Whether you own a bar, a nightclub, a restaurant, a hotel, or any other hospitality venue, you should always want to capitalize on your success and supplement your existing revenue streams to increase your overall profits.
To do this efficiently and effectively, you need to ensure that guests are coming back more often and staying for longer periods. You need to tap into greater opportunities for competitive socializing.
This guide will go over set-up costs, requirements, earning potential, and pros and cons of a various entertainment types:
What is competitive socializing?
As you may have noticed in recent years, competitive socializing opportunities have become a popular trend among friendship circles – especially those looking to make the most of a typical night out in their small town. For those who don’t know, competitive socializing involves high-energy activities such as table games, darts, karaoke… basically, any type of interactive gaming with an inherent element of high or low-stakes competition between friends – all of which typically takes place within a dining or hospitality setting with food and drinks.
Great examples of competitive socializing can be easily implemented in your venue, usually with low overhead costs. Get a sense of what your regular customers might like and consider integrating the activity into your everyday routine – maybe try it out for the first time on a slower mid-week shift and see how customers engage with it. If the customers are regulars, do they stay for longer or spend more money while playing darts (for example) than they did when there was no dartboard? Competitive socializing is a growing trend. One that can get your business growing, too.
5 best competitive socializing activities
Private karaoke rooms
Who doesn’t love karaoke? It’s an engaging and unique pastime that allows people to truly unwind and be their most uninhibited and ridiculous selves, while also creating lasting memories and establishing and strengthening friendships. Karaoke bars and restaurants offer enthusiasts a judgment-free environment in which to let loose, chow down, and sing, often turning a low-traffic night of the week into a widely popular local event.
From a business perspective, the pre-book karaoke business model – wherein customers select and reserve their rooms while inputting their party size and the desired number of plays – allows bar and restaurant owners to anticipate how busy they expect to be on any given night, allowing them to bring in more or fewer staff members to cover shifts. And by adding a dedicated area for karaoke fans, you are opening your business up to a brand-new customer base – not to mention adding resale value to your space.
Learn more about karaoke rooms with our karaoke room business guide here.
Set-up costs and requirements: If you are simply adding karaoke equipment to an existing bar or restaurant venue, you will likely already have the video and sound setup. Programming software, like that available at Singa, can be relatively inexpensive, and so too are microphones and song catalogs. The biggest spends typically involve bigger and better speakers. However, if you want to add private booths and karaoke rooms, this can often cost around $5,000 to $25,000 to incorporate (mostly construction and renovation fees).
Earning potential: This depends entirely on your commitment to karaoke. Hosting karaoke nights at the venue once or twice a week can typically pull in an extra $5,000 to $10,000 per month. However, for spaces with dedicated karaoke rooms that customers can pre-book ahead of time, estimates can range from $20,000 to $30,000 extra profit per month – meaning that initial karaoke expenses (including installation) can pay for themselves very quickly.
You can get a better the potential earnings for your venue with our karaoke room profit calculator here.
- Remarkably versatile form of entertainment with plenty of concepts to choose from. Whether it's self-service karaoke, staff or KJ-run open mic, karaoke rooms, open-air karaoke, or karaoke event, there's an ideal concept to match your needs and goals.
- Easy to scale. Self-service karaoke is a great way to monitor how it is received by your customers; if positive, you can slowly integrate larger-scale karaoke concepts into their bar or restaurant.
- Food and alcohol sales often increase during karaoke nights, with average increases ranging from 20% to 40%.
- With private karaoke rooms, the more comfortable a group of singers is, the more likely they are to stay for longer. This means longer room rental time, more food, and more drinks.
- While relatively low cost, private karaoke rooms for businesses that don’t have existing space is the most invasive option and may require some significant maneuvering and out-of-pocket expenses.
- Self-service karaoke booths, or a dedicated self-service karaoke area, also often require additional costs in addition to software and speakers, including soundproofing.
- The drawback to having too few self-service karaoke booths in your establishment is that, without proper marketing, customers might not notice they are there.
Best for: Depending on the size and the existing layout of your space, there are many different concepts that you can apply if adding some karaoke elements to your business. Whether you are thinking of turning your entire venue into a karaoke-themed bar or restaurant or building customized private karaoke rooms or self-service karaoke machines in your hotel entertainment center. Karaoke is one of the most versatile forms of competitive socializing and can work within any business model.
Another great example of competitive socializing, arcade games are heavily favored by groups looking to unwind together. What's more, the once-retro arcade destination has become an emerging add-on trend in many entertainment venues, including restaurants, bars, and movie theaters. Adding a designated arcade area that includes multiple competitive-style video gaming consoles to your venue is a great way to bring in more customers.
Set-up costs and requirements: You can find functional, retro arcade games just about anywhere – trade shows, antique markets, even on Amazon. Depending on how much you want to spend, you can outfit an arcade room in your venue for as little or as much as you wish.
Earning potential: Unless you outfit your venue with dozens of machines, you probably won’t experience tens of thousands of dollars’ worth of increased revenue from gaming alone. However, you will likely notice higher figures each week because you are creating an environment in which people, while enjoying their time fiddling with the joysticks, will stick around for longer, ordering more food and more drinks than they would without.
- Arcade games are incredibly popular and tap into the 80’s and 90’s nostalgia. They also require little operational overhead – just plug in and customers can figure out the rest.
- Arcade games, especially vintage machines, tend to break down and repair specialists might be challenging and expensive to source.
- Non-stop running of these machines will drive up hydro and electricity bills.
Best for: Arcade game machines can be incorporated into any hospitality venue, but they tend to make the most sense in pubs, bars, and restaurants that carry that competitive socializing theme.
Everything old is new again. Newer generations of customers are experiencing a love affair with nostalgia – and bowling is at the top of that list. Capitalizing on the trend of retro gaming, bowling is also a great example of competitive socializing. And if your space can accommodate the necessary adjustments, a bowling alley in your business will likely pay for itself in no time.
Set-up costs and requirements: Building a bowling alley in your existing space is costly. On average, you could be looking at an investment of $30,000 to $80,000, depending on the size of your space.
Earning potential: The potential for revenue of an entire bowling alley business is pretty lucrative. But again, depending on the number of lanes you want to add to your venue, a similar yield can be expected.
- Bowling is one of the few competitive pastimes that can be enjoyed by people young and old, and of varying proficiencies. Despite their immense popularity in years past, nowadays it’s been difficult to find bowling alleys in many major cities. A dedicated bowling alley in your business could potentially attract customers from far and wide.
- The costs associated with adding bowling lanes to your venue will likely cause the biggest headaches.
- There are also legalities to consider, including slip-and-falls and other injuries.
Best for: To accommodate a few regulation-size bowling lanes, the best venue would likely be one with plenty of space, like a hotel or large-scale restaurant with a dedicated add-on room.
Billiards, ping-pong, foosball…these table-top gaming fixtures have been a presence in bars for decades. And that’s because they are a relatively cheap addition that yields heavy engagement when positioned in the right venue. Picking up a paddle or a pool cue can turn any evening out into that much more fun.
Set-up costs and requirements: Billiards tables, on average, can go for anywhere from $1200 to $4000 – a drop in the bucket compared to the increased revenue you’ll see as a result of your investment. Ping pong tables or foosball tables can also be sourced online for relatively cheap (around $800 to $1000 on average). If you’ve got the space to fit one (or all), you’re set.
Earning potential: It’s hard to determine an exact figure for the kind of earning potential available from a tabletop add-on. But long-term is the name of the game. Taking any of the average costs listed above into consideration, the costs would pay for themselves in no time – and the resulting foot traffic for years to come make it a worthy investment.
- Table games are some of the most effective and least costly gaming add-ons you can include in any business. Logistically, they also take up the least amount of space.
- Pool tables in particular can become a liability due to the potential for injury. They can also be easily damaged, requiring costly repairs.
Best for: There are very few downsides to adding a tabletop gaming feature to any type of business. Some venues––especially those that serve food and alcohol––may encourage greater interest from customers than those where a pool table (for example) is sat stoically in a conference room, out of sight. Placement is everything.
Darts or Axe-throwing
The phenomenon of throwing things in a bar is nothing new. Darts have been a fixture in pubs for years, even spawning professional leagues. Axe-throwing is a relatively new and modern twist on this traditional pastime, and customers love the challenging twist. Adding a dartboard or an axe-throwing gallery to your space capitalizes on both.
Set-up costs and requirements: A dartboard can cost as little as $20––you’ll likely find no better deal to increase competitive socializing at your business. Axe-throwing, however, is a bigger investment that includes construction work and equipment installation. These can run you up to $50,000, on average. You do NOT want to skimp on the quality when it comes to throwing axes.
Earning potential: If even one new guest patronizes your establishment because of your new dartboard, then you'll likely make back your investment in less than an hour. Depending on the scale of your axe-throwing idea, there are several ways to tackle a building plan and each comes with its reward.
- You can find dartboards online for next to nothing. They are the most cost-effective gaming fixtures you can add to a venue.
- Axe-throwing is incredibly popular; adding a gallery range to your place of business will attract customers from far and wide.
- Some might find the concept of serving people alcohol and then handing them a throwing axe to be pretty wild maybe even too dangerous. Accidents happen in just about any bar or restaurant environment, but the legalities around customer injuries from darts or axe-throwing should always be considered.
- While certainly popular on its own, axe-throwing in a bar or restaurant is still a very niche pastime and it might not appeal to everyone – like those who are looking to have a girls’ night out. It might come across as too-testosterone-fuelled and word-of-mouth might do some damage.
Best for: As mentioned above, liquor and weapons aren’t always the best mix (did you know that axe-throwing injury lawyers are now a thing?). If you choose to incorporate an axe-throwing gallery into your venue, it might be best to dedicate the entire venue to axe-throwing so that everybody knows what to expect once they show up. Same with darts––darts in pubs are hugely popular: but keep the dartboards in a dedicated space near the bar to avoid any collateral damage from those patrons who are just trying to vibe.
Escape rooms have never been more popular than they are right now, so audiences are always on the lookout for new adventures. Adding an escape room––or escape closet, depending on the size available––to your space is a timely and sound investment.
Set-up costs and requirements: Escape rooms are fairly easy to set up since most of the heavy work is done using ingenuity and teamwork. Literally turn an empty conference room in your hotel, or an unused storage closet in your bar or restaurant and add some problem-solving flourishes and décor that guests have to figure out. There are plenty of places online where you can learn how to make your own escape room with little to no additional costs.
Earning potential: You can potentially bring in a few extra thousand dollars each month, depending on the size and the quality of your escape room. If your space is good enough, the escape-room community will send plenty of business your way.
- Escape rooms are some of the most popular destinations for a night out. Their prevalence in the competitive socializing industry has skyrocketed in the last few years and shows no sign of slowing down. They are highly profitable when marketed properly.
- While relatively simple and cheap to build, adding an escape room might require additional business licensing and insurance.
- Venue consideration is key: for example, an escape room in a bar could be considered risky as some guests might not be in the mood for a cerebral, fact-finding mission if they’ve just come in for a relaxing round of drinks.
- Escape rooms often struggle to foster repeat customers as the replay value of solving the same puzzles can be limited. Thus, the concept or theme of the escape room needs to be refreshed regularly.
Best for: Escape rooms typically require a unique, large-form layout, so they might not be the best fit for a tiny dive bar – unless incorporating a dedicated add-on is feasible. Otherwise, a restaurant or hotel space with ample room would be the ideal venue.
There you have it! These are some of the most popular entertainment offerings for your venue. Of course you can combine more than one of these entertainment offerings together. But if you are looking to get started up with just one, this guide should give you a starting place.