First came restaurants, cafes, truck-stop diners, fast-food, and dining experiences. Themed restaurants such as Hard-Rock Café, Planet Hollywood and Rain Forest Café were the next evolution in engaging diners. Today there is a new concept being served: Dinner + Entertainment = “Dinnertainment.”
Dinnertainment is many different things to different people. It ranges from private meals tied to an activity, to elevated dining experiences at entertainment events, to small restaurants featuring live music or even a small show (think updated, scaled down version of dinner theater), to the newest craze featuring physical activity in a restaurant environment. In other words you get to actually play with your food.
Why would you want to go be active while eating? Well, it is all about socialization. Activities bring people together, give you a shared purpose, and facilitate creating memories.
If your restaurant can be associated with friends reuniting, a bachelorette party, or a well-deserved victory, you have emotionally connected your customer’s experiences to your brand. Strong emotional connections lead to referrals through story telling by your patrons and ultimately brand loyalty.
Sports bars tapped into this concept by providing a place to watch your favorite team in a space big enough to hold all your friends, without you having to clean your home before or after the game. The draw of sports bars relies on your connection to a team or sporting event. If your team is not playing, you are less likely to visit a sports bar. The logical next step is to go from watching activities to participating in them. Activity based venues are not reliant on the TV or sports schedule thus expanding the repeat visit opportunities within their target audience.
In Denver a local favorite is Ace Eat Serve, which combines food, drink and ping-pong. Level 257 in Schaumburg, IL is 42,000 sq. ft. of casual dining, drinking, bowling and video games. The name Level 257 is direct reference to the kill screen of the original Pac-Man, which once you hit level 256, the game became unplayable. This makes sense because the brains behind Level 257 are Namco USA which is part of the world-wide company Namco, who invented Pac-Man. To them Level 257 is the next level of play. To participants it is a chance to hang-out, enjoy good food, drink, socialize and have a little friendly competition.
A new firm in north Kansas City is building their first Chicken ‘n Pickles, combining food and pickleball. The full venue will feature indoor and outdoor seating and courts.
The rise in social media has created opportunities for socialization in other areas of our lives. Dinnertainment concepts engage diners by providing "Social Grease" through activities that encourage socialization. The benefit to the restaurant is that Dinnertainment drives up per ticket sales by holding the diner's attention beyond food. Simply put, they stay longer and spend more.