The rise of the experiential venue

From Boxpark to Flight Club, the UK’s hospitality scene is taking quirkiness to the next level. Evenings at indoor golf courses, having a drink in ball pit nightclubs to dining in an igloo on the River Thames, crowds have been flocking to take part in these experiences. But what has caused this shift in behaviour and how can hospitality operators take advantage?

With diners wanting more than just a meal, the desire to seek fulfilling experiences is at the forefront of their minds. Experiential venues don’t just create memories, they capture our imagination. It’s no longer considered enough for food service providers to simply provide food, whatever the price point.

Of course, the idea of partaking in an experience when dining out has been around for a long time with the Secret Cinema leading the charge in 2007, but in recent years with a behavioural shift, diners are now more willing to spend their precious pounds on experiences. With Londoners now eating out more than once a week on average, up by around a third on last year, standards are higher than ever.

One of the major drivers is the want to share. Thanks to social media, individuals can be editors of their own lives. Experiential highlights are shared through Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat, and although it may seem tedious for some, for savvy operators these are great word-of-mouth marketing opportunities.

There is however one demographic that is leading the charge when it comes to demanding more experiential bang for their buck: millennials. According to research conducted by Mintel, millennials are less likely to drink than their elders, with 22% of respondents believing that bars should offer some kind of activity. In addition, 53% of millennials believe that ‘a new experience’ is an important feature when choosing a place to eat. Also, as 18 to 24 year olds seek interactive experiences on a night out, augmented reality (AR) could become more popular in venues as 25% believe AR in menus and ordering could enhance their visit. Find out more here.

With the rise of stay-at-home dining options seeing a meteoric rise, creating an in-venue experience – however large or small it may be – can increase footfall, dwell time and ultimately spend. As a result of the digital age, the need for social interaction has also been more pressing. With consumers becoming more socially isolated, the importance of experience gives them that human interaction they may be missing.

Whether you work in a busy pub, restaurant or hotel, or are based in head office, why not take some time out in January to take in an experience! Here are some Zonal customers we think you’ll enjoy:

  1. BoxPark– Boxpark is the world’s first pop up mall, fusing the modern street food market, with local and global brands to create a unique shopping and dining experience. Now located across three sites, Shoreditch, Croydon and Wembley, Boxpark is packed with incredible places to eat and drink as well as an array of events spaces where you’ll find everything from concerts to sports screenings.
  2. Flight Club – Founded in 2012, Flight Club combines the warmth of traditional British pubs with the high energy of social darts. With a twist of technology, each darts board sits under the gaze of three cameras, which identify the location of each dart thrown. In addition, attendees can relive their memories, share the wins and losses through their ‘flight club stories’ which emailed to the attendees the day after booking. Offering a ‘brunch social’ package and extensive food and drink menu, guests are definitely not left hungry, with the Flight Club family always on hand to keep the pizza and prosecco flowing!
  3. Electric Shuffle – Founded by the team behind Flight Club, Electric Shuffle has revolutionised the much-loved past time of the traditional game of shuffleboard. With ten lanes across two floors, each table comes with a unique touch screen, a call for table service button and team photos functionality. Of course, there is an opportunity to recharge too with an incredible menu of sharing plates, pizzas and colourful cocktails.
  4. The Bat and Ball – Spread across two floors, the Bat and Ball is Westfield’s largest and liveliest bar. A table tennis temple, the bar is home to 10 champion sized ping pong tables and is available to book for just a game or a larger group event. For those looking to liven up the night, players can also try beer pong, or prosecco pong and even rent the private UV booth for karaoke. Complimented by an extensive food and drink menu, get the perfect ping pong partnership with food at the table. In addition, The Bat and Ball offers an array of social events including Sunday socials, Happy hour and live stream sports across the venue.
  5. TopGolf – And finally the global sports phenomenon that is TopGolf. With three locations across the UK, Topgolf is a game that anyone can play and win. A similar concept to a traditional golf driving range, players can score points by hitting microchipped balls at a giant dartboard target on an outfield, the closer to the bullseye the more points earned. The fun doesn’t stop there, players are assigned a bay, and can order food and drinks, so there is no need to interrupt the game.

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