The concept’s food and beverage menu—which accounts for a majority of sales—is handled by Todd Lindberg, a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America. About 80 percent of selections are scratch-made, a strength that Smash Park chose not to promote at first.
“[Customers’] expectation when it comes to an entertainment concept was probably fairly low, so we wanted them to come in and be surprised like, ‘Wow this is really good,’ and then tell our story over time,” Lockyear says.
The menu consists of shareables, burgers, handhelds, flatbreads, power bowls, and more.
Some products are unique to Smash Park, like Pickleballs (balls of whipped cream cheese, diced dill pickles, smokey bacon bits, and cheddar jack cheese that are hand-breaded and fried and served with a Bloody Mary Ranch dipper) and Bao Birds (three fresh steamed buns, crispy, battered 24-hour brined chicken, sweet chili sauce, sesame ginger aioli, red cabbage, cilantro, and green onion).
As for beverages, the most popular category is Sociabowls, which are cocktails poured in fishbowls. Smash Park even lets customers name drinks, like Smashed by the Ocean, made vodka blue curacao, Sierra Mist, house-made sour, and cherries. There’s also a lineup of seltzer cocktails called Clawtails, including Booty Claw, with lime White Claw, tequila, triple sec, house-made sour, and lime juice.
“Some surprising items that you wouldn't necessarily expect at a place like Smash Park,” Lockyear says.
The brand’s second location opened mid-May in Pella, Iowa. Its third outlet, located in Minneapolis, will begin construction later this year, with a targeted opening date in summer 2023. The fourth unit, in Omaha, Nebraska, is set to open late 2023 or early the following year.
Smash Park is already undergoing a site selection process for a second Minneapolis outpost, which the company would like to have open by mid-2024. After that, it will move into Chicago, a city that could hold three locations, Lockyear says. The brand is committed to keeping its growth restricted to the upper Midwest and Central Midwest during this first phase of expansion.
The Pella location holds more than 20,000 square feet, four pickleball courts, and indoor and outdoor games like giant Connect Four, giant Jenga, cornhole, and bocce ball. There's also more than 80 TV screens and a 14,000-square-foot patio and beer garden. The Omaha unit will have 30,000 square feet of indoor space and 15,000 square feet of outdoor area. The venue will be filled with more than 100 TVs, along with ax throwing, duckpin bowling, a karaoke suite, and a a 21-and-over “Paddle Club."
Smash Park has franchising infrastructure in place, including a franchise disclosure document, all of which was put together prior to COVID. While Pella is a franchised store, all the other upcoming units will be company-owned.
“We realized franchising is great, but this is a pretty complicated concept that wasn’t cheap to start,” Lockyear says. “And as we grow, we thought that the corporate route would be a lot better for us at least in the next three or five years. So we're all set up for franchising. We could do that any time we wanted to pivot.”
When Smash Park first opened in 2018, the goal was to always go national, Lockyear recalls. And along this journey, the company has quickly pivoted multiple times because it isn’t bound by investors. Outside of sports and entertainment, the objective is to serve as a community hub by participating in fundraising, charitable events, and partnerships with local organizations and hosting widely appealing events, such as live music and trivia nights.
To achieve this, Lockyear knows growth must be methodical. After building out Minneapolis, he envisions three to four openings per year.
“We just want to be incredibly disciplined in our approach and not get spread too thin, too fast,” Lockyear says.