This Venue is Using Remote Workers to Optimize Revenue

What do axe-throwing, pickleball courts, and looming deadlines have in common? At Smash Park, an Iowa-based ‘eatertainment’ brand with a vision for the future of remote work, they’re all under the same roof. Smash Park is a ‘one stop shop for food, drink and fun”, according to their website. Their business model is similar to a barcade, combining lawn games like pickleball and cornhole, with arcade classics, live events, and, of course, refreshments.

Like so many restaurant concepts, Smash Park was forced to pivot in the wake of the COVID-19 virus. Demand for recreational group activities plummeted as public concern increased and temporary closure became inevitable. But, with nearly 25,000 square feet of available space, the team behind Smash Park had some options.



“We think of Smash Park a little differently than just a straightforward eatertainment concept,” says brand CEO, Monty Lockyear. “We try to look at it more three-dimensionally.” Virtual kitchens were a logical transition for a facility already designed to feed a crowd. Smash Park initially partnered with Birdhouse Chicken, which specializes in beer-brined chicken.

But after reopening post-lockdown, Lockyear sensed further opportunity with the new wave of work-from-home employees. He decided to optimize the venues’ slow weekday lunches, by encouraging customers to camp out and work from Smash Park. It was an inventive way to make the most profit per square-foot, and offer remote workers an affordable, creative place to work outside of their homes. It was a win-win situation.

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“We thought we could be a comfortable alternative to crowded coffee shops,” says Lockyear. “We put in nicer, larger booths with electrical outlets and USB plugs — and there’s free Wi-Fi, of course.”

Though a restaurant with games and sporting activities may not be the first place that comes to mind when thinking of remote work, Smash Park guests are readily taking advantage of the spacious layout and craft food menu. Lockyear has noticed an increasing number of laptops peppering the dining areas, as well as small groups of colleagues getting together to work on projects. These customers often order lunch, maybe a drink for happy hour, “and then they’re out there playing pickleball,” says Lockyear.

He notes that turning tables isn’t a concern for Smash Park the same way it could be for smaller venues. Not only do they have the space to accommodate a large number of guests, nights and weekends are the park’s busiest times. By then, most remote workers have either left for home, or they’ve put away their laptops and are ready to relax and enjoy their evening.

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Lockyear and his team believe so strongly in the combination of food, fun, and remote work that they’re designing the next Smash Park locations to better accommodate guests who can work from anywhere.

“In our new design, we’ve added a private conference room with a big-screen television, a projector, and AV capabilities,” says Lockyear, explaining that Smash Park already hosts numerous team-building events and corporate parties. “With a private conference room that fits 30 to 40 people, they can just reserve that space, have their meeting, and then move on to a team-building activity right after.”


Unlike purpose-built coworking spaces, there aren’t — and won’t be — any membership fees or day passes to purchase in order to use Smash Park’s remote working facilities. Just show up, take a seat, and get to work. Customers can enjoy a comfortable, functional workspace without a ticking clock on their access to the space — and with a current dwell time of almost three hours, Smash Park only stands to profit by further improving the customer experience.

“We’re going to have seating for about 500 people in our new locations,” Lockyear shares. “That’s a lot of space for walk-in business, private parties, and remote workers.”

If you’re still not sold on the idea of multi-purposing your own restaurant into a virtual workspace, Lockyear assures us that it took time for his own team to get comfortable with the concept. Accepting the reality of remote work as something that is here to stay is ultimately what tipped the scales in favor of these new business decisions.

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“Things are just changing so fast, but it seems like everyday I hear about a new company that is either going completely remote, or shutting down their office, or at least going hybrid,” says Lockyear. “And I think employees demand it now; it’s going to be something where they will pick a job if they can work remotely.”

This isn’t just hearsay. A 2020 survey by Gartner found that more than 80% of company leaders intend to allow their employees to continue working remotely (at least some of the time) following pandemic-related closures. Similarly, a survey by FlexJobs, a job-seeker portal for remote or partially remote positions, revealed that 65% of respondents want to work remotely on a full-time basis after the pandemic. Remote work is so important that the same survey found that 27% of workers would even be willing to take a pay cut of up to 20% in order to avoid the office.

Of course, remote work isn’t possible for every business and some employees simply prefer a structured office environment when given the option, but it’s clear that providing people with an alternative place to work is likely to result in utilization. The more accommodating the space — think outlets, conference rooms, moreish food — the more likely customers are to hang out for hours at a time and, better yet, return again and again.

“We’re even adopting a hybrid approach at our corporate office,” says Lockyear. “It’s not something I thought we would do because we’re in such a growth stage and there’s a lot of collaboration, but we realized that if we just take, say, Tuesdays and Thursdays and make those optional for remote work, then we’re not bogged down by meetings. Those are real ‘production’ days.”

And production is definitely happening around Smash Park headquarters. New locations in Pella, Iowa and Omaha, Nebraska are slated for 2022, and subsequent years will see Smash Park opening in Minneapolis, Chicago, and Phoenix.

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