The rise of eatertainment

The foodservice industry has seen many changes in the last few years, but the rise of eatertainment is one trend that looks like it is here to stay. Guests are looking for more from their restaurant visits, and that means adding value with an exceptional experience – that’s eatertainment.

While not a strictly new concept – Chuck E. Cheese and Dave & Buster’s being the most notable longtime examples – the eatertainment sector saw a 20 per cent increase in visits in January, while many other foodservice segments saw less than five per cent growth during that same period.

As the industry evolves, eatertainment is driving innovation, with restaurants leveraging interactive elements and leaning into technology to get attention and boost traffic. And for generations who are tech-savvy, this concept appeals to their tech side, as well as their tastebuds. In fact, studies show that 78 per cent of millenials would rather spend their money on eatertainment experiences than on material items, and 27 per cent of Gen Z want more games and entertainment from restaurants, so there’s a large potential for increased restaurant revenues.

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Diners are looking to try new things and enjoy unique experiences while keeping value at the forefront. This can be a definite challenge for restaurants continuing to struggle with margins, labour, and supply chain delays, but if you get it right, it can be an opportunity to level up your business.

The benefits of eatertainment

Participating in the eatertainment trend can benefit your brand, your business, and your bottom line:

  • Upping the experience for your guests often means being able to charge a premium so you can recoup your investment costs and boost your profits, while offering a superior experience.
  • Adding new elements may give your restaurant the opportunity to appeal to different age groups or target markets. This could mean adding activities that appeal to families, planning date nights, making it interactive or anything else that aligns with your brand and offers more for your guests.
  • Depending on the activities you choose, often guests stay longer, increasing the probability of higher cheque totals.
  • You may also be able to offer the eatertainment part of your business on a typically slower night, increasing traffic and revenues through the week and providing extra shifts for your staff.
  • Offering your guests something to talk about and a reason to return will help you attract new clientele and build loyalty with your existing clients.
  • Growing your online presence is an important part of standing out in a crowded market, and social media marketing can help you branch out to broader audiences and potential visitors.
  • When you grow your online presence organically with guests sharing about their experience, it’s free advertising for your business, so you are getting exposure, customer engagement, and attention from different audiences online all at once.

As this trend continues to grow, adding an eatertainment element to their offering could help position them as a destination, rather than simply a restaurant.

How can you incorporate eatertainment into your restaurant concept?

While some operators are installing pickle ball courts, adding putting courses, and completing restaurant makeovers, it doesn’t have to be that dramatic – or that costly.  Some operators have added table games like Jenga or Connect Four to their offerings, allowing customers to play in between courses. Others have invested in tablets so guests can play electronic games against each other or throughout the restaurant. Even hosting trivia nights can offer an experience for your guests that’s interactive and fun!

There’s no right answer: whether you want to host interactive community events for charity, partner with local suppliers for better branding, or step outside your comfort zone to attract a new crowd, customers are looking for more than just dining from their favourite restaurants.

Decide on a strategy, plan your execution, seek feedback from your staff and guests, test it out, watch it gain traction, and tweak your operations until you see success. Focus on the customer experience, rather than the bottom line to offer what your guests will see as a valuable add-on.

The restaurant space is more competitive than ever, and eatertainment is one way that many operators can shine by offering something new and unique in a fun and lively setting.