Real Estate

Robert Johnson on Entertainment Concepts Post-COVID-19

Robert Johnson, recently named Vice President of Emerging Concepts, has been instrumental in the ambitious expansion of Puttshack and Flight Club as they continue to grow across North America. He took time with us today to discuss these two concepts and how the pandemic has affected this segment of the restaurant industry.

As you evaluate real estate opportunities for Puttshack, Flight Club, and other clients, have you noticed a change in the real estate landscape in 2021?

Over the last 12 months, we’ve seen trends in retail real estate accelerate like never before. Today’s retailers are being confronted with changes in consumer habits that we expected to see evolve over the next 4-5 years. I believe that the restaurant and entertainment concepts who were able to make it through this pandemic financially will ultimately emerge stronger and more creative than ever.

How are Puttshack and Flight Club managing to evolve during this difficult period?

Several of our clients, including Puttshack and Flight Club, have really hit it out of the park when it comes to offering a unique consumer experience that you really can’t get anywhere else. I think the tech element in both of the concepts coupled with an amazing food and beverage offering will continue to attract young professionals who we see spending a higher percentage of their income on these types of experiences. We have already begun to see indications of pent-up demand for these concepts, so I am excited to see how the next year unfolds.

How did COVID-19 affect these companies and how did you help them adapt?

The COVID-19 pandemic has proven to be what many would consider the biggest challenge that the restaurant and entertainment industry has seen. We’ve been lucky to work with incredibly creative and nimble teams who have come together to adapt to ever-changing rules and regulations.

While operations have faced a host of their own challenges, Emerging Concepts has acted as a strategic partner in helping best-in-class concepts navigate what seemed to be an impossible proposition. How do you pay rent and survive financially when you can’t operate your business? Our niche experience on both the tenant and landlord side of the business has allowed us to provide our clients with the data and insights that they’ve needed to make challenging decisions and steer their companies toward brighter days.

How do you see entertainment concepts evolving as the vaccination rollout continues and the pandemic continues to recede?

Although I wish it were the case, I don’t think that there will be an overnight “light switch” that turns on as we come out of the pandemic. While it appears that we are well on our way back to normalcy with mandates being lifted, I think that the real challenge going forward will be managing consumer’s perception of safety. More than ever, I think we will see great food and beverage operators listening to their core customer’s thoughts around contactless ordering and social distancing.

The Evolution of Puttshack and Flight Club    

Both Puttshack and Flight Club made their debut across the pond before arriving in the U.S. Puttshack is now open in Atlanta and has leases signed in Miami, Chicago, and Nashville. Flight Club currently is open in Chicago and Boston.

Puttshack’s mini-golf venue features Trackaball technology and interactive games, like beer pong and pop culture quizzes, at every hole. Flight Club’s high-tech social dart’s venue includes multi-player games, tracking technology, and automatic scoring that takes the popular pub game to a whole new level of fun.

Both concepts offer top-of-the-line crafted cocktails and multinational-inspired food that can be shared. Puttshack’s menu focuses on global flavors, like spiced pineapple Mezcal margaritas with chorizo and cheese empanadas, or a who’s who of Yuzu with wood-fired Thai octopus. Definitely not your traditional mini-golf menu.

Flight Club’s menu centers around shareable and hand-held offerings. In one hand is a mini beef barbacoa taco, in the other, an Iguana laced with Jamaican rums, ginger, hibiscus liqueur, and rooibos tea. And, somewhere in there, is a fast-paced game of high-tech darts that embodies the cheeky fun found in a British pub.

Their proprietary technology and high-end food and drink offerings make these two concepts stand out from others in this category. We look forward to seeing what 2021 brings for these unique immersive interactive experiences. We could certainly use some social interaction and good times after the 2020 onslaught.

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