Competitive socialising: the rise and rise

Competitive socialising: the rise and rise

Since the world went into an unprecedented lockdown back in 2020, there has been a significant shift in the popularity of more interactive experiences.

This no longer means just enjoying dinner and a few drinks with family and friends. Innovative individuals have been thinking of ways to bring a little more liveliness to a night out for the masses – including some good old fashioned competitive fun and imaginative theming to keep everything interesting… where a unique experience is the end goal.

Across many venues, this has included the likes of interactive darts, ping pong, pool, adventure golf… and even axe throwing to really test the boundaries. Couple this with a high-end bar experience featuring a wide range of delicious drinks and mouth-watering food – you have yourself a fun-filled evening without having to trapse around multiple places – where the party is all under one roof!

So, is this why the competitive socialising concept is growing rapidly – but why does it appeal to so many people… and what could this possibly mean for the future?

Welcoming all walks of life

Effectively, many adult competitive socialising activities can be enjoyed by a wide variety of people. From the age of 18 to 108, the inclusivity of game play is something that visitors highly value – where many generations now seek experiential activities other than tangible products. With this in mind, the idea of keeping the cost of play relatively low allows for all demographics to take part and, depending on the venue, there is usually a selection of activities – so groups can play as many, or few, games as the budget allows!

This usually means that there is more variety available for those seeking a different kind of night out, such as students seeking a night away from the usual Student Union, or teambuilding activities for the office social. Even activities featuring less people – such as a date or double date night – allows for something a little more varied.

Picture-perfect moments

With such a high percentage of people enjoying multiple social media platform and with optimised smartphone cameras becoming even more accessible – many visitors are social media connoisseurs and their own content marketers at just a few taps of the screen!  There is always the need for prime picture and short video opportunities for the likes of Instagram and Tik Tok. Of course – some of these visitors monetize from their own venue visits, and this is something to consider. There are thousands of verified influencers in the UK alone and, according to Forbes, this trend will only continue to grow in 2023. Competitive socialising venues are all too aware of the importance of this, and influencers are often found on the VIP launch list… so the experience must be second-to-none.

With imaginative theming, innovative game play, special effects, and impressive lighting… the opportunities to wow visitors aesthetically are pretty much endless. Many competitive socialising venues have a USP – whether it’s welcoming visitors to different worlds like Puttery in the US, or offering a multitude of games in the world’s first “battle bar” with Boom. Whatever the preference – a picture-perfect moment is never far away.

For the love of games

Recently, footballing legend Gareth Bale decided to channel his passion for the other sport in his life – golf – into a competitive socialising venue with the sport at its’ heart. Par 59 was born in Cardiff with the view to become the “home of mini golf” within sleek and stylish venues filled with delicious food and drink, music, and fun. Soon after, Par 59 Bristol was launched to follow suit.

When the passion for sport is coupled with a great venue experience, like Gareth Bale’s Elevens Group and creative events company The DEPOT as mentioned above, amazing things happen. People see the appeal – they want to try something a little different (yes, there are people out there who have yet to pick up a golf club or putter!) and for some, the genuine love of the sport is ignited.

Future-proofing visitor experiences

By 2026, 25% of people will spend at least one hour a day in the metaverse for work, shopping, education, social and/or entertainment, according to Gartner, Inc.

Although still in fairly early stages, the metaverse is fast approaching in this respect, whether businesses are prepared or not. This is something that competitive socialising venues can jump on when considering gaming and entertainment – and they need to keep a finger on the pulse of what can be added to their venue. It could be argued that competitive socialising venues are so popular because they have the opportunity to retain an “edge” to their playability if it’s tech infused and current. For example – what’s to stop a virtual reality competitive socialising game take place with another group in a different location – say – the other side of the world?

For many, this is an exciting prospect and one that can help retain relevance in a rapidly shifting market.

Rapidly changing retail space

Over the past 10 years in particular, retail space has reduced at an alarming rate. Many consumers have taken to choosing ecommerce over in-store experiences and even new businesses are choosing to operate solely online… some built almost entirely on social media.

This has, of course, led to the closure of some much-loved stores and with it – a high proportion of prime retail space has become vacant and disused. This also applies to hospitality, where low footfall and under-performing areas will feel the pinch.

This is where competitive socialising venues can capitalise on an exciting new investment… and not necessarily just utilising large spaces. Hatchet Harry’s, for example, opened one of their newest axe throwing venues within a former greetings card shop in Derby! Meanwhile, you have the likes of the lucrative Boom Battle Bar franchise opening a 16,000 sqft venue on London’s iconic Oxford Street – offering axe throwing, beer pong, crazy golf, shuffleboard, augmented darts… and much more.

Brilliant brand partnerships

Competitive socialising collaborations come in all shapes and sizes. As there are multiple facets to many venues, there are opportunities in abundance in this respect. Take Escape Hunt, for example. Escape Rooms are becoming increasingly popular as visitors look to take on a unique challenge in a small group that really puts their skill, collaboration (and relationships) to the test. So, what better place to carry on the party after the game than the infamous Boom Battle Bar?

XP Factory, who operate Escape Hunt, purchased Boom Battle Bar in 2021 and have since seen positive trading performances. It seems like a no brainer that the two could work brilliantly in tandem, as a whole new element is added to the experience.

And it’s not just entertainment. Par 59, which now boasts two popular venues in Cardiff and Bristol as previously mentioned, partner with selected food outlet Dirty Bird to bring delicious dishes to life with a street food twist. In line with the adventure golf theme, they also changed their name specifically for the venue to “Dirty Birdie” and incorporated golf balls into their branding.

What’s in store for the future?

Consumers continue to gravitate to unique experiences and creating memorable moments (and not just for social media). Entertainment is altering to reflect this and innovative venues will surely keep up with the trend. This is why we see so many clients pushing the boundaries with imaginative play – for example, our work with Puttery in the US, Par 59 and current projects that are yet to be launched…

We have incredible in-house creative and technical designers who can begin by bringing the concept to life on the page, utilising game interactivity and bespoke theming for a truly unique experience. Our highly experienced sales and project management team are then equipped to turn your dream into a reality.

If you want to future proof your venue and create something that will increase dwell time… and keep your customers coming back for more… we would love to help you. Contact: sales@greenspanltd.com

Latest Project

Par 59, Bristol Harbourside

Par 59 is a new collaboration between Gareth Bale’s Elevens Group and Cardiff’s creative events company, The DEPOT. The story behind it? Only a handful of golfers have ever shot a score of 59… so inspired by this elite performance, Par 59 is a sleek new premier bar experience with a twist – which originally began in the lively city of Cardiff.

Bristol’s version is nestled nicely within the vibrant harbourside and brings with it a sleek and classy bar offering everything from cocktails to craft beers.

Next to the bar is independent kitchen Dirty Bird (known as Dirty Birdie especially for the venue) offering delicious chicken, nachos, burgers, fries and more – but at centre stage is the jewel in the bar’s crown… two 9-hole mini golf courses with a colourful twist on each bespoke hole.

Packed full of games to tempt any fan of competitive play, each with their own challenge and often Par-59-esque props, the courses weave through the heart of the venue and allow visitors to play through in groups, or as a pair, whilst enjoying a delicious drink.

Altogether, the venue boasts 15,000 sq ft of bar and restaurant space, two custom-designed, mini golf courses and a separate darts room with four augmented darts boards, with the entire venue holding a max capacity of 500.

Greenspan were delighted to create the bespoke golf holes for both courses – from the initial design concepts to the innovative props and completed sleek structures equipped with lighting and colour-changing golf cups. As always, it was important to work closely with the client to ensure that the vision has been brought to life – and the Par 59 team really know how to create quirky and nostalgic themes! They have thus created a fun and immersive venue that will provide countless colourful and eccentric backdrops for Instagrammable pictures… that won’t even require much of a filter!

The holes include Duck Shoot, The Glory Hole, Carousel, Cue it Up and Cards and Dice… taking visitors on a journey through various nostalgic games from all different eras.

Find out more about the project by checking out the gallery, project video and specialist features below…

To find out more about Par 59, please click here.

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