“We’ll be busy at eight in the morning, something we were never able to do in prior eatertainment concepts,” he says. “I don’t create any concepts that don’t lean heavily into Saturday and Sunday brunch; it’s just free money when you do it the right way.”
But weekday breakfasts? That’s a new spin for eatertainment that fits perfectly with pickleball enthusiasts, who Thompson anticipates serving coffee, smoothies, and limited breakfast selection throughout the week.
He’s also eager to capitalize on the multi-generational appeal of pickleball, noting that Camp Pickle will be “more family-oriented” than his previous eatertainment concepts, but it will absolutely replicate foundational elements from past successes.
“When I started Punch Bowl Social in 2010, I wanted to create a model that expanded dwell time. If you don’t have a craveable food and beverage product it becomes more difficult to expand the dwell time, but if can put together all of the moving parts in concert—the food, the beverage, the gaming, and the way you lay it out so guests move about the space naturally, comfortably—you get incremental spend from guests in the expanded dwell time,” says Thompson, whose corporate eatertainment enterprise, Angevin & Co., is the parent company of Camp Pickle and its sister concept, Jaguar Bolera.
In March, Angevin & Co. named Chef Manuel (Manny) Barella to serve as culinary director for both brands. Barella, who was born in Monterrey, Mexico, brings a passion for Hispanic cuisine and was a James Beard Award semifinalist in 2022.
The menu at both concepts will feature smoked proteins. Camp Pickle will bring together elements of Mexican and camp cooking; Jaguar Bolera will combine Mexican and Southern influences.
Thompson will begin rolling out the two concepts later this year, with Jaguar Bolera opening in Raleigh, North Carolina, in December, followed by the first Camp Pickle in Denver in the summer of 2024. “A second Camp Pickle will open toward the end of 2024, and then we’ll have a regular cadence of opening four to five a year,” he says. Deals are underway in Atlanta; Indianapolis; New Orleans; Huntsville, Alabama; Nashville, Tennessee; and Dallas and Austin, Texas.
If pickleball eatertainment seems like a novel concept, think again: It’s the natural evolution of a consumer surge. Every state and all Canadian provinces have pickleball venues, and the U.S. Pickleball Association, with a membership exceeding 70,000, reports there were more than 44,000 courts across some 10,700 North American locations at the start of this year.
Unplugged, fully engaged
If they play once, they will come again attests Kelli Alldredge, a former competitive tennis player and one of three managing partners at Chicken N Pickle. She started as a customer when owner David Johnson opened the first Chicken N Pickle in 2016 in North Kansas City, Missouri. She, Johnson, and Brad Clark, the third managing partner, had zero restaurant experience pre-Chicken N Pickle, but like their guests, they thrive on the social camaraderie of pickleball.