $10 million, and the brand will soon have about 15 locations. Other pickleball-themed MULO brands include Camp Pickle, Electric Pickle, and Smash Park.
- Painting and sipping have combined to become a popular pastime and is continuing to grow. Painting With a Twist is among the largest MULO brands, with over 200 studios.
- If consumers feel wielding a paintbrush is too staid for them, they can hurl an axe instead at one of the 40+ Bad Axe Throwing locations. However, the focus is more on the sport than the dining menu.
- Bowlero now has 300+ locations and revenues of more than $1 billion, proving that even “old-school sports” have a consistent and growing consumer market.
- Punch Bowl Social had declared bankruptcy, but it has reopened locations post-pandemic. Its founder is launching a new concept called Jaguar Bolera, which combines Mexican cuisine with games and crafts.
Although eatertainment as a category is often thought to be primarily the passion of Gen Z and millennials, who crave “personalized experiences and technology” in addition to food, the reality is that these venues have become popular gathering spots for many ages and social group configurations — from date nights to multi-generational family gatherings to bachelor and bachelorette parties.
But no matter who the target is and the game they’re playing, some basic restaurant and retail principles still apply:
- The food and beverage quality and service need to be good.
- Parking must be convenient, especially for brands looking to attract large groups.
- Venues must design the environment with an eye toward Insta moments.
- Technological innovations will continue to add a “wow” factor to establishments and enable basic functions like reservations, scorekeeping, and management of loyalty programs and rewards.
- As the category grows, MULO brands will continue to compete with local mom-and-pop alternatives. Big brands need to deliver experiences and benefits that differentiate them and give visitors compelling reasons to return or visit locations in other cities.
Most important, perhaps, is that the term “eatertainment” is used primarily within the industry. Consumers will most likely be searching for particular sports or activities and/or types of food and beverages.
Brands must ensure their marketing is as immersive and exciting as the activities within their locations and that consumers can feel the excitement before they pick up their club, ball, stick, or axe!