Remember those olden days when people went to restaurants just to eat. Restaurant chains like Pinstripes, which offer a meal but also specialize in games, such as bowling or bocce, are on the rise.
In fact, the group of them, which includes Dave & Buster’s, Main Event, and Punch Bowl Social, are called “eatertainment” based on their ability to combine eating with participating in games and active entertainment. Millennials are one of the target audiences, but even babyboomers like games.
Based in Northbrook, Illinois, Pinstripes has grown to 13 locations in nine states, with four in the Chicago area, and outposts in Cleveland, Fort Worth, Houston and San Mateo, California. A leading industry trade magazine named it one of the Top 50 Emerging Restaurant Chains.
Each one of its eateries is company-owned; none is franchised. Though Pinstripes hasn’t accepted any private equity funding, it has received $25 million of investment from real-estate firms Brookfield Properties, Simon Property Group and Hudson’s Bay, in exchange for minority ownership.
Those partnerships have led to Pinstripes opening in their real-estate developments. For example, it opened three new locations within Brookfield Properties in Durham, North Carolina, Reston, Virginia, and Norwalk, Connecticut.
And Pinstripes has been growing at a steady pace. In 2019, it opened three new outposts in Houston, San Mateo, California and Norwalk, Connecticut. In 2020, it’s planning on adding two new locations, in Aventura, Florida and La Jolla, California.
Pinstripes CEO Dale Schwartz told me previously in an interview that most people nowadays are linked to their iPhones but crave face-to-face interaction. That helps explain the growing popularity of Pinstripes and other eatertainment chains.
Pinstripes attracts customers based on their food, not just bowling. All the food is made from scratch and it offers a wine cellar and craft beers. Some of its most popular dishes include: glazed salmon, espresso-crusted filet mignon, and homemade pasta.
Here’s what CEO Dale Schwartz said about its growth:
Pinstripes seems to have struck a chord with consumers. Why is that?
Schwartz: I think what we’re doing is quite experiential, combining high-quality cuisine and wine with bowling and bocce. Everything we set out to do twelve years ago, we’re still doing, celebrating true connections between people, in spite of the iPhone and interconnectivity. We’re appealing to young and old, single and married couples, who want to connect.
What role does the bowling and bocce play in its success?
Schwartz: Bowling and bocce are part of our sophisticated fun. One new tagline that we’re rolling out is, ‘where magic strikes.’ The experience when you come to Pinstripes is social. We only have bowling and bocce—no video games, shuffle board, ping-pong or miniature golf.
About how much of its revenue derives from gaming fees?
Schwartz: Food and beverage is about 80% and 20% from games. In addition, we do over 1,000 events per location including weddings, bar mitzvahs, and corporate events. On a busy Saturday, we might have three or four birthday parties, and a bar mitzvah outside, and a wedding reception at night in the ballroom.
How do the games help lure families?
Schwartz: The key for us is connectivity, a way for people to connect via eating and drinking together, and doing activities. They might play the game while they enjoy a cocktail and appetizer. For example, a family may come on a Saturday night, bowl for an hour, enjoy appetizers, and then head into the bistro and have a full meal, and do a trifecta and play bocce afterwards.
You’re expanding steadily, but you don’t franchise. Why not?
Schwartz: In the U.S. we’ll never franchise. Generally speaking, you franchise if you want to accentuate growth with a capital light model. In our case, the hardest and most important part is the culture and our team. It’s hard enough to scale a business and expand and still maintain a special culture. When you’re franchising, it makes the difficulty extraordinarily higher.
You have minority investment from Brookfield Properties and Simon Property Group. Why?
Schwartz: Landlords have provided us with tenant improvements that help us develop new locations, whether building from the ground up or taking over existing space. Brookfield and Simon, in addition, have made equity investments. They’ve provided a different way to raise money than traditional private equity firms.
You have 13 locations but expect to grow to 50 or more. How will you achieve that?
Schwartz: Carefully. We do believe in the U.S. alone we could have 100 to 150 over the next 15 to 20 years. We’ll open two locations in 2020 and start opening five to seven a year, starting 2021.
You need to have many talented managers and staff to run these restaurants. How do you recruit and train them?
Schwartz: That’s the most important and hardest element to grow. The rate of growth is critically important. You’re not hearing from me that we’re opening 15 a year, then you run the risk of getting over your skis. The second element is when we have 1,600 team members; you have a critical mass of managers, with career opportunities and internal promotions. That keeps the DNA of our culture by transferring or moving team members from one location to another. Thirdly, we’re interviewing at 22 colleges looking for talent, which we started about eight years ago. Some start as interns in the summer, some join us as soon as they graduate, and some become junior managers at age 21.
You offer your own delivery, without hiring vendors? Why?
Schwartz: We started doing catering and focused on breakfast and lunch delivery, five or six years ago. Now we have one dedicated van at each location. We wanted to keep the quality a little higher and control the standards. One issue is you have to sacrifice and cut your margins or you can increase prices by 20% to 25%. We’ll reevaluate as we continue regarding our own delivery services.
Two years from today, where will Pinstripes be?
Schwartz: We’ll be about 20 locations in two years time. We might also look at overseas markets. We might do it on our own. We’ve had discussions in Australia, or we could find a local partner that can bring their expertise, and do it as a joint venture.
Describe the three keys to Pinstripes’ success.
Schwartz: #1 Preserve and burnish our culture, #2 Stay hypersensitive picking and developing the right high-quality locations, #3 Continue to creatively market what Pinstripes does, digitally and traditionally.
Source: Thanks https://www.forbes.com/sites/garystern/2020/01/13/pinstripes–combining-games-with-food-a-winning-formula/