With research showing 78% of consumers preferring to spend money on experiences, it is clear that a DJ and a light up dance floor will no longer cut it with consumers as we enter 2020, says Kate Goodbrand-Dillon
While this ongoing emphasis on seeking out experiences is influencing all aspects of people’s lives, in the hospitality and leisure sector, this has emerged in the form of ‘competitive socialising’ – with new concepts targeting consumers interested in fun and competitive activities. As with most new leisure trends, it is Millienials and Generation Z who are leading the way, and being part of this demographic myself, I totally get the appeal.
FSC is now working with tech-led mini golf concept, Puttshack, and with the competitive socialising segment of the market becoming more crowded, it’s interesting to drill down into the drivers behind the growth of this ‘new wave’ of competitive leisure concepts.
Over the past few years, there has been a rise in the ‘experience economy’, with UK consumers prioritising making memories over material objects. With a growing desire for minimalism and sustainable living, there is now a much reduced need to impress through ownership and instead greater emphasis placed on shared experiences. Competitive socialising concepts are well versed to thrive in this market, offering a setting for consumers to eat, drink and engage in fun with those important people in their lives. In 2019, 69% of late-night customers went to at least one ‘new wave’ event and this is set to grow as we enter a new decade.
Doing it for the ‘gram
Social media has completely taken over our every day lives and I couldn’t write this without mentioning Instagram. As of December 2019, there were 23.82 million Instagram users in the UK, with the majority of people using the photo sharing app to promote their social experiences as they frenetically share what is new, fresh or unusual with their followers. After all, if you didn’t put it on Instagram, did you even go!? Competitive socialising and experience led concepts are gold for peoples’ social media feeds. There are so many different touchpoints to capture, from the food and drink and often striking décor to the activity itself, it all lends itself perfectly to be shared.
The rise in our desire to share quirky and different experiences on social platforms has without a doubt been a driver of the success of competitive socialising concepts.
The rise of social media has subsequently given rise to the ‘competitive socialiser’. This isn’t just in the sense that they want to be victorious in every game (although who wouldn’t?), but it’s competition in itself to be enjoying the most fun or the most exciting experience. That’s why, often when it comes to socialising, people want to create a sense of FOMO in which people want to appear to be the first to know and experience new and exciting venues and concepts.
Thirst for the new
While throwing an axe or escaping a locked room isn’t quite the same as hiking up Macchu Picchu, the rise in competitive socialising concepts can partly be attributed to consumers’ thirst for activity and adventure. With people becoming better travelled and more interested in trying things they never have before – these new and innovative experiences provide a platform to explore this, while not having to travel too far. With people increasingly conscious of where and how they spend their time, having these quirky experiences easily accessible makes competitive socialising venues extremely attractive to consumers.
Although many competitive socialising concepts have decent bar offerings, the experiences are not centred around alcohol, with some operators, such as WhistlePunks axe throwing, actually banning alcohol consumption before and during play (for obvious reasons). With 43% of UK adults claiming to be actively reducing their alcohol consumption in the on-trade3, alcohol is rapidly becoming a less significant part of late-night leisure experiences. Consumers are therefore looking for venues that aren’t synonymous with drinking.
With new and innovative concepts popping up all the time, it will be interesting to see what new concepts are set for 2020, and how the leisure market will evolve in order to meet the demands of the experience-seeking consumer.
 CGA Business Leaders Survey 2019
 CGA Consumer Panel 2019