A New Concept Shows Why Eatertainment Brands Can Be Profitable

“Eatertainment” concepts, which combine dining and entertainment experiences, have risen in popularity among consumers over the last few years as the pandemic fueled a demand for experiences over everything else.

Pickleball—a paddle sport that’s a combination of tennis, badminton, and ping-pong—has experienced a parallel rise alongside the eatertainment trend. In February, the Sports & Fitness Industry Association named pickleball the fastest-growing sport in America for the third year in a row, having grown 51.8% from 2022 to 2023, and 223.5% in three years.

It was only a matter of time before pickleball and eatertainment came together, with a number of concepts opening over the last few years. The Pickle Pad is the newest concept to volley their ball over the net, but their aim isn’t just the estimated 36.5 million pickleball players—it’s everyone.

The Pickle Pad Concept

According to The Pickle Pad’s VP of Franchising Robert Morris, the concept is meant to be a social experience that includes indoor pickleball rather than focuses on it. The team behind The Pickle Pad is looking to build a sustainable concept and not one that’s simply capitalizing on a fad.

The Pickle Pad
The Pickle Pad also offers a number of other games, like cornhole. (Photo: The Pickle Pad)

While The Pickle Pad is a new concept, it’s backed by Indoor Active Brands, which owns one of the largest established entertainment brands, Altitude Trampoline Park. The team took lessons from this concept, as well as TopGolf and upscale bowling alleys, to make sure their new concept appeals to both avid and casual players as well as the all-important group—spectators. “If you go to bowling alleys, or you go to Top Golf, the most popular thing isn’t bowling, and it's not golf, it's actually spectating,” says Morris, who notes The Pickle Pad caters to this demographic with comfortable seating and cabanas next to the courts. The courts are tournament-ready, so they will please avid players too. “We can serve both markets. We know at nine o'clock on a Monday morning that market is different than nine o'clock on a Friday night. So we're building the building for both, which is unique.”

The Pickle Pad has also planned for the inevitable wait times since the courts hold less people than a bowling lane or a venue like Top Golf with multiple bays. While waiting, patrons are invited to play over 20 free games like cornhole, ping-pong, Jenga, shuffleboard, etc. as well as some games with a nominal fee like billiards and darts. “We look at it as a more of a 365 experience,” says Morris.

F&B Offerings at The Pickle Pad

On the “eat” side of the eatertainment concept, each Pickle Pad location will also include the Crave Social Eatery restaurant. The Indoor Active Brands team curated the food menu with options that fit the busy, social atmosphere with shareable appetizers, flatbreads, and sandwiches that are also quick to serve and eat. Healthier options like salads and quinoa bowls will also be available.

The Pickle Pad Crave Social Eatery
(Photo: The Pickle Pad)

The food menu will be consistent across the brand, but Morris says it is not “chiseled in stone” and changes will be made based on sales and guest feedback.

For the drink menu, the focus will be on beer, wine, and seltzers for the first few locations, with the plan to have full liquor licenses in future locations where it makes sense. In The Pickle Pads limited to beer and wine licenses, there will also be wine-based cocktails of popular offerings like margaritas and piña coladas.

There will be more flexibility in the drinks menu in an effort to meet consumer demand for more local and regional options, especially on the craft beer side. Non-alcoholic options will include smoothies, sodas, upscale teas, cold brew, and upscale lemonade options.

Franchise Opportunities

The Pickle Pad’s first location will open in Tallahassee, Florida in May followed by a location in Scottsdale, Arizona.  After that, more locations will roll out as there are numerous locations in the pipeline at different stages of completion.

The Pickle Pad is actively looking for franchisees. The advantages of getting involved in a new concept that’s backed by an established company like Indoor Active Brands is that franchisees benefit from the experience of the company and existing national relationships. Morris also notes that the footprint of The Pickle Pad, 25,000 square feet, will match that of Active Brands’ existing Altitude Trampoline Parks, “so we already know, from a real estate perspective, what it takes to make a profitable location in that space.”

Thanks to memberships offered by the chain, Morris says traffic is expected to be steady all week and not just on weekends. This is because franchisees can use the memberships to funnel traffic across the week so that typically slower days now have guaranteed revenue.

Morris also notes that eatertainment concepts are frequently booked for events, which helps to bring in revenue on typically slow times as well. Events can be everything from pickleball lessons and clinics to corporate parties to holiday celebrations. “The average event party is traditionally spending at a higher clip than a walk-in guest because, it's amazing, the person drinking well vodka starts drinking Grey Goose when their boss picks up the tab,” he says. “And while people are saving up for their kids’ Christmases in December, you're hosting holiday parties. Your lulls are offset by all of the positives. We're taking the rollercoaster out and streamlining the behavior.”

The Pickle Pad
(Photo: The Pickle Pad)

Events can also serve as feeders for new customers. “Two thirds of all guests that walk into an eatertainment venue, their first visit was through an event,” says Morris.

Another benefit is that eatertainment concepts like The Pickle Pad result in lower mixed costs. Morris breaks down the revenue share as gaming being at the top, beverage second, and food third. “The majority of the revenue is going to come from gaming minus a little bit of repair and maintenance,” he says. “You're looking at almost pure profit. Beverage will be second, and then food will be third. So your highest revenue source has the best cost of goods, your second best revenue source has the second best cost of goods.”

It all comes down to the captive audience eatertainment brands bring in, which allows establishments to charge a little extra for their food and beverage thanks to the entertainment provided. “This only drives down your costs further because the beer vendor, the liquor vendors, and the food vendors don’t charge you additional just because you're an entertainment brand.”

This “pickleball money running over the top,” says Morris, helps to offset any lost profits in other areas of the business, “At the end of the day, it's the bottom line that matters, not how you got there.”


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