Swingers, Flight Clubs, Escape Rooms – the future of socialising? [‘Competitive Socialising’]

Whilst the term ‘competitive socialising’ may be somewhat unheard of, those operating in the space definitely aren’t: think Swingers (crazy golf and cocktails), Flight Club (darts and drinks), and All Star Lanes (bowling and booze).

So what is ‘Competitive Socialising’?

Competitive socialising is an emerging category in the leisure and hospitality industry. As the name suggests, the concepts are based upon a combination of socialising and competition – often via the reinvention of classic games in the settings of a bar or club.

How did it come about?

Consumer spending on leisure and hospitality continues to increase, with Londoners spending almost £170 each week, however they now expect more ‘bang for their buck’.

As Rachel Stern from Colliers Licensed and Leisure team explains, “customers are increasingly looking for something different to do, rather than just go out for meals or the cinema”. This, combined with a crowded and competitive leisure and hospitality market, has forced operators to become creative and look for new ways of differentiating.
Competitive socialising offers an alternative to traditional bars and restaurants, pioneered by operators such as All Star Lanes who combined bowling with food and drink, in much sleeker venues and locations than what the bowling industry was typically used to.

Is this just another millennial trend?

Many of the concepts started out as pop-ups in London, however, most have gone on to reside in permanent spaces, citing their popularity. Additionally, the concept is spreading outside of London, with the likes of Ghetto Golf in Liverpool and The Crystal Maze Escape Room in Manchester.

Thomas Rose, head of leisure and restaurants at Cushman & Wakefield, sees potential throughout the UK: “I see no reason why [these operators] won’t be popular in the top 25 cities”.

Competitive socialising is ‘just one component of a wider experience revolution sweeping across the leisure sector’ says Sarah Moor of Place Marketing, ‘immersive and participatory experiences play a key role’.

And it’s not just the 20-somethings…

Matt Grech-Smith, co-founder of Swingers, explains how competitive socialising concepts can have a broader demographic appeal:

“Our main age group is 25 to 50 – people with quite a bit of money who like to buy nice wines and cocktails,” he says.

“But it’s not limited to that age group – we hosted an 80th birthday recently. It is an experience that speaks to everybody.”

What’s next?

We’ve already seen crazy golf, ping pong, darts and even an adult ball pool, but the concept is simple, and the possibilities are endless.

The Imbiba Partnership are entering the competitive socialising market with the well-known game of Bingo. Working with those with over 10 years’ experience in the £1bn UK market, Imbiba hope to provide Bingo with the update it desperately needs.

“Bingo is simple, social and fun. It just hasn’t been repackaged – yet!”

The venues will offer first class drinks, delicious food, and excellent service, as well as being the UK’s first bingo club aimed at corporates and younger people.

To find out more about The Imbiba Partnership’s entry into competitive socialising, and the bingo venues, please visit: http://www.enterprise-ip.com/imbiba or call Martin Sherwood (Enterprise Investment Partners) on 020 7843 0472.

Christian Elmes, Partner

Christian Elmes trained at PwC and qualified as a chartered accountant in 1999, before moving to Morgan Stanley (2000-2002) as Associate in the Investment Banking Division (IBD).

He was appointed Director of Finance, Teather & Greenwood Investment Management in 2002 and moved with the Tax Efficient Solutions team to Smith & Williamson in 2004, becoming Deputy head of the department. He left to establish Enterprise in 2010.

Over the last ten years, Christian has been responsible for developing a number of tax efficient products, particularly Enterprise Investment Schemes. He is able to lead on tax efficient product development from inception through to completion, because of his financial and tax background and commercial experience.
Christian is competent across a broad range of sectors including, leisure and hospitality, media, property and renewable energy.

Christian is a non-executive board member to a number of leisure and hospitality companies, Casper & Cole Ltd, Wright & Bell Ltd, Albion & East Ltd, Camm & Hooper Ltd and Darwin & Wallace Ltd.

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