In our March issue, we credited Kevin Williams and his popular weekly e-newsletter, The Stinger Report, for introducing the term "competitive socializing" to describe a fast-growing category of eatertainment venues. According to Kevin, the term has been used in the U.K. since 2015 to define pubs incorporating a circus entertainment vibe or bowling with food and beverage. In his e-newsletter, he said that competitive socializing "is a blending of a hospitality atmosphere married to a re-imagining of conventional competitive entertainment."
We've since written about competitive socializing in several articles. We described our definition of it in our June issue - Competitive socializing combines very approachable analog interactive games with high-repeat appeal played by a small group of people who don't have to be experienced players. Unlike many types of entertainment, competitive socializing includes trendy, high-quality food and beverage served where games are played in more contemporary and upscale atmospheres. Typically, food and drink generate around half or more of the revenue. There is light-hearted competition that isn't taken very seriously.
The more we think about the term competitive socializing, the more we've come to believe it is not the best fit for the many new venues that combine playing particular types of games, whether it is bowling, darts, axe throwing, billiards, or other games with a group of people while simultaneously enjoying foodie-worthy food and beverages. The games that work have a particular rhythm where one person plays while the other people watch. Sometimes there isn't even true competition; at best, it isn't taken seriously like in a sport.
A better term might be "socialized gaming," although that still doesn't fully capture the need for simultaneous food and drink. The enjoyment of the food and drink amplifies the socialization much higher than just playing the game together. That's why we are suggesting "socialized gaming" rather than just "social gaming," as 'socialized' implies something, the simultaneous food and drink that raises the level of socialization higher than just playing the game.
A number of new venues are being categorized as competitive gaming. Many offer indoor miniature golf. We don't think these qualify as competitive socializing, or by our revised term, socialized gaming, as the group playing isn't also simultaneously enjoying food and drink. As a result, although there is a lot of novelty to trying them out, they don't have the high level of socialization that can drive repeat appeal. Think about it, food and drink alone drive high repeatability. Just look at popular quality sit-down restaurants and their repeat appeal. A large part of what drives people to visit a sit-down, non-fast food restaurant is the appeal of the socialization that sharing food and drink combined with conversation brings people. With socialized gaming, the added appeal of the social aspects of playing a game ramps that socialization even higher than at a restaurant if the simultaneous food and drink are high quality, even foodie-worthy.