Creating unforgettable experiences and taking advantage of the competitive socialising trend

Competitive socialising refers to a type of entertainment and leisure activity that combines socialising with a competitive edge. The goal is to create an environment where people can have fun, socialise, and compete in a relaxed and entertaining way.

Competitive socialising trend growth

Although competitive socialising has been around for decades, in recent years it has gained significant popularity, with various hospitality venues dedicated to providing spaces where people can participate in a wide range of competitive activities while enjoying food, drinks, and a lively atmosphere. Some common examples of competitive socialising activities include mini golf, shuffleboard, darts, escape rooms, or even karaoke. These venues often have a vibrant and energetic atmosphere, making them popular choices for group outings, parties, team-building/work events, and even casual date nights.

competitive socialising

The focus is on creating memorable experiences that combine social interaction, entertainment, and a bit of friendly rivalry. Creating a positive memorable experience is also crucial to achieving positive feedback, this feedback can then inspire returning customers and attract first time customers too. The beauty of looking at competitive socialising venues is that there is something for everyone across all demographics to enjoy.

Across all venues, there is one commonality across every venue… a food offering to help fuel the fun. The food offering gives a chance for the competitive edge to slow its place and for the visitors to have a break, reflect on their activity, and gain momentum to get straight back into it. More importantly, it’s a great way to increasing spend per head! A unique food offering gives you a chance to stand out from the competition, entice new customers and encourage returning customers.

seasonal menu competitive socialising

The latest insights on competitive socialising

25% of consumers are taking part in competitive socialising monthly*
53% of UK adults visiting these venues MORE vs. 2 years ago (rising to 67% of Gen Zs and 64% of parents)*
79% of UK parents said they’d visit an “experiential venue” as a family***

Factors most important to consumers when visiting experiential venues are**:

49% Choice of food
48% Cost of food
41% Cost of drink
37% The activity

Grab & go to grazing…

In competitive socialising environments, time is often limited for people to grab something to eat. Therefore, a sit-down meal with a more formal approach would not reflect the venue well. By creating options that follow a simple grab & go, grazing or sharer board format will allow people to quickly grab something tasty to eat without disrupting the flow or time restraint of their visit. This format can also help encourage a more social, relaxed environment which is crucial to the success of a competitive socialising venue.

With venues with a high amount of customers, it is also important that the food offering is diverse and caters for an array of all dietary preferences. With board options, you can also create specific sharer style boards that reflect the dietary requirement such as gluten free, vegan, and vegetarian boards so all customers can experience the same style of service and have confidence in their meal.

Here are six ideas for some sharer platters:

  • All


Kitchen efficiency

Time efficiency is crucial to ensuring your visitors can have their food quickly to ensure they are not disrupting the time restraint of their activity or that it keeps up with the pace of the venue itself. For example, you do not want people waiting around for food for long periods of time as it can cause a backlog of visitors departing and leaving. However, the crucial point to remember is that you must balance speed with quality, while the meals need to be quick, they should still offer customers a great experience.

The food offering, service and food quality will significantly impact a customer’s decision to recommend the venue or return in the future. Here are three top tips to drive kitchen efficiencies for your venue.

  • Preparation

    Never underestimate the importance of prep. Before the busy period begins, ensure that ingredients are prepped and organised. This includes chopping vegetables, marinating proteins, and portioning out necessary components. Having ingredients ready-to-go will speed up the cooking process.

    kitchen preparation
  • Streamlining your menu

    Streamlining your menu is powerful to both the consumer and the chef. Design a menu that focuses on dishes that can be prepared, assembled and served quickly. Your menu needs to showcase what your team can cook exceptionally well.

    By offering a streamlined approach, whilst catering for dietary and allergen requirements, you can offer a more efficient process for both ordering and cooking.

    streamline your menu
  • Utilise the range

    Utilise the range to help your teams. Exploring products that can help increase productivity and time efficiency without hindering your quality can make a massive impact on your operations.

    utilise food range
  • Kitchen environment

    Ultimately, you want to create a kitchen environment that operates smoothly and delivers high-quality food in a timely manner that reflects the competitive social environment you are in.

    To further assist the understanding of kitchen and team efficiencies, you can look on our industry support hub, Unlock Your Menu. Click here to find out more.

    Unlock your menu

Adapt your offering

It is important for all venues to adapt their offering to reflect a variety of occasions and meal times. By doing this, you will be able to not only maximise appeal but also increase customer spend throughout the day. By creating a diverse menu, it will allow your venue to target different markets under one roof as well as entice a variety of occasions. A popular concept for getting together, you can entice a variety of audiences through from corporate parties, birthday celebrations to casual gatherings. With each occasion, it is important that the menu can be adapted to their requirements.

Our survey we did for our 2024 food and drink trends suggested that more than half of consumers love trying new experiences, and they want to feed their sense of adventure by exploring global cuisines. To help with ideas on world foods, discover our World Foods campaign here.

“As the biggest chain of micro-breweries in the UK with breweries in each of our sites, we do a lot of experience days, such as beer, whiskey and gin masterclasses, plus we also offer brewery experience days where you can make your own beer. We include food pairings as part of these unique experiences as well, with our academy menu which is where have a menu which we recommend what beer best goes with each dish.”
Graeme Warwick, Head of Food at Brewhouse and Kitchen
The UK’s largest Brewpub where every pub has a micro-brewery on-site which pairs beers with their classically inspired dishes on the menu

Push the boundaries with your menu

A versatile food menu also sets a venue apart from competitors that offer limited or standard food choices. It gives the venue a competitive edge by demonstrating its ability to cater to a broader range of clientele and events. A way in which you can push your venue ahead and appeal to changing consumer tastes is looking at utilising the latest trends.

Offering seasonal specials or trending cuisines can attract enthusiasts and increase foot traffic. To support you with the latest trends, with everything from recipes to tailored insight, visit our 2024 food and drink trends page.

competitive socialising

What is competitive socialising?

Competitive socialising refers to the combination of competitive activities or games with a social setting, creating an environment where people can engage in friendly competition while enjoying food and drink. It typically involves entertainment venues or pubs and bars that blend elements of competition, leisure, and socialising to provide a unique and enjoyable experience for their customers.

What are the most popular types of competitive socialising activities?

In the last few years, there has been a lot of success in concepts that utilise things like mini-golf, pool, darts and shuffleboard. However, it is a trend that is being adapted in many ways, big and small. For example, it’s a great way of adding small touches in communities by introducing things like quiz nights, pottery classes, and board games socials. And some places have gone big investing in things like interactive dart boards and unique activities like axe throwing. The possibilities are endless!

Why is competitive socialising gaining popularity?

There has been growing demands for value in hospitality, particularly for Gen-z’s and millennials who are wanting to create special occasions when they go out. With these generations drinking less as a whole, they are looking to spend their money on the occasion instead, and this is where competitive socialising has really benefitted. The uniqueness of it appeals to most people of all demographics and it is a great way to generate additional income for the business.

What types of food pair well with competitive socialising activities?

With these types of places being such a relaxed setting, it’s important to get the food offer to suit. Places that do it well capitalise on the growing trend of tapas and sharing dishes so people can pick and eat whilst doing these activities. Finger foods and small plates do brilliantly here and they are a good way to increase spend per head too.

What are the benefits of incorporating competitive socialising into venues?

It’s a great way to attract new customers through the door, it will increase the dwell time of people coming through the door, and all of this will inevitably boost the revenue of your business.

It is also a great way to make a name for yourself as a business. In a world where social media holds so much power over people going to you, these concepts are highly “Instagrammable” which is perfect for influencing others and getting more people through your doors.

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