Many new emerging brands came on the scene introducing new technology and upping the design game such as Flight Club Darts, Puttshack, and Electric Shuffle. Offshoots of the core businesses have paved the way for upscale minigolf as Drive Shack introduced its sister concept, “Puttery,” which is a much smaller footprint in what looks to be an upscale, boutique, minigolf environment. More “soft ticket” live music players like House of Blues, City Winery, and Brooklyn Bowl began to gain popularity as they provided the perfect marriage of F&B along with a show.
Virtual reality venues have not taken off like many thought just a few years ago. Consumers have been seeking more and more analog and tactile experiences that allow them to unplug from the virtual world they have been immersed in.
“Esports” are certainly on the rise, and popular Fortnite developer Epic Games has reportedly acquired a 980,000 square-foot mall in Cary, North Carolina, for a new campus. Still there is a very specific age group that this caters to. The pandemic has only increased the desire to get away from technology when it comes to people's free time.
Many developments are including interesting art exhibits that are both indoor and outdoor. Consumer demand for these “visceral meets analog” experiences has led to the launch of immersive art experiences such as Santa Fe-based, Meow Wolf.
Where does all of this leave movie theaters, which were the steady entertainment anchor for decades? The industry has pivoted into quality over quantity. Better technology, 4D experiences, full service, better seating, and far fewer screens. Lobbies that used to be filled with “crane machines” and candy counters have been substituted with fine art and a craft beer and cocktail bar. Sticky floors and soda-soaked carpets have made way for mosaic tiles and plush fixtures. I may be going to the movies less now, but when I do, I want it to be an experience. The question is, can the upscale model and cost to build sustain the ticket price when your core audience is 13- to 24-years-old?
Millennials made it very clear several years ago that they would rather spend money on “experiences” than “things.” There was a rise of experience-driven destinations and even “pop-up” shops that allowed guests to take pictures. I don't think there was a single development constructed in America after 2012 that didn't include at least one “Instragramable” moment that allowed ever-improving camera phone technology and filters to be put to good use. These photo ops became the new marketing tool of the 21st century.
The Acceleration of Technology
Consumer habits have shifted and the new normal will set in. People who have been cooped up inside will begin to emerge and there will be a global campaign to assure the world that it’s safe to go outside again and enjoy our planet. Make no mistake, convenience is key and people will always seek ways to value their time. For this reason, delivery services, ghost kitchens, curbside pickup and upscale fast-casual will be here to stay. The new technology that became widely accepted during the pandemic, like QR codes will open the doors for the emerging and innovative technology groups like Wisely, OneDine, Acrelec, SEVENROOMS, and many more that are flooding the market with solutions to problems of the past.
The companies with strong leadership and great cultures will sustain themselves as they will be able to restart their engines, adapt to changing consumer habits and integrate technologies. I sat in a Bartaco restaurant a few weeks ago and marveled how seamlessly they integrated the in-house mobile ordering system into their program. “It’s just like adding items to your Amazon cart,” the host told us as we were being seated ... and it was. I not only ordered more, but had confidence that the “digital server” would remember that I do not want cilantro (tastes like soap to me), and left when I wanted to. Brilliant integration. Those guys get it.