Puttshack believes it’s the best mini golf experience in the country, CFO Logan Powell says. There’s quite an influx of cash to back up that argument.
In May 2021, the NextGen Casual revealed it completed a growth round of $60 million, led by Promethean Investments. Entering this year, Puttshack intended to raise more capital, and was eventually introduced to private equity firm BlackRock Capital in the second quarter by way of Promethean. This time, the investment was for $150 million.
“We’re on pace to roll out further significantly over the next few years, and the capital that we’ve raised is going to enable us to do that,” Powell says.
Since BlackRock was founded in 2005, it’s evaluated more than 6,400 opportunities and invested in excess of $5.6 billion in roughly 300 companies. William Im, director of BlackRock’s credit team, called Puttshack “the clear leader in the social entertainment industry” and that the “demand in this space is compelling.”
The chain uses patented Trackaball technology that keeps score as customers play, removing the need for paper score cards. Courses are innovative, like the Prize Wheel, where customers have opportunities to win free drinks, games, and pizza, or the Beer Pong hole, which instructs guests to hit the ball off a ramp and aim for one of 10 cups.
Puttshack was founded by twin brothers Steve and Dave Joliffe, the founders of Topgolf, and Adam Breeden, who started All Star Lanes, AceBounce, and Flight Club. The concept began in London in 2018, and opened its first U.S. location in Atlanta in spring 2021. A second unit debuted in Oakbrook, Illinois, later in November. Boston and Miami are on track to open this fall, and another is projected for St. Louis in the winter. In 2023, there are plans for Dallas, Denver, Houston, Nashville, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Scottsdale, and a second venue in Atlanta. And those are just the ones that’ve been announced—more will be revealed soon, the company says.
Powell describes it as a “really robust pipeline of sites” through 2024 and 2025. Thanks to recent investments, Puttshack is looking to grow at a pace of 10-15 stores annually in the U.S. for several years to come. In addition to expansion, the capital will also be used for developing and innovating technology, such as a new guest booking portal and upgraded games.
Although the company was founded in the U.K., the brand has a fully functional team based in Chicago, including Powell, who spent the past three years overseas. Ahead of growth, Puttshack recently bolstered its U.S. leadership team to include Chris Rockwood, who started as COO after working at Roy’s Restaurants, Del Frisco’s Restaurant Group, and Alamo Drafthouse Cinemas; Keith Strew, who became vice president of learning and organizational development after past stops at Uncle Julio’s and Del Frisco’s Restaurant Group; Ben Shepherd, who joined as executive vice president of software engineering and architecture after building several solutions for Fortune 500 companies; and Shannon Silva, who came on as national director of group sales after 20 years of hospitality experience and building Punch Bowl Social.
“We set very ambitious goals early on when we started forming the plan for this business,” says Puttshack CFO Logan Powell. “The way to achieve those goals over time is to have the fantastic team, and we truly believe we’ve got the best team in the industry behind this concept.”
Compared to the U.K., locations in the U.S. are typically bigger, come with different hole options, and entertain more corporate events. The demographics are essentially the same, which is the 21- to 39-year-old age category.
The company says the first two U.S. stores in Atlanta and Chicago continue to outperform all success metrics. Alongside entertainment, the food menu includes a host of globally inspired shareables (thai fried chicken, buffalo chicken dip), flatbreads, salads, and handhelds. There’s also wine, beer, spirits, mocktails, and a selection of signature cocktails, such as the Smokin’ Painkiller (Pusser’s British Navy Rum, Stroh 160 Overproof Rum, fresh orange and pineapple juices, coconut cream, served in a nutmeg smoke-filled wooden chest).
“The overall guest experience has been really well-received, from the booking journey at the beginning to execution in-house,” Powell says. “So everybody’s feedback so far has been really good. Repeat visits have also been really strong with them.”
Instead of targeting a specific region, Puttshack from the start has aimed at establishing a presence in the North, South, East, and West. As Powell explains, the brand wants to create a national presence so the real estate community recognizes the concept can work anywhere. The company is avoiding California, Las Vegas, and New York for now because of high construction costs. But that’s not to say the chain won’t eventually enter these markets. The idea is to take learnings from more suitable locations, like Boston’s Seaport district, so Puttshack can test expensive trade areas in an efficient manner.
Site selection is heavily reliant on space. Atlanta was a ground-up build housed in a mixed-use development, while the unit in Oakbrook was a former Lord & Taylor space. The brand is comfortable in both urban and suburban locales.
Despite supply chain shortages and delays throughout the industry, Powell says Puttshack hasn’t been impacted significantly.
“We’ve actually been pretty fortunate in that regard,” He says. “We’ve got a lot of folks on our team that have a lot of history in this industry. And so from a supply chain perspective, we’ve been a little ahead of the curve. Probably due to some luck, but we haven’t had too many issues on the supply chain. From a construction perspective, we’ve partnered with ARCO/Murray who is our main general contracting firm, has a lot of experience in this space, and they’ve been great partners to help us manage through this process.”
A couple months after the Atlanta venue opened, CEO Joe Vrankin told FSR that its success has “blown the doors off of what our expectations were.” At the time, it was averaging more than 1,000 visitors per day, well above what the concept predicted.
It’s the type of response Puttshack is expecting a lot more of going forward as it enters some of the biggest markets around the country. With a large amount of financing behind it, the company is eager to reach its goals, but in a measured way, Powell says.
“We set very ambitious goals early on when we started forming the plan for this business,” he says. “The way to achieve those goals over time is to have the fantastic team, and we truly believe we’ve got the best team in the industry behind this concept. So that’s certainly part of the reason that we’ve been able to attract capital and certainly from this round from BlackRock. It is a balancing act, but we’re confident we’ve got the right team to balance.”