The foodservice landscape is constantly evolving, and one of the latest trends capturing the attention of both investors and consumers is “eatertainment” restaurants. These establishments that offer activities such as mini golf, bowling, arcade games and more seamlessly blend dining with entertainment, offering patrons a versatile and enjoyable experience. In January 2023, the restaurant category experienced a 20% growth in visits while the rest of the industry only saw 5% gains, according to data from location analytics firm Placer.ai.
Focus on experiences
John Davie co-founded the Emerging Fund along with Matthew Focht to bring together leaders in the food and beverage industry in order to invest in these concepts and spotlight emerging technology companies.
One of the key attractions of eatertainment restaurants is the versatility they offer for various occasions. Whether it’s a casual night out with friends, a family gathering or a corporate event, these establishments provide an inclusive and entertaining atmosphere. Davie, who is also a general partner at the fund, shared that he himself recently went to eatertainment attraction Puttshack in Chicago, stressing that another benefit is that the establishments can easily accommodate large parties and keep people entertained in an environment that can often be daunting.
“When you combine casual dining’s intense cost pressures with what is now more than a decade of consistent psychographic data stating modern generations have an appetite for experiences and will spend more to dine with them, it’s created an eatertainment perfect storm,” Punch Bowl Social founder Robert Thompson explained to Restaurant Business.
The unique structure of the Emerging Fund is one of the ways in which the business has been able to stand out in the venture capital landscape, shared Davie.
Partnering with industry veterans who are “true entrepreneurs that have actually built companies from the ground up” allows the fund to offer eatertainment companies more than simply financial support, he added. These connections can foster product development, consumer awareness and other valuable industry insights and advice.
Technology and food innovation
When evaluating potential investments, the Emerging Fund is focused on technology innovations, especially because the foodservice market has historically been relatively low-tech, according to Davie.
“What we really like is some kind of proprietary technology,” said Davie. “We like our kind of niches defined concepts that add an element of unique proprietary technology to make the experience unlike anything you get anywhere else.”
Examples of technology that the Emerging Fund chose to invest in include Puttshack’s incorporation of chips in golf balls for automated scoring, Flight Club’s digital dartboards and F1 Arcade’s racing simulators. These innovations help enhance the overall customer experience and allow these specific eatertainment concepts to stand out and have staying power within the category.
While technology is key to attracting business, these concepts are still restaurants and their menus should match the quality of the entertainment. Davie emphasized that its investment companies have high-end foods and drinks for any age.
“That’s how you’re going to get repeat customers,” he added.
The intersection of food and technology in eatertainment represents a new frontier in the restaurant industry. With unique concepts, proprietary technology and the support of industry veterans, these establishments are reshaping the dining experience.
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