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Opinion: The global rise of the ‘eatertainment’ concept

Troy Warfield is CEO of Oche, a unique gaming offering and contemporary gastro bar and restaurant designed to combine entertainment experiences with a dining and cocktail bar atmosphere. Developed in Norway, the first venue opened in Oslo in 2019 and expanded to Brisbane and Amsterdam last year, with further venues set to open in 2021, including Gottenburg and Miami

Troy Warfield, CEO of OCHE

One of the fastest-growing sectors in the global F&B hospitality world is the ‘eatertainment’ concept. Born out of earlier concepts in the US such Dave & Busters and Chuck E. Cheese in the late 70s in the US, and enduring concepts such as ten pin bowling, cinemas and cabaret style restaurants, life has moved on dramatically. For lovers of being entertained, and the enhanced quality of food and drinks, the future looks very bright indeed. 

Cinema is a great example, with people like Ajay Bijli, Chairman of PVR Cinemas – India’s leading cinema organisation, reimagining the cinema experience. You can attend the latest release movie in the premium section of PVR Cinemas called the Director’s Cut, have a meal in a Michelin star Japanese restaurant while drinking the finest beverages, and then continue to be served throughout your viewing experience, waited on by excellent employees in comfortable lounge seats, with no more than 20 people in the cinema. This trend is now occurring across many forms of entertainment; the competition is no longer local restaurants, bars, or other formats, it comes from Netflix, and Uber Eats, whereby people are being entertained in the comfort of their homes. 

It is this outstanding competition which is dramatically improving the landscape for the future. Another great example is golf, seen as a declining game, with the demographic firmly weighted towards older men, and where the quality of the F&B experience, in most places around the world, is not reflective of the wealthy guests playing on the courses. Then, along comes Topgolf, transforming the global decline of 3% player numbers, to being in growth of 7% in the US, and driving an entirely different demographic, with a blend of engaging game play, great food, drinks and music. Their demographic is virtually 50/50 women and men, and they skew to 18–35-year-olds, transforming golf for the future.  

I was fortunate to lead their international strategy, which allowed them to build on this with some of the most progressive golf minded businesses in the world. Look at Dubai Golf, and its CEO Chris May, who was at the forefront of seeing this opportunity in the way he transformed both the Emirates Golf Club and Dubai Creek Golf Courses. Gone are the stale sandwiches and limited drink selections of old-fashioned clubs; Emirates Golf Club offers upmarket bistro-style breakfast and lunch options from Jones the Grocer, that provides outstanding food before the round, while in the clubhouse, you can dine at Carine, eating Michelin quality food, resulting in many people in Dubai, travelling to a Golf Club, not to play golf but to dine in great style.

Chris’s vision didn’t stop there, and he was one of the first to embrace the demographic synergy of placing a Topgolf within their club. Facing the Dubai skyline, guests can enjoy an excellent menu, listen to great music and enjoy a drink. This transformational thinking has resulted in one of Dubai’s best attractions, enjoyed by residents and tourists alike. 

This revolution is also extending into other more traditional sporting areas, and I’m honoured to be both the CEO of Oche, a global gastro bar experience centred around automating the game of darts, much like Topgolf did with golf, and a non-executive director for Surf Lakes, an Australian company with technology producing 2000 waves per hour, providing 360 degrees of commercial real estate potential, and revolutionising Surfing. 

It’s clear that technology is at the heart of this entertainment revolution, and Oche, backed by Karbon Invest, one of the world’s leading IT investment companies, has technology driving the entire the guest experience. That’s important because to succeed in this industry, you not only need to be outstanding at what you do, you also need to be engaging as an experience; the often quoted “millennials now seek experiences not products” is true, but it’s evolving to the next generation and all of us starved of entertainment through the Covid period.  

The technology has enabled Oche to provide guests with a wonderfully entertaining and engaging gaming experience, successfully combined with a food foundation created by Michelin star chefs, and a bar experience curated by globally awarded mixologists. It’s this blend which has engaged a demographic of 50/50 women and men between 18-35 and gives them a number of reasons to keep coming back. It’s also what’s capturing the interest of investors, who see the opportunity in bringing something new to market, especially something that’s proven to deliver high profitability margins when allowed to operate “normally” despite the pandemic. 

Post Covid, Oche intends to play a key role in helping the hospitality industry recover through continuing to invest, innovate and ensure that people feel energised to jump from their sofas, and their box sets, and engage with people again, around the world. 

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