I wonder how many of our readers have made an effort to experience various concepts within the competitive socialising space. There is certainly no shortage of options out there these days.

For me, I know I’ve been to a successful project/venue when I can see myself returning to live it out again. This differentiates from repeat pub visits, of course, as popping back into a nearby pub for another pint the following week is a massive contrast to paying a premium to throw some axes at a wall time and again (although that does sound like an appealing alternative to regular therapy sessions). The point is, can things like virtual cricket, neon mini golf and F1 simulators really attract regulars? 

This line of pondering came up when chatting to our lead interviewee this month, Oliver Clifford, roll out director for TOCA Social, the competitive socialising football concept (page 24). When talking through the customer journey of guests at its O2 site (and now also at Birmingham’s Bullring), we discussed just how much of a difference teams can make when it comes to this style of hospitality and, if that effect is sizeable, whether that lends itself to securing repeat custom. I’d argue that you’re quite likely to return in the distant future if you’ve enjoyed the activity, but are much more likely to visit again sooner if the people there have elevated the occasion. 

Clifford’s response included a quote that operators would do well to remind themselves of now and again: “Hospitality is 100% dialogue; it is not a transaction.” What a point that is. It conjured up images of a disengaged team member holding a card machine in a customer’s face while looking elsewhere and not giving a solitary proverbial. Where is the dialogue there? In my chat with the TOCA teammate, you can read about how and why the people in the business are such a huge part of the experience and how Clifford’s Soho House background has been a key part of this operational element. 

Tristan O’Hana - Editor