An American pioneer in competitive socializing

In last month's issue we wrote about the growing high-fidelity, social experience formula for location-based entertainment known as competitive socializing or socialized gaming. It combines very approachable, high-repeat appeal analog, interactive games (that might be technology-enhanced) played by a small group of people who don't have to be experienced players while simultaneously enjoying trendy, high-quality, foodie-worthy food and beverages. The combination of enjoying the F&B while playing creates a high-fidelity, "social bonding," memorable experience that a simple restaurant or typical entertainment venue experience alone doesn't.

Although a number of the socialized gaming concepts developed in the U.K. and have now crossed the Pond to the U.S. - Flight Club, Puttshack, and Swingers - and they and similar concepts are now spreading throughout the U.S., there is actually a much earlier American born one - Sports & Social owned by Live! The first Sports & Social opened in 2009 in Louisville, KY, and has now expanded to nine locations, with plans to add five new units a year. Not only does Sports & Social include bowling, foosball, shuffleboard, and other social games, it features enormous TV screens showing sporting events. So, in a sense, it is a hybrid of a sports bar and competitive socializing. It adds the social experience of a group of people watching a sports event together.

Judy Moore, senior VP of marking for the parent company Live! says, "People are looking for a complete experience, not just dining. They're coming for the social aspect of what we offer. We want them to stay in our four walls as long as possible," Commenting on the food and beverage offerings, Moore says, "We didn't make it too upscale that people didn't think it was something they could eat while watching a game." She notes that especially in foodie cities, their menus must rival what is offered in local restaurants.

Sports & Social locations vary from 7,000 to 30,000 square feet. They are located close to professional sports stadiums and entertainment districts. While each location looks similar, each has its own quirks to tie to nearby sports teams and players.

Sports & Social incorporates the formula for competitive socializing with group games and great food and beverage. It adds to it the social aspect of watching sporting events together with a group of people. And all can be enjoyed simultaneously. Sports & Social definitely offers a high-fidelity social experience.